"I'm pumped up about our defense," Manning said. "We have without a doubt the best safety tandem in football with Antoine Bethea and Sanders. Melvin Bullitt is an absolute stud who could start on any other team."
We've followed Peyton for four years on this blog, and for thirteen years while he's been with the Colts. I do not ever remember a time where Peyton said, "I'm pumped up about our defense." And while Peyton has always been one to praise players like Dwight Freeney, this is the first time I've seen him talk about a specific area, like the safeties, as "the best in football."
Considering Peyton probably knows the Colts defense better than any other quarterback in the NFL (he practices against them every day), it stands to reason that his praising the group is yet another confirmation of what we have been seeing consistently from training camp and preseason.
The Colts defense is going to be scary good in 2010.
A reoccurring theme that the Colts have echoed since OTAs is how comfortable the starters are with Larry Coyer's defense. While rookies like Pat Angerer have struggled to master it, the strength in Coyer's system is its flexibility. There are different coverages now, different blitz packages. Defenders now crowd the line and either attack gaps or back off and play coverage (usually Cover 3). With Bob Sanders healthy and back in the fold, we are seeing a three safety look in nickel packages, with Melvin Bullitt stepping in at the normal 4-2 linebacker spot. This look could also, in theory, be used on 3rd and five situations where teams usually employ draw plays on the Colts because, again, Bob Sanders is back.
The addition of a healthy Bob Sanders in a Larry Coyer defense really changes the playing field.
Melvin Bullitt is a damn good safety and, as Peyton said, he could start on nearly half the teams in the NFL. The luxury of having him allows the Colts to absorb the blow of losing someone like Sanders, as the team did for most of last year. With the two of them together, paired with Antoine Bethea,and the defense is no longer just effective.
The defense is scary.