Indianapolis Colts safety Nick Cross enters his second season in the league after what was a pretty disappointing rookie campaign.
Cross lost the starting strong safety job within the first month of the season and saw only special teams work for the remainder of his rookie year. It was disappointing considering what he’d shown during the preseason.
Entering his second season, though, there’s a much different tune surrounding his game. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley had plenty of praise for the progress Cross has made in 2023.
“Done very well. I’ll tell you what Nick (Cross) has done, he has proven to us that he has consistently played well at the strong safety spot,” Bradley told reporters Sunday. “But what his value to us is he can play free, he can play strong and in a pinch, he can play nickel.”
A third-round pick out of Maryland in 2022, the Colts made it a point to get Cross onto the roster during the draft. They traded back into the third round before the day was over in order to select him, and the pick they gave away wound up being the No. 67 overall selection (Drew Sanders) in 2023.
Cross entered the league at an extremely young age, turning 21 years old during the first week of the regular season. The talent he put on tape matched up with some elite athleticism, but when it came to the processing side of the ball, the rookie struggled to keep up.
But Cross was in the lab all offseason, working to ensure he understood the nuances of Bradley’s defense. That progress has shown up with certainty in Year 2, removing the doubts and hesitation from his game.
“As far as a role, he’s one play away from all those three positions where he has an opportunity to play or at least be in those discussions to play,” Bradley said. “I think last year, he wasn’t in that discussion. If we had an injury, maybe had a spot it was like, ‘Well, I don’t know if he’s quite ready.’ I think he’s really kind of erased that part of doubt for us.”
It’s a young group brimming with potential.
With Cross improving his processing skills to match his elite athleticism, another layer of hope is added to Bradley’s defense.