INDIANAPOLIS – The future is, apparently, now at safety for the Indianapolis Colts.
A combination that we thought wouldn’t be needed in full-time duty until 2021, is likely to be used now.
About 9 months removed from tearing his ACL, Colts rookie safety Julian Blackmon looks to be heading into the starting lineup—alongside Khari Willis—in place of the injured Malik Hooker.
“We’ll continue to evaluate, but yeah (Blackmon) came here to compete for a starting job,” Frank Reich said earlier this week. “Obviously, (we’re) very high on Julian and he showed everything that we wanted and expected to see from him (against the Vikings).
“I would certainly have that expectation given Hook’s injury, that he could step into that (starting) role.”
Even before Hooker tore his Achilles late in Sunday’s second quarter, the Colts were not treating Blackmon with kid gloves in his NFL debut.
Along with playing a little on special teams, Blackmon was involved defensively in sub packages. He ended up playing more than 60 percent of the defensive snaps (34-of-54), finishing with 2 tackles and 2 passes defensed, 1 of which led to an interception.
For a guy that the Colts thought might not be game ready until October, you saw no hesitation from Blackmon, and his frequency of finding the ball was quite obvious.
“(Blackmon) was all around the ball, all around the ball,” Reich said in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s win. “He played great. He made the one play on the Cover 2 down the middle – that looked like it’s going to be a big play for their offense, and he breaks it up, gets his head and hat on the ball. Those are the instincts that we saw on film. We know that that’s the player that he’s going to be. He just deserves so much credit. Number one, physically what he had to come back from. Number two, just mentally staying ready. He couldn’t practice for so long, and he wasn’t even able to participate in walk-thrus because of how we had him designated. A credit to him staying in it mentally. Then you could just tell the competitor in him showed up today on game day.”
When the Colts drafted Blackmon, they were first drawn to his ball production and versatility of playing both corner and safety. They saw 3-down ability, which is such a luxury for today’s pass-happy NFL.
Even though Blackmon missed out on the majority of extremely valuable physical reps in his first NFL camp, he was attached to the hip of safeties coach Alan Williams every practice.
There was Blackmon right next to Williams for every starting rep, listening to the calls and watching the responsibilities of his fellow safeties.
“What’s nice is I always have tried to mentally prepare,” Blackmon said after his first NFL Game. “So once I finally got on the field it was easy because I didn’t sit back and pretend like I wasn’t a part of the team. I also have a responsibility and my responsibility off the field was to make sure I knew what I was doing so when I got my name called, I’d be ready.”
Chris Ballard called Blackmon a ‘legitimate free safety’ in this league during the draft process.
It looks like Blackmon is going to get an earlier chance than anyone could have predicted to prove that.