"Next man up" has been a popular phrase in the Colts' organization since Tony Dungy was in charge. It emphasizes a mindset whereby every player on the club prepares throughout the week as if he will be the starter on Sunday.
SS Melvin Bullitt is one of the club's more valuable players because he has been so reliable filling in for oft-injured SS Bob Sanders the past few years. But after Bullitt suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week Four, someone will have to emerge from a crop of unproven defensive backs and solidify arguably the thinnest position on the Colts. Sanders is out indefinitely with a torn biceps, and S Jamie Silva was lost for the season with a knee injury in August.
DaJuan Morgan was the first guy out of the bullpen against the Jaguars. Morgan signed with the club after Sanders went down in Week One, and he was spotty in his first significant action. Morgan is a terrific athlete, but some wonder if he can learn the system quickly enough.
Veteran S Aaron Francisco, who is familiar with the defense after playing in 10 games, including two starts, with the Colts last season, was signed last week to strengthen the position. Francisco is not a difference maker at safety, however, and we hear his biggest contribution could come on special teams. Francisco was the Cardinals' special-teams captain in 2007 and '08, and after losing their own captain in Bullitt and a special-teams standout in Silva, the Colts can use a guy like Francisco.
The other defensive backs vying for playing time are a pair of undrafted rookies — Brandon King and Mike Newton.
At only 5-foot-10, King is little but feisty. He made the team instead of Newton initially because he is more versatile, with the ability to play cornerback or safety. King was a cover-2 cornerback in college, but his body is better-suited for safety.
Our sources on the scene were surprised Newton didn't make the team out of training camp. He is a ball-hawking safety who made a lot of plays this summer. We hear he has some qualities similar to those of Pro Bowler Antoine Bethea.
The Colts are holding out hope that Sanders can come back this season, but word is it will be the start of December at the earliest.