INDIANAPOLIS – It’s very likely the position group the Colts feel the best about, not only right now, but also moving forward.
Just listen to Chris Ballard describe the team’s two starting safeties.
“Khari (Willis) is the most underrated guy on the defense.”
“I think (Julian) Blackmon is special. He’s got All-Pro talent. We are expecting him to take another step.”
That’s high, high praise from the GM.
Ballard selected Willis (4th round in 2019) and Blackmon (3rd round in 2020) in consecutive drafts.
Both made strong early impressions.
“I remember with Julian last year, he had the knee issue and he was going through all of that and also we put him in drills and I’m standing there next to (safeties coach) Alan Williams and we have him side by side with the corners and we’re doing the break drills, the movement drills that DBs do, and we were looking at each other like ‘Oh my gosh, this guy is as good as a corner. He’s moving as quick and as fast as a corner,’” Matt Eberflus recalls. “We knew right then he had that special quickness because you could see that on tape he had the ball skills and he was a ballhawk type of guy. So, he proved that. We just noticed his quickness right away.”
“With Khari, what we noticed right away was his instincts – his ability to process and then to really move fast to the football,” Flus adds. “After watching last year’s tape, he’s one of our best guys in terms of being able to be in a low zone and being able to break on a ball when it’s in the flat or in the curl zone. So he’s special that way and we noticed that pretty quick about him too.”
Tossing out the ‘All-Pro’ label for a guy like Blackmon speaks for itself.
But Ballard still loses sleep over that Pittsburgh game last December when the Colts didn’t have Willis for the final quarter and a half.
With Willis out of the game, the Colts secondary wilted and the Steelers stole a critical Week 16 victory away from Indianapolis.
It was a reminder, albeit a harsh one, of what Willis means to the Colts defense.
Willis and Blackmon have combined to play just 3 seasons in the NFL (37 total starts), but there’s reasons for Ballard’s optimism.
Other Colts position groups might have more proven talent right now.
You could make strong cases for other positions to also rank high up on that list.
But any conversation of what position group makes the Colts sleep pretty well at night has to involve this safety duo.