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Rock Ya-Sin’s important Year 3 is biggest question for strong defensive back rotation

Will Ya-Sin take the necessary steps forward, or force the Colts’ hand next offseason?

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

When looking over the Indianapolis Colts’ defense for the 2021-22 season, there’s very few questions revolving around a strong unit. Almost every part of it has been completely rebuilt since general manager Chris Ballard took over four years ago.

However, there’s one looming question that could cause concerns down the road: cornerback. No, Xavier Rhodes or Kenny Moore are not the issues. It’s the third starting spot alongside Rhodes and Moore, which has been an issue consistently for Indianapolis.

Ballard decided not to spend draft capital or salary cap space on an outside free agent to address the potentially glaring need. Instead, Indianapolis re-signed veteran T.J. Carrie on a 1-year deal, while Marvell Tell III returned from an opt-out year due to COVID-19.

Throughout training camp, it’s been a two-man race for CB2/3, whichever way you want to call it, between Carrie and third-year pro Rock Ya-Sin. After being the Colts’ top draft pick at No. 34 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, Ya-Sin’s inconsistencies have loomed large. Whether it be too handsy with wide receivers, or simply not having the long speed to keep up with burner-types, Ya-Sin has become a hot topic for Colts fans as of late.

Last season, Ya-Sin’s issues led to him being usurped by Carrie on the depth chart late in the calendar. Over the Colts’ final stretch in December when they had to fight for a wildcard berth from weeks 13-16, Carrie out-snapped Ya-Sin (Carrie = 115, Ya-Sin = 108). So far in training camp action, it’s been a nearly equal split of reps once more between Carrie and Ya-Sin.

For the former Temple Owl renowned for his aggressiveness and high character traits, which drew the Colts interest in the first place during the pre-draft process, Year 3 is of the upmost importance to see a tangible jump forward. Especially when you see how loaded the Colts’ starting defensive back unit is outside of the second boundary slot (Rhodes, Moore, Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis), Ya-Sin needs to prove himself to be more consistent before it’s too late.

Take a look at how the Colts’ primary cornerbacks stacked up in passer rating allowed while targeted last season:

Moore = 72.3

Carrie = 78.0

Rhodes = 84.5

Ya-Sin = 98.7

Far and away, Ya-Sin stands out like a sore thumb. And during his rookie campaign, Ya-Sin’s passer rating against finished at an awful 109.2.

For Indianapolis, Ya-Sin will need to step up when you also see the gauntlet of above-average pass-catching weapons slated to be on the schedule: Seattle Seahawks (DK Metcalf + Tyler Lockett), Tennessee Titans (A.J. Brown + Julio Jones), Miami Dolphins (Will Fuller + Jaylen Waddle), Buffalo Bills (Stefon Diggs + Cole Beasley + Emmanuel Sanders), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Mike Evans + Chris Godwin + Antonio Brown), and Arizona Cardinals (DeAndre Hopkins + A.J. Green + Rondale Moore).

If Ya-Sin is unable to take the leap to consistent starter who you won’t have to worry about getting burned down field or causing penalties, Indianapolis is in a position of strength to address their final hole on defense next offseason. Free agency will be headlined by Stephon Gilmore, Marshon Lattimore, and Kyle Fuller at cornerback. The 2022 NFL Draft class looks to be loaded with starting-caliber cornerbacks in the early rounds.

The pressure is on for Ya-Sin. If he’s not able to take the leap, which Ballard has mentioned before he’s betting on, then Indianapolis will need to look for better alternative options next offseason. After another up-and-down season, Ya-Sin needs to stabilize into a trustworthy cornerback Indianapolis can trust on a weekly basis.