The Colts are set at free safety for the foreseeable future with former first round pick Malik Hooker. He put together a really solid season in 2018 and should only get better with more playing time going forward. The biggest question, however, is who will be his running mate at strong safety going into 2019 and beyond. Clayton Geathers held down that role for most of last year, but he is only on a one year deal after a decent year in 2018. Among other options are veteran Matthias Farley and rookie fourth round pick Khari Willis. What about George Odum, though?
Odum was a surprise last year as he made the Colts’ roster as an UDFA out of Central Arkansas. He played a major role on special teams early in the year before filling in at both free safety and strong safety late in the playoff run. With so much uncertainty at the strong safety position, could Odum be the answer?
Today, I will be looking at ten plays— some positive and some negative— from his rookie season and talking about his positive traits, along with other areas of his game that he can improve. Odum is having a great camp so far, and I think his film from last year showed a player who can start in this league.
First play, and the athleticism is on full display. Odum reads the run to the opposite side of the field comes downhill with great speed and quickness. He strafes up the field and is able to take a good angle in tracking the runner down. Once he engages the runner, he delivers a good hard hit that knocks the running back backwards and limits yards after contact. Good job of tracking the ball carrier and finishing the play with a solid tackle to limit yards gained.
Odum was a former sub linebacker/nickel corner and you can see it in how he works down in the box. Here, he quickly diagnoses the run and races to his spot. He is able to beat Taylor Lewan to the spot and set up in great position to engage the runner around the edge. He breaks down in the open field and makes a good tackle to get the runner down. Again, he does a great job of not just tackling the ball carrier, but tackling through the player. He is a very physical tackler who finishes through plays rather than letting the runner get those extra yards.
This next play is the first negative on film for Odum and it is something that pops up a bit often with him. This is just a simple pass by the Titans to get a positive play going before halftime. The Colts do a good job of gang tackling, and the play is blown dead with the ball carrier still standing. Odum, however, keeps pursuing and delivers a hit after the whistle, drawing a penalty. Now, the call was a bit soft, but that is how the NFL calls these plays nowadays. He has to be more controlled and disciplined on plays like this and can’t be making mistakes that lead to points for the opponent.
Odum's aggressiveness can sometimes be a negative, but for the most part, that is the mindset that you want your safeties to have. This next play shows his aggressive physical nature without even showcasing his abilities as a safety. Darius Leonard picks off Blaine Gabbert, and beginsreturning the ball down the sideline. Odum flies up from his safety spot and absolutely crushes the receiver that the pass was intended for. This play just showcases his mindset as an always physical, aggressive safety. He may need to calm it down a tad, but for the most part, you want this in your strong safety.
Odum has no fear coming down from his safety spot and engaging running backs as they come downhill. Here, he fearlessly meets 6’3” 235 pound running back Rod Smith. Odum doesn’t slow up one bit as he engages the much bigger running back, and he is able to give a good hit to the midsection of the runner. He makes the tackle in the open field and again limits those extra yards after contact. This is the base function of a good strong safety. Being athletic and fearless coming downhill and being a physical run defender. Odum checks off both of those boxes.
On yet another play, Odum is quick out of his backpedal and makes a good tackle on a powerful running back. He does an excellent job each play of diagnosing what is in front of him and getting a good break out of his backpedal. He is then able to race downhill and get into a good position to make a play. Again, he takes a great angle and has a great form tackle while also giving a good jolt to the runner through the hit. Odum looks a lot like strong safety on many of these plays.
The two biggest concerns in Odum’s game are the over aggressiveness on the backend and struggles to read the play in front of him. The second issue didn’t show up too much on film but here is one example of it. He is in man coverage with Zeke Elliott out of the backfield and is late to react to the route. Dak Prescott is able to recognize this and turn the play into a good gain. Odum needs to read these plays better on the backend, but these are expected out of a former linebacker UDFA in his first season. I expect him to improve in this area as he plays more in that deep safety spot and learns to see the field better.
Here, we see a little bit of that athleticism and movement ability in coverage. Prior to this play, Odum suffered a MCL sprain on the previous series. Despite suffering that injury, he is still able to make this play on the backend. He tracks his tight end in coverage well from the deep safety spot and doesn’t bite too hard on the inside move. The ball is thrown high and deflects off of the tight end’s hands. Odum sees the pass up in the air and is able to lay out for the pass despite his knee injury. He also gets a nice little return after the pick as well. It may not be an elite play by Odum, but ball production is so big as a safety and it is great to see a young safety make a play like this.
Near the goal line against one of the best running backs in the NFL, Odum shows off his strength and tackling ability. Saquan Barkley on the goal line is usually almost a sure thing, but he is shut down by the young safety, here. Odum comes flying around the edge and is able to make contact in the backfield with Barkley. He is then able to hang on and hold him back and get the stop before the goal line. Great play by the young safety to prevent the touchdown.
The final play here is another example of his over-aggressiveness. The Giants go to the play action by the goal line. Odum is in man coverage with the tight end but he over-commits inside on the play fake. The result is an open tight end and a touchdown for the Giants. Darius Leonard even gives him some feedback as he is clearly not happy with the play. On one hand, it is understandable to commit to the run with Barkley close to the endzone but Odum has to maintain his assignment. Tough situation that he will get better at with time.
George Odum really impressed me last season. He is a superb athlete who covers a lot of ground on the backend. He is also a willing tackler and very aggressive player who flies downhill and wants to be involved on every single play. His mindset, size, and athleticism would make him a perfect fit at strong safety going forward alongside Malik Hooker.
The main concerns in his game, though, could keep him off the field in favor of more stable veterans. He does give up some plays due to being over-aggressive and his field vision as a deep safety could certainly improve. These are two areas that I’m not terribly concerned with him improving, as they both should get better with more experience as a safety. I always say that it is much easier to tame a crazy safety than to light a fire in a passive one.
Ultimately, it comes down to how the Colts want to play it at strong safety this year. Odum probably isn’t as well rounded as players such as Khari Willis, Clayton Geathers, or even Matthias Farley at this point but he does offer the most upside. Those players can’t match him in terms of athleticism or aggression even. These traits and my belief that he will get better with more playing time, leads me to think that he could be the best option next to Hooker. He may have the most mistakes but the potential for a well above average safety is there with him.
The Colts could go many ways with the strong safety position this season. George Odum may not be the starter, but he absolutely deserves a shot to win the job. He is a talented player, and by all accounts having a great training camp so far. I think the sky is the limit for this safety and he could be a good player in this league for some time if he develops a bit.