Colts’ T.J. Green says it’s time ‘to be that guy’
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – We’re about to discover whether T.J. Green has been a two-year tease, or is capable of finally emerging as a viable component in a revamped Indianapolis Colts defense.
The clock is most definitely ticking, and the 2016 second-round draft knows it.
“I feel there ain’t no time to waste,’’ Green said earlier this week. “This is a business league. You’ve got to perform.
“That’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to produce.’’
And, again, the time is now.
Green was locked in and focused during a meeting with the local media this week. He matter-of-factly discussed the Colts switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, and how that should maximize his skills.
“Yeah, definitely,’’ he said. “I feel this scheme is built for players like me: fast, big, physical and (with) an instinctive game. I feel like it will be good for this team, good for athletes we have on the team.’’
It’s got to be good for Green.
For two seasons, he’s offered glimpses of being the talented safety the previous regime – coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson – envisioned when it selected him with the 57th overall pick in the ’16 draft. Green possessed intriguing size for his position (6-3, 211 pounds), athleticism and speed (4.34 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine).
Green has appeared in 30 games, 11 as a starter, but the type of development expected of a top-tier draft pick has been missing. Too often, his aggressive style was sabotaged by a lack of discipline.
“I wish I could put a (finger) on it,’’ Green said. “It’s been a learning experience. Every down, every snap I was learning something new.
“Hopefully I can put it all together this year and be that guy.’’
If so, Green gives the Colts four solid safeties, joining 2017 first-round draft pick Malik Hooker, Matthias Farley and Clayton Geathers. Hooker’s availability for training camp and the start of the season is uncertain as he’s in rehab mode after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Oct. 22 against Jacksonville.
From the outset, the Colts realized Green was something of a project. He had just turned 21 when they drafted him, and arrived at Clemson in 2013 as a receiver. He switched to safety the following season; started 16 games over the next two seasons, including the Tigers’ 2016 national championship game loss to Alabama; then declared early for the NFL draft.
After Green’s uneven rookie season, the Colts actually did him a disservice. Midway through his second training camp, they switched him to cornerback.
“It was random,’’ he said. “They called me in and said, ‘Hey, we want you do to this.’ Kind of threw me out there in the fire.
“To just throw me in there without preparation, without an offseason learning the game of corner, that part probably was a mistake. The idea wasn’t a mistake. You just need more time to do something like that.’’
General manager Chris Ballard took the blame for what was a failed experiment. As Kansas City’s director of football operations in 2016, he was part of the Chiefs’ personnel department that evaluated Green. The Chiefs projected Green as an NFL corner.
“That was a little my fault last year . . . blame it on me,’’ Ballard said.
With Vontae Davis dealing with a groin injury, Green started the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams. He naturally struggled, and found himself shuffling between corner and safety before the coaching staff finally abandoned the cornerback experiment and allowed Green to re-commit to safety.
“He’s a safety,’’ Ballard said. “He’s only 23 years old. It takes time for (the) young guys to understand what it takes to play in this league.’’
That reality seemed evident as Green rehashed the last two seasons and offered optimism for what’s to come. The Colts’ recent past is littered with top draft picks who, despite their potential, failed to deliver: Bjoern Werner, D’Joun Smith, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett.
At some point, the talent has to emerge. Failing that, a team’s patience runs out.
“I’m here to work,’’ Green said. “I want to be the guy. It’s year 3 for me. I’m focused. I have a family to take care of and a daughter to take care of.
“You know your goals. You know what you want to be in this league. So you just have to work for it.’’