By now you've probably the news that Colts safety LaRon Landry was suspended today by the NFL for violating the PED policy. That means that Landry will miss the next four games for the Colts - their match ups with the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Cincinatti Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers. He will be eligible to return from his suspension for the November 3rd game on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants.
So now the question becomes this: how do the Colts replace LaRon Landry?
At first, that seems like a ridiculous question. Landry has been awful this season, and was last year as well. He has been bad in coverage, but we all know that's just who he is. The Colts coaches didn't do him many favors in week one, putting him on Julius Thomas, because they have to know too that Landry isn't a good cover safety. What Landry is good at is stopping the run, and he hasn't done that great this year - unless you allow him to play in a box and make plays. Landry just hasn't been good this year. Looking just at that, the loss of Landry doesn't look to be a huge one for the Colts at all. And many fans have noted that, making jokes such as, "only four games?" in regards to Landry's suspension.
The question becomes this: so who exactly replaces him? Let's go back to this offseason, when the Colts allowed Antoine Bethea to walk in free agency to the 49ers (Bethea, by the way, has had a good season for San Francisco so far and had a tremendous game on Sunday). Considering the contract that Bethea got from the 49ers and the fact that he was a solid and reliable, but not great, safety last year for the Colts, that wasn't necessarily the wrong move for the Colts to make. What they did wrong was not address the vacancy that Bethea left (oh, and I might add that the Colts are paying Landry more than the 49ers are paying Bethea. But that's beside the point right now). The Colts didn't draft a safety. The one free agent they signed was Colt Anderson, a backup. Later in the offseason, the Colts signed Mike Adams - a solid starter, but someone who wasn't guaranteed of a starting spot whatsoever.
The Colts had Delano Howell and Sergio Brown already on the team. Howell played well last year and looked to be the slight favorite to win the starting job alongside Landry in training camp, but he began having neck issues and that injury resulted in him being placed on season-ending injured reserve. That essentially gave Mike Adams the starting spot by default, and he has actually done a good job overall. Now, however, the Colts need to fill the other safety spot, and their options are limited.
Sergio Brown? Colt Anderson? The recently promoted Dewey McDonald? McDonald was an undrafted rookie signed by the Colts this offseason and a guy with potential, but he needed work and landed on the practice squad. On Monday, the Colts signed him to the active roster. While I know that Landry has been bad, do any of those guys actually inspire confidence that they'll be much better, if at all?
Another option that we must consider is the possibility of the Colts signing a free agent safety. They currently have an open roster spot due to the suspension of Landry, and last week the Colts were working out several safeties - including Chris Clemons. I haven't heard anything about a deal with Clemons or any other safety being imminent, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Colts add somebody at the position. Who it will be, I have no idea. Because right now, the Colts safety position looks even worse than it did entering the season - and I thought that was going to be hard to do.
It's not that the loss of LaRon Landry is huge because of how he's been playing - he has been bad. But the loss of Landry might be bigger than some are thinking because the Colts don't have any good options to replace him. Now, if the Colts sign a guy who is a starting safety and he steps in and plays well, we could potentially look back on this as a good thing. But based completely on what we know right now, on who the Colts have at safety as options to replace Landry for these four weeks, it doesn't look good.
Let's not overreact to this suspension - it's in no way a devastating loss, like the loss of Robert Mathis to a four game suspension was going to be. But there is reason to be cautious about who will replace Landry right now, and the safety position just continues to add more questions without getting many answers.