Indianapolis Colts: Antoine Bethea
NFL Nation’s Mike Wells examines the three biggest issues facing the Indianapolis Colts heading into training camp.
Khaled Holmes: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson took a big gamble in the offseason by not heavily pursuing a veteran center. He signed Phil Costa, who was beaten out by a rookie in Dallas, only to have the veteran suddenly retire before ever playing a snap for the Colts. Even with Costa on the roster, the plan all along for the Colts was for Holmes to start. This is the same Khaled Holmes who managed to play a total of 12 snaps as a rookie, despite poor play by Samson Satele at the position last season. Grigson has constantly defended Holmes ever since, pointing out that the second-year player would be his starter. The goal is for Holmes to team with franchise quarterback Andrew Luck for years to come. Holmes needs to have good chemistry with Luck and control the line of the scrimmage, all while making sure the rest of the offensive linemen know the correct calls. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a player who is basically a rookie, especially when you think about the expectations the Colts have this season.
Safety: Similar to his decision at center, Grigson didn’t look far outside the organization to address a position of need. Veteran Antoine Bethea left Indianapolis to sign with San Francisco, and it appeared Delano Howell was the frontrunner to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety. Things seem to change in the middle of June, when the Colts signed veteran Mike Adams. Adams has started 73 games in his 10-year NFL career, but even though he says he feels like he’s 26 years old, he’s actually 33. Howell has started only four games in his career. And speaking of Landry, he didn’t exactly ease anybody’s mind about whether he’ll be able to rebound from a disappointing first season with the Colts. He didn’t attend any of the voluntary offseason workouts, then showed up at the mandatory minicamp with what was described as a soft-tissue injury. While the offseason workouts are voluntary, it would have helped Landry if he had at least attended a few of the sessions. Grigson and Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn’t criticize Landry for not showing up, but they did point out their preference of wishing he was in attendance. If anything it would have showed that Landry cared about working on chemistry with the rest of his defensive teammates. There are too many questions surrounding the safety position on a defense that was way too inconsistent last season.
Trent Richardson: The excuses are no longer available for Richardson in the Colts organization. The ready-made line of, “Richardson is still learning the offensive system,” is in the trash on the curb. Richardson, who the Colts acquired from Cleveland just days before Week 3 last season, has had an entire offseason to learn the playbook. Now he can use his natural instincts when he’s on the field, instead of constantly trying to remember the plays. The Colts clearly are trailing the Browns in the who-got-the-better-of-the-trade race. Cleveland turned the No. 26 pick into hotshot quarterback Johnny Manziel after using it to trade up to No. 22. The Colts? All Richardson gave them was 2.9 yards a carry and a demotion to the second unit last season. Richardson and the Colts have to hope this season is different. The pressure is on Richardson, because Grigson said earlier this year he would make the trade again if put in the same position. Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, had offseason shoulder surgery and will head into training camp as the starter, with Ahmad Bradshaw ready to take some snaps from him if he struggles.
The same can't be said for some other players on the Colts' roster.
Time to step up: Safety LaRon Landry
Why he needs to step up: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson gave Landry a four-year, $24 million contract in 2013. Landry led the NFL in tackles after the first two weeks of the season, but then an ankle injury shut him down for four straight weeks. He wasn't the same player once he returned from the injury. Landry ended up being a disappointment in his first season in Indianapolis. He finished with only 87 tackles and no interceptions. Landry needs to be the veteran leader in the secondary because Antoine Bethea is no longer back there playing alongside of him. And the Colts need Landry to bounce back from a poor first season in order for their inconsistent defense to improve.
What he has to do: Too often Landry went for the big hit instead of making the simple tackle. See Kansas City's Jamaal Charles' touchdown run in Week 16 and New England's LeGarrette Blount's touchdown run in the playoff game if you need further proof. Landry is used to playing in the box, but Grigson likes for both of his safeties to have range. Landry needs to show more of that.
Outlook: The Colts haven't even started training camp and Landry already has an injury problem. He missed the mandatory minicamp last month with what the Colts described as a "soft-tissue" injury. It also doesn't help Landry did not attend any of the voluntary workouts during the offseason. Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano both acknowledged it would have been good if Landry attended at least part of the workouts.
Quotable: "The thing with LaRon is and I know Chuck (Pagano) alluded to it is he's a guy that his throttle is always full-bore. He's out there in parts unknown working out. We trust him in the fact that we know he's going to go harder than anyone." -- Grigson
Mike Wells: The Colts will be fine at receiver. Hakeem Nicks had a "down" year last season and he still ended up with almost 900 yards receiving. Those numbers would have been good enough for second on the Colts by almost 300 yards last season. T.Y. Hilton had his first 1,000-yard receiving season and Reggie Wayne might not be the same Reggie Wayne from a few years ago, but he'll still be productive. You also can't forget about Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener at tight end.
@MikeWellsNFL With Luck improving his overall game each year, can our receiving core keep up with his progress and not become a liability?- Luke Spilman (@Buffaloukie) July 3, 2014
Wells: General manager Ryan Grigson is always looking to make roster moves, but it's highly unlikely that he'll do anything substantial between now and when the Colts report for training camp on July 23. Khaled Holmes to team with quarterback Andrew Luck for years to come. Grigson is very high on Holmes' potential. As far as a replacement for safety Antoine Bethea on the roster, it appeared Delano Howell would start alongside LaRon Landry early on, but now I'm starting to think it'll be veteran Mike Adams, whom the Colts signed in the middle of June.
@MikeWellsNFL Do you see Grigson signing any more FA's/making a trade before camp? If so, which players/positions might he be targeting?- Ben (@ShaneBen) July 3, 2014
Wells: Bjoern Werner has the best chance to start at outside linebacker in Robert Mathis' absence, so it's up to Daniel Adongo, who worked his way up from the practice squad to being on special teams last season, to push Werner for snaps.
@MikeWellsNFL Will Daniel Adongo get a serious look in training camp with Mathis out?- Kenny Garner (@kengyank) July 3, 2014
Wells: The addition of Arthur Jones will help the defensive line. The Colts were 26th in the league in stopping the run last season. The offense as a whole will be significantly better. Three running backs will likely end up sharing the load, Allen is back at tight end with Fleener and the receivers have potential with the return of Wayne and addition of Nicks.
@MikeWellsNFL watching Super Bowl 44 right now on NFL Network. How are we different from that team now? I would say receivers are better.- Mason Ross (@Sauce_Ross) July 3, 2014
Wells: He's coming along. Vick Ballard, like Wayne and Donald Thomas, didn't participate in offseason workouts. The real test for Ballard will be once he puts his pads on in training camp, cuts hard in practice or takes a hit on his knee. That's why I put Ballard behind Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw on the depth chart right now.
@MikeWellsNFL How is Ballard progressing?- Michael A. Purichia (@mikea826) July 3, 2014
Wells: You can't really judge Thomas yet because he hasn't even played two full games as a Colt. His season ended in Week 2 against Miami with a torn tendon in his quad and bicep. You can say Thomas is behind Jack Mewhort and Lance Louis because he didn't take part in the offseason workouts and he's still working his way back. Mewhort ended offseason workouts working with the first unit at guard.
@MikeWellsNFL Has Donald Thomas lost his luster with Grigs? Or are Jack Mewhort & Lance Louis actually better than him?- Josh McMillan (@joshwmac) July 3, 2014
Wells: Richardson will get the first shot at starting, but don't sleep on Bradshaw. It only took one game for Bradshaw to be the Colts' most productive running back last season when he rushed for 95 yards against San Francisco in Week 3. Richardson had production issues last season, but Bradshaw (neck) and Ballard (knee) have health questions.
@MikeWellsNFL who is the starting RB is Indy this year?- Josh Essig (@Josh_EssigNYC1) July 3, 2014
The options were:
- Running back
I thought having Khaled Holmes at center would be the biggest concern for the Colts because he only played 12 snaps his rookie season.
In fact, it really wasn't even close.
Safety is the biggest concern.
Fifty-two percent of the fans are more about the safety position compared to 30 percent concerned about Holmes at center.
The Colts plan to start LaRon Landry at one safety spot, but it's easy to understand why there would be questions surrounding the position.
The Colts still don't have a starter at safety to replace Antoine Bethea and Landry is a question mark himself.
It appeared that Delano Howell would have the inside track to take Bethea's spot in the starting lineup, but things changed when the Colts signed veteran Mike Adams in the middle of June.
Adams has started 73 of the 146 games that he's appeared in during his 10-year career.
This is a big season for Landry after a disappointing first season with the Colts. He missed four games with an injury and he too often got caught up in trying to make the big play rather than the simple play. Landry, as expected, didn't take part in the team's offseason workouts because of his preference to work out on his own. But then he showed up for the Colts' mandatory minicamp with what the team referred to as a “soft tissue” injury.
So while center is a concern when you consider Holmes is snapping the ball to quarterback Andrew Luck, fans are more worried about what type of production the Colts will have at safety.
D'Qwell Jackson, defensive lineman Arthur Jones and receiver Hakeem Nicks. Gone are center Samson Satele, safety Antoine Bethea and guard Mike McGlynn. Re-signed were running back Ahmad Bradshaw and cornerback Vontae Davis.
Those were just some of the highlights -- or low-lights, depending how you look at it -- of the moves made by Indianapolis.
The Colts hope the offseason moves will be enough to help them close the gap with Denver and New England in the AFC this season.
But, of course, there are some who still don’t believe general manager Ryan Grigson did enough for that to happen.
Which position do you think is the Colts’ biggest area of concern heading into training camp?
How did the Colts address the loss of Bethea?
Draft? Didn't use any of their five picks on that position.
Free agency? Not until recently.
Delano Howell appeared to have the inside track to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety. That changed last week when the Colts signed veteran Mike Adams.
Here's Day 4 of the look at the most competitive position battles for the Colts.
Primary candidates: Howell, Adams. Sergio Brown and Colt Anderson are in the mix, but this appears to be a two-player race between Howell and Adams.
Howell: 19 tackles and 1 pass defended
Pro: Howell stepped in and started four games for the injured Landry last season and did a decent job. He did well enough that Colts GM Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano were still talking about his play in those games while defending why they didn't select a safety during their draft press conference last month.
Con: The experience factor. The Colts defense, which was inconsistent last season, is trying to close the gap between them and the offense. It doesn't help that there will be even more pressure on the secondary since they won't have linebacker Robert Mathis pursing the quarterback in the first four games of the season. You have to believe the Colts aren't sold on Howell as their starting safety since they went out and signed Adams instead of signing a younger player to back Howell and Landry up.
Adams: 64 tackles, 1 interception, 6 passes defended
Pro: Adams has plenty of experience, something Howell is lacking. Adams was part of a Denver team that went to the Super Bowl last season. He has started 73 games in his 10-year career. The Colts need veteran leadership in the secondary to make up for the loss for Bethea.
Con: There's a reason why Adams was still unsigned in the middle of June. He's 33 years old and you have to wonder how much he has left in his legs despite saying he feels like he's 26 years old.
But there Adams sat, waiting for a team to sign him during the offseason. He waited. Waited some more. He waited so long that anxiety started to set in. Adams, 33, had never been out of work this long during his 10-year NFL career.
Adams’ phone finally rang last week when the Colts put safety Corey Lynch on injured reserve.
Adams has gone from being unemployed to having a chance to be one of the Colts' starting safeties when they take on his former team, the Broncos, in the season opener on Sept. 7.
"Bottom line is I want to compete for a job," Adams said. "I want to earn these guys' respect. I’m going in (Year 11). Its’ a different locker room, new system I have to learn. I want to earn that. I don’t want it given to me. I told coach and I told the (general manager Ryan Grigson), 'I appreciate you telling me I don’t have the job. I appreciate that.' I was the underdog my whole career. I love competing and proving people wrong."
Safety has been a legit concern for the Colts since long-time fixture Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco on the first day of the free agent signing period in March.
The Colts didn’t address the position during free agency or the draft. They constantly talked about having confidence in Delano Howell, who has been working with the first team during the offseason workouts.
But Howell lacks experience on a defense that was too inconsistent last season. The same goes for Sergio Brown, David Sims and Colt Anderson.
He has started 73 games in his 10-year career. The question about Adams is how much does he have left in his tank at the age of 33. He admits his age might have caused teams to shy away a little bit.
"I feel like I’m 26,” he quickly says. "You're going to see the way I move. Once guys see my film. I was talking to the GM and he said, 'I had to watch your film' and he said, 'You’re 33?' and I was like, 'yeah I am 33,' but when you watch the film it doesn’t look like I’m 33."
Adams is versatile. He can also play cornerback, nickelback or be the dime.
Now he has to see if he’s versatile enough to get the number he wants. Adams, who currently has No. 42, has worn No. 20 throughout his career, but cornerback Darius Butler has that number.
"I’ll have to sweet-talk him," Adams said. "Have to take him out to dinner; wine and dine him."
Let's take a look at several things to pay attention to during the camp:
Running back competition: Just like the battle for the starting guard position, we won't get full competition for the starting running back position because Vick Ballard (knee) isn't expected to take part, as he's still working his way back from ACL surgery. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, the other two primary candidates, both wore red non-contact jerseys during OTAs. So this is another competition that won't pick up until training camp. All three players will get playing time, but keep in mind that coach Chuck Pagano said earlier in the offseason they want a workhorse in the backfield.
Landry sighting: Safety LaRon Landry has been the most significant healthy player missing during OTAs. It's not required for players to attend OTAs and Landry prefers to work out on his own during the offseason. But it still would have been good if he would have popped in for some of the workouts because of the need for improvement for the defense, the transition from a seasoned veteran in Antoine Bethea to possibly Delano Howell, who lacks significant experience, and Landry simply didn't have a great first season with the Colts. The offense, as long as Andrew Luck is the quarterback, will be fine. He's shown he can be effective even without good blocking. The same can't be said about a defense that finished 20th in the league last season.
The Bjoern factor: The fact linebacker Robert Mathis (suspension) won't be with the Colts the first four games of the season has definitely sunk in. Now it's up to second-year player Bjoern Werner, who gets the first shot to start in Mathis's absence, to prove he was worth the Colts selecting him in the first round after an inconsistent rookie season. "This year it's just knowing the defense and to feel comfortable in the defense," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "Now it's just his ability to get to the passer, which it's kind of you want him to do that in these OTAs, but he's never really going to get there because you don't have the pads on. But he's been doing a great job at least from the calls and signals and getting everything lined up and knowing exactly what he's supposed to do. It's a great situation for him."
Can Adams help: The Colts signed veteran safety Mike Adams over the weekend to take Corey Lynch's spot on the roster after placing him on injured reserve. Howell is leading the race to start, but Adams has started 73 games in his career. The question about Adams is: Does he have enough left in his 33-year-old body to help the Colts and possibly supplant Howell as the starting safety alongside Landry?
Who won't be there: Barring a sudden change of events, here are the players -- not including those on injured reserve -- you won't see taking part in minicamp. Receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), Ballard (knee) and Thomas (quad, bicep).
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus doesn't believe the Colts' roster is as bad as some tend to think. Monson recently wrote that the Colts have the 12th-best roster in the NFL. To narrow it down even more, the Colts have the fifth-best roster in the AFC.
Monson breaks the starting units based off six major categories, ranging from elite down to a poor starter. There are also two additional categories -- not enough information and rookie.
Monson thinks the Colts have three players who are "below average" starters, and they are three players Grigson spent money on to acquire in free agency in the past two offseasons -- linebackers D'Qwell Jackson and Erik Walden and cornerback Greg Toler.
And to no surprise there are two players Pro Football Focus doesn't have enough information on, and one they believe is a poor starter. Center Khaled Holmes and safety Delano Howell are the two players they don't have enough information on and guard Hugh Thornton is the poor starter.
Holmes only played 12 snaps last season as a rookie and Howell is the frontrunner to replace Antoine Bethea, who signed with San Francisco, at safety.
Seventeen safeties were picked during the three-day draft. None of them were selected by the Colts.
"There’s a small handful of guys in this draft that we felt like we could go get, it just didn’t happen," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "But it was not a deep safety class and if there was a safety we liked, we would have took one."
So as of now, in-house players Delano Howell, Sergio Brown, Corey Lynch and Colt Anderson, who have combined to start 22 games, are the stop candidates to man the starting safety spot opposite of LaRon Landry next season. Longtime Colts safety Antoine Bethea signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March.
"You don’t just because of need go reach and try to grab and fill a need when the value’s not there," coach Chuck Pagano said. "I feel good about the guys that are here and I think at the end of the day, we bolstered our front seven with acquiring D’Qwell Jackson and Art Jones and the two defensive players we picked up. The better that front seven is, the more pressure you can put on the passer, it certainly helps the back end. We’ll be fine."
So for the fun of it, let’s take a look at who the Browns picked at No. 26.
ESPN.com Cleveland reporter Pat McManamon has the Browns selecting receiver Cody Latimer out of Indiana.
I wrote a post Tuesday where receiver is a secondary need behind safety for the Colts, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks will be free agents at the end of next season.
Latimer had 72 receptions for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns last season with the Hoosiers.
Safety is the primary need for the Colts.
The two best safeties in the draft – Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor – were selected by Detroit and Chicago at No. 10 and 14, respectively.
The Colts need to find a replacement for Antoine Bethea, who signed last month with San Francisco.
The Indianapolis Colts will have their first pick at No. 59 in the second round. Coach Chuck Pagano said safety is a position they'll look to address.
Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor are the two best safeties and both should be taken in the first round.
Kiper said Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois, the same school Colts practice squad quarterback Chandler Harnish attended, and Terrence Brooks out of Florida State could be available when Indianapolis selects in the second round.
Ward had 89 tackles, six interceptions and a sack last season. Brooks had 48 tackles and two interceptions for the national champion Seminoles last season.
“You can make an argument (Ward) is the best cover safety in this draft,” Kiper said. “He’s coming off the (foot) injury, but had a very good career. He has great ball skills and real good hands for the interception. The intimidator isn’t necessarily needed anymore, the big hitters, you don’t need that (at safety). Ward is a decent tackler, but he doesn’t have tremendous size. The days of big intimidating safeties are about over.”
Former Philadelphia Eagles safety Kurt Coleman is scheduled to visit the Colts on Friday, as they continue to try to find a replacement for Antoine Bethea, who signed with San Francisco last month. Delano Howell, Sergio Brown and Corey Lynch are the in-house candidates for the Colts.
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson isn’t one to bring players in for visits without them leaving with a deal. Just ask receiver Hakeem Nicks.
Coleman, a former seventh-round pick, started 29 games from 2010-12 with the Philadelphia Eagles before not starting a game for them last season. Coleman’s best season was in 2012 when he had 93 tackles and two interceptions.
Grigson was with the Eagles in a number of different capacities from 2004-11, and is well aware of Coleman's capabilities.
Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star pointed out that Coleman was involved in a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked Colts receiver Austin Collie out of the Nov. 7, 2010, game in Philadelphia.
Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano recently pointed out that Delano Howell, Sergio Brown and Corey Lynch are options to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety. Longtime Colts safety Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco last month. Pagano also indicated that they’ll look to select a safety in the May 8-10 draft.
That's a legitimate question considering the Colts lost Antoine Bethea to San Francisco three weeks ago and don't have a clear-cut starter there yet.
But the answer is no, the Colts do not have any interest in Manning.
Not yet at least.
Things could change if Manning remains on the free-agent market for a while, but his price tag is too high at the moment. Manning was scheduled to make around $4.5 million with the Texans and he may be looking for a deal around that same price range. The 31-year-old reportedly is meeting Tuesday with the Cincinnati Bengals and Thursday with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Manning played in only six games last season because of a knee injury after playing at least 13 in his first seven seasons, including all 16 games four times.
During the NFL owners meetings last week, Colts coach Chuck Pagano talked about safeties Delano Howell and Sergio Brown on the roster as possible replacements for Bethea and that they will look at selecting one in the draft May 8-10.
The Colts have about $13.4 million in salary-cap space remaining if they do decide to make a run at a free-agent safety.