The Indianapolis Colts safety room has been a pretty big topic of discussion throughout this offseason. From Malik Hooker’s option not getting picked up to the drafting of Julian Blackmon, there has been a lot to talk about with this group. One player who I want to look at though is second year (now going into his third year) safety George Odum.
Odum is a very unheralded player for this team as a lot of his contributions come in sub work or on special teams. While he only played in over 50% of the team’s defensive snaps once last year, I was impressed with his play in situational roles. He finished the year with 26 tackles, one QB Hit, and two forced fumbles on the season. Today, we are going to look at some of his play from last season and see if he could potentially have a long term role on this defense.
The Very Very Fun Film
Odum started last season a bit slow as he only logged 12 defensive snaps through the team’s first four games. That all changed in week five against Kansas City as he filled in for the injured Malik Hooker. Odum played all 61 defensive snaps in that game and was a major reason why the Colts were able to come away with the shocking victory. Just from this first play, you can see what he brings as a free safety compared to Hooker and others on the roster. He flies out of his backpedal towards the running back and makes a good, strong tackle in the open field. Even as the back tries to work horizontally away from Odum, he is still able to make this solid tackle in open space.
This next clip was probably Odum’s biggest of the season and it came at the perfect time to help the Colts swing momentum in this game and come away with a victory. The Chiefs perfectly time up a screen play that fools most of the Colts’ defense. As running back LeSean McCoy works down the field, Odum engages one of the lead blockers. As McCoy starts running past Odum, Odum is able to punch the ball out and force a huge fumble on the play. The Colts would go on to recover and only hold the eventual Super Bowl-winning Chiefs to 13 points on the day.
One last play from the Chiefs game but again, the tackling ability and range coming downhill just stand out with Odum. This is a big 3rd and 28 play late in the game. The Chiefs somehow complete the long pass but Odum is able to fly down from his safety position and tackle the receiver just one yard short of the sticks to force a fourth down. The Colts were able to get the stop on fourth and one and would go on to win the game. Odum may not have played a ton last year but his impact was felt in this game.
The days of safeties being enforcers in the NFL is a thing of the past sadly as new safety rules have limited the type of contact we see in the secondary. While it is rare to see a hard-hitting safety nowadays, I’d like to point out that Odum has a ton of power in his pads when he hits opposing ball carriers. One of my favorite ways to show this is by using this clip against the Texans. Superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins runs a clean route over the middle and gets free from Pierre Desir. Odum comes across the field from his safety position and hits Hopkins low, causing the receiver to go flying through the air. Hopkins actually deserves more credit for hanging on to this ball as that took an insane level of skill to even do.
An assertion that I am going to make that is based purely off of film study from last season is that Odum was the rangiest and most athletic safety on the team. Obviously we know fro forty times and previous film that Hooker is the best overall athlete but Odum was flying around last season. Look at the distance he covers on this play from his deep safety spot. He sprints from the numbers on the opposite side of the field to beat the running back out of the backfield to the sticks to force a fourth down. He closed gaps in a hurry last season and was played very well in this attack style role.
Speaking of an attacking type of role, let’s look at a blitz with Odum rushing the passer. My good friend Jake Arthur and I actually broke down some Colts’ blitzes last night on a live stream and we talk about this play a good bit. I like Odum in this role though. With his natural power and speed, this blitzing role suits him very well. Look how quick he is able to corner and get into the backfield to hit the quarterback. This is an impressive rush and I’d like to see more wrinkles that feature Odum blitzing, despite the fact that he plays mostly free safety.
Man coverage was another area where I was fairly impressed with Odum in 2019. He didn’t have a ton of reps in man but when he did line up there he did a good job of competing through the route and not giving up too much separation. Here he is in man against the tight end at the top of the screen. He gives up a little bit of separation at the top of the route but does a good job of staying on the tight end’s hip and keeping his hands in the passing lane. He stays in good position throughout the rep and would have been able to make a play on a better-thrown ball.
Odum forces another fumble in this next clip and it again is attributed to the power that he plays with and just locating the ball in the runner’s hands and making a play. The Bucs’ running back catches the ball out in the flat and makes the first defender miss in space. Odum calmly stops his momentum, locates the ball, and tackles across the running back while putting his head on the ball carrier’s arm which causes the fumble. When looking at the stats, it’s actually interesting to think that both of the Colts’ free safeties forced two turnovers last year but one of them did it in half of the snaps.
For this last clip, let’s talk a little bit about the stats when comparing the team’s two free safeties in George Odum and Malik Hooker. Hooker played 751 snaps last season and came away with 33 tackles while missing eight tackles. Odum only played 271 snaps but had 26 tackles to just three missed tackles. So Odum was the more reliable tackler between the two and also had the same amount of stops on the year despite playing nearly 500 fewer snaps according to Pro Football Focus. While Hooker did finish with a better coverage grade, it is hard to ignore how much more reliable Odum seems as a tackler and run defender than the starting safety in Hooker. Here Odum makes yet another impressive tackle in space.
I really like George Odum and what he brings to this team. I think it is also impressive to think about his growth over the past two years considering he played mostly in the box and around the line of scrimmage in college. From year one to year two he has shown considerable growth in his discipline (only penalized once in 2019) and in his consistency as a tackler. He has also grown into this team’s most dependable special teamer.
I think that Odum can be a really good third safety for this team for a very long time. He has the ability to play both safety spots, flies all over the field, and is a top special teams player. It is hard to ask for more out of the third safety on your team. I hope going forward we get to see more of this guy on defense because he is a joy top watch fly all over the football field.