Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson
Bob Sanders is a tremendous enigma. His ferocious playing style is one of his greatest strengths and the total disregard that he has for his undersized body allows him to be a true difference maker and a trend setter in the Colts' defense. But it also causes him to miss an awful lot of games.
Leave it to Bill Polian to have an excellent solution for this problem. Their names are not household ones, but Antoine Bethea and Melvin Bullitt make up an exceptional pair of starting safeties when Sanders is so often sidelined. In fact, when Sanders does eventually make an appearance on the field, the Colts can use all three in several personnel groupings that gets their best players on the turf. Bethea and Bullitt have logged an awful lot of snaps this year and both are every down players. Bullitt fits the Sanders mold, more of a strong safety type, than Bethea, who is better in the deep patrol. But both safeties can contribute in all phases of the game.
If Sanders is to return after Indianapolis' bye, the Colts have the luxury of easing him back into action. And-in all reality-with their weak schedule the rest of the way, it is conceivable that Sanders can watch the end of several games going forward from the sidelines while the Colts have a big lead in order to save him for playoff time.
Ideally, it would be great if the Colts could count on their star safety for a high number of games per season, as the defense certainly is better when he is in the game. But overall, this is a problem that Polian and the coaching staff have learned to deal with extremely well. Considering Polian's track record and the consistent success of this organization, that should surprise no one.
It will be interesting what happens going forward, as the safety position does not usually lend itself to keep three starting caliber players. Plus, Bethea is potentially a free agent after this season depending on the collective bargaining agreement. Bullitt should be able to handle the free safety role, but he is better suited for the strong safety position where Sanders resides. Though if Bethea were to leave, it shouldn't be a shock if the Colts found a suitable replacement who could be eased into playing time in the early rounds of the draft. They have a good formula and a tremendous feel for the strengths and weaknesses of their organization.