INDIANAPOLIS — Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon were a talented, dependable safety duo in 2020 despite having never practiced together — let alone played together — before late August of last year.
But now that Willis and Blackmon have had a full year to play alongside each other while developing a bond off the field, there’s a sense the back end of the Colts’ defense can be even better in 2021.
“Knowing what to do, trusting each other,” Willis said. “I think having the relationship outside of football, having chemistry, having confidence in one another to do each other’s jobs and then just knowing him. I know him, he knows me. He knows how I like to play, I know how he likes to play, gotta feed off of each other that way.”
Per Pro Football Focus, Blackmon had the fourth-lowest passer rating when targeted among safeties in 2020 (45.1) while Willis was 17th (88.8). Only three safety pairings allowed a lower combined passer rating last year — Green Bay’s Adrian Amos/Darnell Savage, Miami’s Bobby McCain/Eric Rowe and Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick/Terrell Edmunds.
Willis said all the experience he and Blackmon have with non-verbal communication and cues will only make them better prepared to play well in 2021.
“That’s something we work on every day in the walkthroughs and practice, even in the meetings, we’ll both see something and look at each other like, you see that, yeah, I’m gonna play it like this, you play it like that and we’ll have great coverage,” Willis said. “That’s something we do in the meetings and in the practice and in the games.”
- Roster moves from Monday: G Quenton Nelson was activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list and T Sam Tevi was placed on injured reserve; C Ryan Kelly, WR Zach Pascal and QB Carson Wentz were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
- The Colts have until 4 p.m. on Tuesday to trim their roster to 53 players.
- Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus on DE Ben Banogu’s training camp: “I thought Banogu did well. It’s hard to play really good the whole camp. It just is because it’s a long camp. And I thought he was pretty consistent all the way through and I thought he did a nice job just with consistency.”
- Offensive coordinator Marcus Brady on WR Mike Strachan: “He’s still learning because he is young, and the more reps he gets the better that he’s going to get. And so it’s going to be our job of managing that aspect, don’t overload him with too much, keep it simple early and then let him progress throughout the season.”
- Tight end Jack Doyle on WR T.Y. Hilton, who’s being evaluated for a neck injury: “He’s going to be all right. T.Y. is as tough as they come. He’s going to put the work in and get right and he’s promised us that and I know he’s a man of his word. Everyone’s just gotta step up and fill his void as a player and as a leader. He’ll certainly be missed, but can’t wait until he’s back out there.”