INDIANAPOLIS – For as much as there is hope in the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive front seven this season, there’s as many questions about their safeties.
Part of the concern is because the Colts haven't named a starter yet to replace the departed Antoine Bethea at one of the safety positions. The other concern is whether LaRon Landry can be the player the Colts envisioned when they signed him to a four-year, $24 million contract in 2013.
“I never have any pressure like that,” Landry said in his first comments since the end of last season. “I don’t feel any pressure like that as far as my role. I come in each and every day to try and lead by example. I’m my toughest critic. I’m the hardest on myself, so it’s never good enough for me. It’s never perfect.”
The pressure is on Landry, even though he says he doesn’t feel it.
Coach Chuck Pagano jokingly asked me if I knew who would be one of their starting safeties this season Thursday. Delano Howell, who was the frontrunner for most of the offseason, is dealing with a serious enough neck injury that he’s had to see several specialists. Veteran Mike Adams, who signed in June, just recently got a full grasp of the defense. Sergio Brown and Colt Anderson lack experience.
That means Landry has to be the backbone of the secondary. He has to make sure everybody is on the same page because the safeties depend on each other. That’s especially important in Pagano’s defensive system with his safeties being interchangeable.
“He knows the defense better going into Year 2,” Pagano said. “He’s got to be an enforcer back there. He’s got to be a dominant, dominant football player, which he’s done and will continue to do. We need all those guys, we need more interceptions, more out of all of them. Just make the plays you’re supposed to make, be where you’re supposed to be and the rest will take care of itself.”
Landry dealt with an ankle injury that cost him four games last season. That was a setback for him because he led the NFL in tackles during the early part of the season. He lacked consistency after returning.
Landry, like cornerback Greg Toler, needs to stay healthy. Fast and fierce is how Landry plays. He just has to be productive when he plays that way.
“I think, just like all those guys, just be there 16 games, that’s all,” Pagano said. “Greg (Toler) 16 games, Vontae (Davis). Seriously, you know? That’s his mindset, it’s our mindset as a coaching staff, and all those guys. Easier said than done when you play the game at the rate of speed that the guy plays at.”
Landry’s health came into question in June. He spent the offseason working out on his own, as he has done throughout his career, only to show up for the team’s mandatory minicamp with what turned out to be a hip injury that kept him out the entire camp. Landry was on the sidelines during the first two weeks of training camp.
"It’s hard for any competitor just to sit out and watch, but I know it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I knew I had to go through the phases, the healing phases and I think just with the whole training staff, and strength staff, we’ve done a great job to nurse me back to health and get ready to play some of these preseason games so I could be able to come in the opener,” Landry said.