When the Indianapolis Colts chose to release long time veteran safety Antoine Bethea, it left a void at the free safety position. For a majority of the offseason, many thought that it was Delano Howell’s position to lose. Howell seemed like an upgrade in the passing game over Bethea, who lost a step over the course of his career. LaRon Landry provides great support in the run game too, and that meant Howell could fill the void in the passing game. That idea was also re-enforced when the Colts chose not to pick a free safety in the draft. A clear path to the starting position was made for Howell.
That was, until last week’s signing of former Denver Broncos free safety Mike Adams. The battle for the free safety position will be the most competitive during training camp. Howell did a great job when he was called upon last year; he was aggressive to the ball and took the right angles to the ball carrier. In the passing game, he could match up with players in the slot too.
The biggest question that remains is whether or not he can play the center field role that so many free safeties are playing now. There isn’t too much of a sample size right now to make that judgment, but it is clear that the Colts are not confident enough right now, or else they wouldn’t have signed Adams.
Howell might be a better option at strong safety right now for the Colts, and they could be willing to move Landry to free safety. Last year, head coach Chuck Pagano used Landry at the free safety position at times, and that could allow Howell to play to his strengthens in the running game too. However, I personally feel that putting Landry at the free safety position is not a smart move, and he would be better suited playing strong safety.
The free safety position battle will be the one to keep an eye on as training camp comes along. It will be interesting to see what the coaches have in store for that position. They could push Landry to free safety and Howell to strong safety. They may feel that Howell can play free safety, or they might think that Adams is the better option and bench Howell. This position is going to be interesting going forward.