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Colts’ Julian Blackmon named CBS Sports’ ‘breakout player’ for 2023 season

An unusual candidate, Julian Blackmon, was named CBS Sports’ breakout player for the Colts this upcoming year.

NFL: JUN 07 Indianapolis Colts OTA Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

According to CBS Sports’ Jared Dubin, Indianapolis Colts safety Julian Blackmon is his top candidate to be the Horseshoe’s breakout player for the 2023 season:

Indianapolis Colts: Julian Blackmon

Blackmon’s been up and down through his first few NFL seasons, and has missed 15 games due to injury. But he’s been terrific in run defense, flying down from the top of the formation to make tackles in and around the backfield. With defensive coordinator Gus Bradley staying on under new head coach Shane Steichen, Blackmon should be more comfortable in the system and better able to navigate his way in pass coverage.

Given some of the other trendier options, it is a bit surprising to see Blackmon named here.

It’s not as though Blackmon hasn’t flashed special ability at times during his early career—particularly against the running game, with his downhill acceleration, ability to find and track the football, and deliver a big hit.

He’s been a little unlucky with injuries, having suffered a season-ending torn Achilles during the 2021 season and having missed three games with an ankle injury this past year.

However, the former 2020 third round pick of Indy is still only 24 years old and is entering a contract year, meaning he should be extra motivated to have a highly productive season.

Right now, Blackmon figures to be the starting safety paired alongside second-year safety Rodney Thomas II—although it’s possible 2022 third round pick, Nick Cross, could push for initial playing time with a strong showing in training camp and preseason.

With his punishing playing style, Blackmon plays more like a traditional strong safety (and can move up in the box), but he has solid speed, ball skills, and instincts in coverage—having even played as a cornerback collegiately at Utah. He provides versatility, as well as a potential enforcer at safety.

This will be a big year for Blackmon in the backend of Indy’s secondary, as one of the Colts ‘veterans’ in an otherwise even younger group. If Blackmon truly breaks out, he could earn himself a significant pay raise headed into the 2024 campaign and beyond.