In case you've tuned out of football completely (and if you're here on WCG, why would you?!), on Friday the Colts released often-injured, one-time Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders. The hard-hitting safety, when on the field, was one of the cornerstones of a defense that eventually won the Super Bowl in Miami in January of 2007. Many will point to his injury history as reason number one not to sign him, having played only nine games in the last three seasons, but Matt Bowen provided a list of reasons why a team should still be interested in the fragile Sanders.
But, playing in the box as a strong safety (especially in the 8-man fronts of the Tampa 2 playbook) is hell on your body. Take on pulling guards, kick out blocks from the fullback and spend a lot of time absorbing hits. That adds up—just as it did for safety Mike Brown in Chicago in the exact same defensive scheme.
Makes sense. Sanders and Brown were both athletic heavy-hitters in the safety role. Sanders has had several injuries to his knee, a high ankle sprain, an arm injury and a torn bicep tendon last year, to say nothing of the injuries we were all familiar with here in Chicago with Brown.
The talk will center on Cover 2 teams (Chicago, Minnesota) taking a look at Sanders. But even in those systems, I like him as a free safety. Yes, you can roll him down to the weak side and play some Under 10 (weak side Cover 1), but he can have an impact in the middle of the field. We always talk about range with free safeties and Sanders can get outside the numbers and over the top of the deep vertical route schemes.
But again, this is when he's on the field. Throughout his career, it hasn't been if he gets injured, but when. But if he's able to stay on the field (as he did when he played 14 games in '05 and 15 games in '07), the man plays at an All-Pro level.