One of the biggest surprises for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 season was the emergence of safety Mike Adams. He had been signed as a late free agent signing in the summer and had to battle for the spot in training camp. In fact, initially, he was slotted as a backup but then took over as the starter once Delano Howell suffered a season-ending injury. Adams ended up starting every game, however, and was a key part to helping hold the team's defense together.
Making his first career Pro Bowl for his play, Adams notched 87 tackles, 11 passes defensed, five picks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries - either setting or tying a career high in every category. His seven takeaways also were tied for the most in the NFL. It was the best season of Adams' 11-year career, and as a result the Colts re-signed him this offseason. No longer are there questions about him, and his starting spot is secured for the 2015 season.
That's all great, but why is Adams among the most important Colts for this upcoming season? One of the primary reasons is because of the other questions at safety. Many thought that the Colts would target a safety in the draft, but they didn't. Instead, they signed veteran free agent Dwight Lowery later on in the process, a signing that reminded many of the signing of Adams last year. And while there is reason for hope about Lowery, there is still uncertainty at the safety position.
That's something that is representative of the whole defense as well. There are plenty of questions about the defensive line - how effective will Kendall Langford be? How will Arthur Jones do when finally healthy? And what about Josh Chapman - how will he do this year? There are questions about the pass rush, too. How effective will Robert Mathis be upon his return? How much does Trent Cole still have left? How will Jonathan Newsome continue to develop? The run defense has plenty of questions, and even at inside linebacker there may be some questions, as the talent is solid but not spectacular. At cornerback there may be some questions about Greg Toler or about the depth, and then at safety there have been plenty of questions about the depth and also the other starting spot, which Lowery will fill. In short, there are a lot of questions defensively, and so it is crucial for the Colts to get reliable play from the players who there aren't as much questions about.
And make no mistake - Adams is still a 34-year old safety coming off of a career year. It's probably unreasonable to expect him to duplicate that in 2015, but he's still the guy that the Colts can rely on at the position. The Colts need him to help in both the run game and the pass game - the area in which he was best at last year. In short, we can talk a lot about players who need to step up for the Colts this year, but what they also need are for the players who produced last year to continue to do so this year.
Past rankings on this list: N/A (first appearance)
Check out our list counting down the 15 most important players to the Colts' success in 2015:
15. Jerrell Freeman, ILB
14. Greg Toler, CB
7. Mike Adams, S