Colts’ safety T.J. Green tries his hand at corner
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A pre-practice chat T.J. Green never saw coming led to move onlookers never anticipated Tuesday.
Chuck Pagano to Green: “Whatta ya think about taking some reps at corner this afternoon?”
Green to Pagano: “Fine with me.”
So midway through practice under a glaring sun, Green, a safety by trade, trotted out to the far left end of the defensive formation. At cornerback. Against T.Y. Hilton.
Never mind Hilton won that matchup – of course he did – by running a crisp ‘out’ pattern and snatching a pass from Scott Tolzien.
The news of the day dealt with the Colts deciding to find out whether Green, their 2016 second-round draft pick, might have as much – or more – upside at corner than safety. He certainly would represent an imposing figure at 6-3, 211 pounds.
“We’ve got a tall, fast guy,’’ Pagano said. “He’s a good football player and at the end of the day, we’re going to find the best four guys (to start in the secondary).’’
Green is starting from scratch at corner, admitting he’s never played the position in a game at any level. However, he’s no stranger to positional relocation.
Green arrived at Clemson in 2013 at an eager receiver. The next season, he moved to safety and would start 16 games over the next two years.
Now, possibly a third position after showing only flashes at safety as an NFL rookie: 15 games, four starts, 46 tackles and two defended passes.
Despite stepping into foreign territory, Green doesn’t lack confidence in his ability to master it.
“I feel if I put the work in, work on these little details . . . I could be a solid corner,’’ he said. “I know the defense. I know what the corners do. I know there’s going to be a lot of technique, but as far as the plays, that’s easy.
“I already play fast. Just work on the technique part.’’
And that’s what Green did after practice. While most of his teammates were trudging to the locker room, he remained on the field to get some one-on-one work with an assistant coach. They focused on his back-pedal, on swiveling his hips and turning and running with a receiver
“I’ve got the size, I’ve got the speed, I’ve got the physicality,’’ Green said. “I’ve got all that. None of that’s questionable.’’
The issue clearly is finding the best spot for him.
Vontae Davis is the Colts’ rock-solid corner. He’s a three-time Pro Bowl selection who’s started 107 games and snatched 22 career interceptions.
When he looks at Green, he sees potential.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete,’’ Davis said. “I guess (the team is) just trying something new and seeing if he can transition to the position.
“That’s the coaches. They make the decisions. Chuck’s been a defensive backs coach for most of his career. We’ll see.’’
How soon might we see Green at corner in an actual game?
“I guess we’re going to find out,’’ he said. “As soon as I can get ready.
“I don’t think it’s a one-day thing. I feel like I can play the position, sure. If they run me out there, we’re going to see what I can do.’’
Green’s aforementioned confidence resurfaced when he was asked if he could possibly get some reps at corner Saturday when the Colts deal with the Dallas Cowboys.
“If they put me out there, that’s what I’m going to do, compete,’’ he said.
And to think it all began with Pagano grabbing a few minutes of Green’s time before practice.
“I talked to coach Pagano an hour before practice today and he asked, ‘You want to play corner?’ I said, ‘I’m all for it. That’s why we’re here,’’’ Green said.
“It’s exciting. He’s trying to get me on the field. Whatever it’s going to take to get me on the field, that’s what I’m going to do.
“I’ve got a lot of studying to do. I’ve obviously gotta be ready to play safety, and I’ve got to be ready to play corner, too. Being a pro, you’ve got to do what the coaches ask you to do.’’
Rookie safety Malik Hooker was held out of Tuesday’s practice. According to Pagano, the first-round draft pick “dinged up’’ a shoulder Sunday against Detroit.
Several players returned to practice, including guard Joe Haeg, running back Marlon Mack, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, linebacker Jon Bostic and offensive lineman Denzelle Good.
The team waived-injured running back Dalton Crossan and signed wide receiver Justice Liggins.