On September 7 of this year, the Indianapolis Colts made what was seemingly a minor roster move in waiving quarterback Stephen Morris and signing cornerback Rashaan Melvin.
The move was in response to a rash of injuries at the position, which had caused the Colts to add several defensive backs in the days following the formation of the initial 53-man roster. Melvin was a journeyman NFL player, someone who was joining his fifth team since entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Illinois in 2013. In time spent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots, Melvin played in 14 games and started four (including playoffs) and recorded 39 tackles, a pass defensed, a forced fumble, and two special teams tackles.
With the Colts, Melvin quickly settled in, even starting the second game of the season against the Denver Broncos. And throughout the first nine games of this year, Melvin has continually impressed and shown that he’s capable of playing at this level. He’s played in all nine games and started three, recording 25 tackles, three passes defensed, a forced fumble, and a tackle for loss. He has without a doubt been one of the most pleasant surprises of this season so far for the Colts, and he’s continued to impress as his role has increased.
“When you make plays and good things happen you gain confidence and you could see that come out,” head coach Chuck Pagano said of Melvin on Monday. “He’s made plays every week. Yeah, he’s come alive.”
Melvin’s play this year made the Colts’ defensive alignment possible on Sunday against the Packers, as they moved Darius Butler to safety and Clayton Geathers to linebacker. Taking Butler away from the cornerback position meant that Rashaan Melvin was going to see an increased workload, however, and he rose to the occasion.
“Fortunately, we knew Rashaan and I knew Rashaan,” defensive coordinator Ted Monachino explained this week. “We had him in Baltimore and Rashaan played winning football for us on a number of occasions so we knew the kind of character that he had. He’s a top competitor. He is not afraid of anything. He’ll line up across from anybody and he’ll compete. He will lose some and he will win some but it’s not going to change his mindset. What we’ve been able to get from Rashaan during the course of the year has been absolutely expected. He expects it, I expected it and I think our staff did after we got to know him as a full staff. But he’s been a big, big part of what we’ve been able to do. He has played well in a lot of spurts and there have been a few downs that we’d like to have back just like with any of them. I’m thrilled that he is here and know that he continues to grow and get better every week. I’m not afraid to line him up to the field or to the boundary or over the top of Jordy Nelson or over the top of Randall Cobb. We’re going to align him in the place where he needs to play. We’re excited to have him, he’s played well for us and we’re going to continue to see that I think.”
One of the biggest things that Melvin gives the Colts is flexibility. If they want to play Geathers at linebacker more and give Butler more reps at safety, they can do so because they know they can count on Melvin to step up at cornerback. And the Colts can also move Patrick Robinson to the slot at times with Vontae Davis and Rashaan Melvin on the outside, which allows Robinson to play where he’s best. For as good as Butler has been this year too he’s not an outside corner, so the emergence of Melvin is big.
“Yeah, that’s kind of been his MO and we say that all the time. He’s always prepared and in our room, he’s very well-respected,” defensive backs coach Greg Williams said yesterday. “He’s not a rookie, he’s a veteran. He’s been in this league now, I think this is his fourth season. As a pro, you know as a backup you always have to be prepared to come in at the drop of a hat and I think Rashaan has done that and I think everyone in the room is comfortable whenever he comes in the game.”
The 27-year old Melvin has certainly been a pleasant surprise, and Williams said it well: everyone is comfortable when he comes into the game. That’s high praise for a guy signed just a few days before the regular season started, but Rashaan Melvin has deserved it. He’s impressed with the snaps the Colts have given him, and odds are those snaps will just continue to increase as he continues to impress.