If you were to take a poll of Colts fans coming into the 2014 season about what their biggest concern was about this version of the Indianapolis Colts, they likely would have told you the safety position. It wasn't just that the one player we all knew was starting, LaRon Landry, wasn't a great option - it was that the other spot was completely up for grabs in training camp.
Delano Howell, Sergio Brown, and Mike Adams all were involved in the competition in camp, and before long Howell had begun to establish himself as the clear favorite to be the starting safety alongside Landry in 2014. But a neck injury midway through camp sidelined him for the entire season, leaving the job up to Mike Adams - who had been signed during the summer as a late free agent addition.
That situation didn't do anything to quell the questions from fans entering the season, but before long we realized that Adams was actually the answer to the Colts' safety problems in 2014 - at least at one of the two spots.
Instead of that spot being the concern, it was one of the most consistent, reliable, and best positions on the Colts' defense. The other safety spot, however, assumed the role of the cause for concern. LaRon Landry didn't start off the season playing too well and then was suspended for four games by the league, allowing Sergio Brown to step in and start. Brown kept the starting job even after Landry returned, but eventually Landry wound up winning the job back.
Without a doubt, however, one of the most pleasant surprises for the Colts in 2014 was the play of Mike Adams, and for it the eleven-year veteran earned his first career Pro Bowl berth. Adams started all 16 games for the Colts (and all three playoff games as well) and recorded 87 tackles, 11 passes defensed, five interceptions, and recovered two fumbles - all of which either set new career highs or tied previous ones. Adams tied for the league lead in takeaways with seven, and he served as an incredibly valuable part of the Colts' defense, arguably as it's most consistent player.
Adams' counterpart, LaRon Landry, was anything but consistent, however. He started off the season playing very poorly until, after week four, he was suspended four games by the NFL for PEDs. When he was eligible to return, the Colts were in no rush to bring him back and he was inactive for a fifth game. Upon returning, Landry was a backup to Sergio Brown for a while before eventually regaining his starting spot in time for the playoffs - only to play poorly once again. To his credit, Landry did improve after his suspension. In a backup role, Landry did much better, and part of that might be due to the Colts using him in better ways. But once resuming his starting role again, many of his struggles returned. Altogether, Landry started six regular season games (playing in 11) and made 46 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Believe it or not, Sergio Brown actually started more games in the regular season than LaRon Landry did, as Brown started four games during Landry's suspension and then four games after that as well. Playing in 15 games and starting eight, Brown recorded 33 tackles, a sack, and six passes defensed. His strength came in pass coverage (an area of weakness for Landry), but Brown was formidable against the run as well. One of the biggest things that he brought to the starting spot was an energy and passion that a number of Colts players and coaches noted. Many fans thought that Brown should continue to start, but as his snaps began to decrease it became clear that Landry was going to end up starting once again - which is exactly what happened. But the play of Sergio Brown did not go unnoticed. While he was viewed almost exclusively as a special teams guy entering the season (albeit a great special teams player), he showed in 2014 that he can contribute on defense from the safety position as well. He wasn't great, but he was the best starter that the Colts had at that particular safety position all year and he provided a noticeable boost over LaRon Landry.
Colt Anderson played in 15 games for the Colts in 2014 and made 16 tackles, but his role was pretty much exclusively special teams. On the special teams coverage units, however, Anderson was fantastic and was a bright spot in that area. Similarly, undrafted rookie Dewey McDonald, who appeared in 12 games and made 10 tackles, was almost solely a special teams player, but he excelled in that area. In fact, Anderson and McDonald were two of the best special teams cover guys the Colts had in 2014 and certainly made their presence felt - not on defense, but in the role the team asked them to fill.
So what do the Colts do at the safety position moving forward? They entered the 2014 season with a lot of questions and they enter the 2015 offseason with a lot of questions once again. Mike Adams, Sergio Brown, and Colt Anderson are all unrestricted free agents, and Delano Howell is a restricted free agent. That leaves just LaRon Landry and Dewey McDonald as safety options for the Colts, and the team could save $2.25 million by cutting Landry while McDonald was an undrafted free agent a year ago who hardly played at all on defense in 2014. Clearly, the Colts will need to address the safety position.
They should start by re-signing their own guys. Mike Adams deserves an extension despite the fact that he will be 34-years old by the time next season starts, and it would be great if the Colts could lock up Sergio Brown as well. Re-signing Colt Anderson would be a good special teams move, and bringing back Delano Howell (if healthy) wouldn't be a bad move for camp competition. From there, if they cut Landry (which they should do) they would need to add another safety likely through free agency but possibly through the draft.
The 2014 season was a strange one for the Colts' safety position. They entered the season with a lot of questions, and while Mike Adams helped to answer many of them, they enter the 2015 offseason with new questions and arguably just as much of an emphasis on the safety position as there was a year ago.
For more in-depth analysis of the Colts' 2014 season, check out Josh Wilson's other position reviews: