Thursday, October 20, 2011
Steady Bethea surrounded by questions
By Paul Kuharsky
Antoine Bethea is surrounded by nobodies.
Jerraud Powers is a good corner who’s going to be a factor for a while, but he’s got a bad hamstring.
Everyone else in the Indianapolis Colts’ secondary is hardly noteworthy.
Yet Bethea is playing as effectively as a free safety in such circumstances can, a true pro who won’t allow his game to be influenced by such circumstances.
Quarterbacks are completing 69.9 percent of their passes against Indianapolis. They have a 104.0 passer rating and a 70 QBR (out of 100), the 31st worst number in the league.
I’m not sure what Indianapolis’ plan for the secondary was this season. When they let cornerback Kelvin Hayden go because he cost too much, one had to believe the Colts felt confident in the alternatives. Then Justin Tryon, who was an effective player last season, fell out of favor and wound up getting cut. The No. 2 corner, Jacob Lacey, is no longer a full-timer in the base defense with Terrence Johnson getting some time in the spot.
The Colts are playing David Caldwell at strong safety in the base defense and Joe Lefeged in the spot in the nickel.
Corner Chris Rucker is also seeing some action.
“As a veteran back there, I see myself as the glue,” Bethea said. “One of my roles is to get everybody lined up and confident. As a safety, that’s my job.”
Bethea said he likes the way the Colts are deploying their other safeties, using Caldwell (“He lays the boom”) against the run and Lefeged (“He plays the ball well”) in passing situations. In time each may be well-rounded enough to be a full-timer, but for right now splitting the job between them is a smart approach.
Bethea is backing his guys, but neither has been great since Melvin Bullitt was lost for the year with a shoulder injury.
Bethea said the young corners need to play technique, show improvement week by week and be sure not to repeat the same mistakes.
The Tryon situation was business, and players can’t spend time questioning a front office decision. Bethea is great at focusing on his stuff and his guys. He said that although 0-5 is a miserable place, no matter where the team goes moving forward we will not see the sort of fissures that often open on struggling teams.
As for being surrounded by unproven guys ...
“You can’t let other people affect how you play,” Bethea said matter-of-factly. “How you play is how you play, how you study is how you study. If my play goes down because there are different players around me, it says guys can’t look up to me. They need to see 41 flying around, playing hard, making plays.”