So far in our series on training camp battles, the battles have mainly been for backup roles - which, granted, are important, but they don't quite have the luster that battles for starting spots have. Believe it or not, the Colts don't have many of those this year. The one big notable starting spot that is wide open, however, is the safety position.
LaRon Landry will occupy one spot, that much is for sure (at least while he's healthy). But what about the other spot? For 96 consecutive regular season games, the spot was manned by Antoine Bethea, but for the first time since 2005 the Colts will enter training camp without Bethea, who left in free agency to sign with the San Francisco 49ers. That left a hole in the Colts secondary, and they didn't really fill it with anyone who would be guaranteed a starting spot, so instead they have a few guys who will be competing for the job in training camp and preseason. We're not going to hit everything in this article on the safety position, but we'll look at those competing for the starting spot and then briefly touch on the battle for the backup spots as well.
The two main contenders for the starting spot are Delano Howell and Mike Adams. Howell is the very slight favorite at this point and last year filled in for Landry in his absence, starting 3 games and playing in 5. Howell looked very good in those games, though we didn't see enough from him to say definitively one way or the other whether he should be starting this year - what we did see inspired hope and confidence, however, that Howell can carry over that level of play and impress enough in camp and preseason that he starts and continues to play well. Mike Adams, unlike Howell, has proven himself in the league over a long period of time, and the ten-year veteran has played in 146 games, starting 73 and most recently was with the Denver Broncos for the past two seasons. He is a good player who has the experience to be able to play well at safety.
While Howell and Adams are clearly the two frontrunners in this camp battle, there are other guys who could come out of left field and make a play for the spot, and here are guys like Sergio Brown, Colt Anderson, and perhaps even Dewey McDonald. Brown has made his name as a standout special teams guy for the Colts the past two years, but he'd like to get in on the competition as starting safety as well, and he should get some chances to stand out at the safety spot too. Anderson, like Adams, was brought in this offseason and, like Brown, has been a good special teams player in his career. He's also had quite a bit of experience at safety, however, playing in 48 career games with the Eagles, starting 6. He's clearly behind Howell and Adams in terms of the battle for the starting safety spot, but that doesn't mean he's out of it and he'll be looking in camp to make a push for that spot. Dewey McDonald is an undrafted rookie out of Cal (PA) and, while it would be a pretty big surprise to see him take the starting spot, we can't rule it out either. He's the dark horse candidate here and could enter the competition with a great camp and preseason, though right now he's behind Howell, Adams, Brown, and Anderson in terms of competing for a starting spot.
The interesting thing about the safety position is that many of these players will be competing for a roster spot at the very same time that they're competing for a starting spot. Guys like Sergio Brown, Colt Anderson, and Dewey McDonald are in no way guaranteed a roster spot and will be trying to be impressive enough to make the 53-man roster while also trying to earn a starting job. Of course, if they play well enough to compete for a starting spot they'll play well enough to make the roster. The Colts will likely keep 4-5 safeties, and three of those spots will likely be taken up by Landry, Howell, and Adams - leaving one or two spots. David Sims is the other guy at safety and he'll be competing for a roster spot, but it's a very long shot for him to even be competing for the starting spot.
The battle for this position will probably be the most heated in camp and the one that is watched the closest, and the battles for both the starting spot and a roster spot are wrapped up into one in many ways. I still think it will be Howell who comes away as the starter and if not it will be Adams, but there are several other guys who will be fighting to earn the spot - while at the same time fighting to earn a spot on the roster.