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NFL.com projects Nick Cross as Colts starting safety next to Julian Blackmon

When it comes to the safety position for the Indianapolis Colts, what we know is that Julian Blackmon will be the starting strong safety. However, who is running mate is remains up for grabs.

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com recently put together starting roster projections for all 32 teams. On the back end of the Colts’ secondary, he had Nick Cross lining up next to Blackmon.

Cross was a third-round pick by the Colts in 2022. Through two seasons, he’s played 414 defensive snaps, with 292 of them coming last season. It was a small sample size, but Cross did grade out quite well as a run defender by PFF’s metrics in 2023. For his career, he has allowed 8.1 yards per catch with one interception.

The Colts have played Cross as the strong safety, but once again this season, that is a role that will be filled by Blackmon. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley also likes Cross’ upside as a free safety, with that specific position fitting his skill set well.

“I think Nick, we tried him at strong, and he can play strong,” said Bradley after the draft, “but I think even looking back at him at college, when he sees things top down, his comfort level and his speed picks up. He’s in a pretty good mindset now. It’ll just play out, and we will see what we come up with.”

Competing with Cross will be Rodney Thomas and Daniel Scott. Thomas has primarily been a starter for the Colts on the back end during his first two seasons, but after a sound rookie season in 2022, he took a step back last year. Thomas’ missed tackle rate and yards per catch allowed all increased fairly substantially, while his ball production went down.

Scott was a fifth-round pick last offseason, but his rookie season never had the opportunity to get going with him suffering a season-ending injury over the summer.

“I think he’s going to have a (expletive) of a future,” Shane Steichen said of Scott following last week’s OTA practice. “He’s smart, intelligent. That’s part of it playing in the back end, communication. He made a good play on the ball.”

For what it’s worth, during the one OTA practice that was open to the media last week, Cross was starting next to Blackmon, although things within this position group remain wide open, as Bradley described.

Ultimately, it’s going to be day-to-day consistency that determines who is starting next to Blackmon come Week 1. It sounds simple, but this was lacking last season, which resulted in too many big plays and not enough ball production.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire