In 2012, LaRon Landry was a Pro Bowl player for the New York Jets.
In 2013, LaRon Landry had a bad season with the Colts after getting a large contract.
Depending on which Landry shows up for the Colts in 2014 will go a long way in determining how the defense does as a unit and how the feeling of Colts general manager Ryan Grigson is among Colts fans. Last offseason, Grigson gave Landry a 4-year, $24 million contract, and for the second straight year the Colts would actually lose money by releasing Landry. This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that last season, Landry stunk. To be sure, his stats were actually pretty good - in 12 games he notched 87 tackles (along with 2 pass deflections). So then why do almost all Colts fans feel like Landry was a disappointment last year, and why is the pressure on Landry entering 2014?
Landry's play in 2013 wasn't good. His tackle numbers were driven up by the fact that the opposing offense would get to the second (or third) level and also the fact that Landry tended to play up closer to the line of scrimmage and would therefore be closer to the action. He was terrible in coverage, though that's not anything really new or surprising - at the same time, however, he wasn't the physical presence against the run that the Colts hoped and expected him to be and he ended up missing too many tackles and plays. Added to the fact that he was one of the big signings by Grigson last offseason, it just magnified his struggles.
Landry also struggles to stay healthy and stay on the field. He missed four games due to injury last year, and in fact he is already injured this offseason despite not even working with the team. When he showed up to mandatory minicamp (his first time working with the Colts this offseason), the Colts doctors discovered a "lower body" injury that kept Landry out of camp, though Grigson and the Colts are adamant that he'll be ready for training camp. At the same time, however, the fact that Landry wasn't practicing with the team and then the fact that he's already injured doesn't reflect well on Landry, and it's hard to blame fans for that perception.
While his play and injury history alone would merit his inclusion in this series of articles looking at players under pressure to perform in 2014, that's not close to telling the whole story. In addition to him being under pressure to improve, he'll also be under pressure in a secondary that has question marks. Antoine Bethea left in free agency, and while he wasn't the dominant safety that he was a few years ago he was still a good player who, most importantly, played every game. Delano Howell, Sergio Brown, Mike Adams, and others will compete for the starting spot and while I still expect it to be Howell who ends up earning the starting spot, the bottom line is that Landry will be counted on to be the reliable, consistent presence at safety. Considering his struggles in 2013, that just adds to the pressure on Landry.
He will be helped out in the secondary by Vontae Davis, who re-signed with the team in the offseason and is a top-tier corner, but on the other side of the field is Greg Toler. He's actually better than most give him credit for when he was on the field and healthy (both at the same time), though he still wasn't great and he had an even harder time staying on the field than Landry did. There are questions at that position as well.
The Colts have high expectations for the 2014 season. In order to reach those expectations, the expectations the team has for their defense must be reached as well, and in order for those expectations to be reached, LaRon Landry has to reach the expectations set for him. He needs to become the dominant force against the run that the Colts signed him to be and, while it's hard to expect him to ever become great in coverage, he has to hold his own there when needed. He must stay on the field and he must be the consistent presence at safety that the Colts need with the departure of Antoine Bethea.
It's fair to expect this from LaRon Landry, because he played at a high level in 2012 and we know he is capable of it. If he plays for the Colts this year like he did for the Jets that year, it would be a huge boost for the defense. I think that Landry can get there, and the Colts absolutely need him to. Clearly, the pressure is on.