The Indianapolis Colts defense ranked 26th in the NFL in yards per game allowed last season. Their pass defense wasn't ranked much higher, coming in at 21st out of 32 teams. Entering the offseason, upgrading the defense was a glaring need. Even more so, upgrading the defensive secondary was the most glaring issue on a defense that was in need of help. The team signed cornerback Greg Toler from Arizona to help, but fans were still a little concerned with the Colts starting strong safety spot.
In 2012, Tom Zbikowski had occupied the role and pretty much sucked in every way. While he improved as the season went on, he was still awful. It came as no surprise, therefore, that the Colts were looking for a new strong safety.
They got him and in the process made their big-name signing. The Colts signed safety LaRon Landry from the New York Jets and subsequently released Zbikowski, fully moving on from last year's awfulness at the position and entrenching Landry as a key part of the secondary.
Landry was the sixth overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Washington Redskins, who took the All-American from LSU in an attempt to anchor their secondary. Early on in his time in Washington, the duo of Landry and the late Sean Taylor made for a very good safety position, but as Landry's career went on injuries started to mount. In five seasons in Washington, Landry missed the equivalent of a full season (16 games) while starting 64. In his rookie season in 2007, he was named to the 1st team All-NFL Rookie Defensive team and was named a pro bowl alternate.
He finally made the pro bowl five seasons later, while playing on a one-year deal for the New York Jets after leaving the Redskins in free agency following the 2011 season. With the Jets, he played in every game (starting 15) and had himself the best season of his career, racking up 100 tackles, 8 passes defended, 2 interceptions (1 taken back for a score) and 4 forced fumbles.
Despite a career year, the Jets didn't re-sign Landry for 2013 and he went looking for his big deal elsewhere - and the Colts gave it to him. They gave him a four year, $24 million contract with $14 million guaranteed.
John B. of Gang Green Nation gave a nice, concise summary of Landry's skills in his pre-free agency article on whether the Jets should re-sign him:
Landry is a guy who stands out. He can cover a ton of ground. He is a big time physical presence. When he hits, he hits hard. He is a threat to receivers coming over the middle. He can knock the ball loose. He can knock your star out of the game. Landry is very much a homerun hitter. When he makes a big play, it ends up on the highlight reel.
Unfortunately, Landry is the kind of homerun hitter who also swings and misses. Despite the highlights, he is only an average tackler. He takes suspect angles to the ball carrier, and he is a liability in coverage. Pro Football Focus found he allowed the sixth most yards per play in coverage and fourteenth least snaps between reception allowed of fifty-nine qualifiers. The story of Landry's career is he has top notch athletic ability but inconsistent productivity.
That's a great description of the type of player that Landry is. He truly is a homerun hitter. He is a very physical player and very tough, but he does struggle with injuries and inconsistency at times.
Regardless of the concerns that may be there with Landry, he is a huge upgrade at the position over Tom Zbikowski and will no doubt a real tough and physical presence on the field for the Colts. Landry will be the unquestioned starter at strong safety and will play alongside Antoine Bethea, the two of whom could actually form a very formidable safety tandem.
Interestingly, as a bit of a side note, the Colts' dedication to stopping the run has been evident this offseason, and perhaps the secondary shows this accurately as well. Landry is a good run defender and is very physical, and the rest of the players that figure to make up the starting secondary (Bethea, Toler, and Vontae Davis) are all good players against the run too.
No matter what LaRon Landry brings to the table for the Colts, he will be more productive than Tom Zbikowski was last season. His potential is very high, and if he can maintain a pro bowl level then he can anchor the secondary and be a key piece to Chuck Pagano's defense becoming a very good unit. If he can stay healthy, Landry will be at worst a solid starter. At best, he can be a pro bowl player who changes the Colts' defense.
That's a signing that I'll take any day.