Can Nick Cross restore promise he had as a rookie and carve out a role with Colts?

Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos
Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

After a rookie season that saw ups and downs, safety Nick Cross is entering his second season with the Indianapolis Colts, and he’s in an interesting spot.

Last offseason, Nick Cross was the rookie making all the headlines for the Indianapolis Colts. The talented safety that Indy traded back into the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft to select, was quickly making plays for Indy on the practice field. He got an interception on his first play of practice.

Promising plays like that became the norm for Cross throughout training camp and the preseason. Colts fans started to get excited about the impact player Cross would be as a rookie. When Cross opened the season as a starter, it seemed like everything was going as imagined. However, in Week 3, Indianapolis decided to start veteran Rodney McLeod over Cross, and Cross didn't start for the rest of the season.

He regressed to a reserve role and contributed on special teams while McLeod, Julian Blackmon, and Rodney Thomas II handled things at safety. Now, as Cross returns for year two, McLeod is no longer with the team, but Thomas is starting at free safety and Blackmon has been moved to strong safety. That leaves things up in the air for Cross, who was poised for a breakout season a year ago.

Will Nick Cross play more defense for Colts in 2023?

During OTAs, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley explained that Cross was simply thinking too much, and needed to learn behind a veteran like McLeod. Now, with a season under his belt, Nick Cross should be better equipped to go play in Indy’s secondary. However, even with McLeod gone, there’s no guarantee that Cross plays.

There will be some competition in the secondary. Rodney Thomas II seemingly has the free safety position secured, but Julian Blackmon and Nick Cross are set to compete at strong safety. If all three are good, the Colts will likely play all three, similar to how the team used McLeod, Blackmon, and Thomas last season.

Even still, Cross and Blackmon will likely be competing for their long-term spot in Indianapolis. With Julian Blackmon entering the final season of his contract, he’ll be trying to show why Indy needs to give him a second contract, and Cross will need to produce enough that the Colts are comfortable with him as the long-term safety. However it unfolds, that will be one of the important storylines for the Colts in 2023.