TERRE HAUTE – Safety Melvin Bullitt was the surprise of 2008 for the Indianapolis Colts. A relatively unknown player – he was in his second season as an undrafted free agent from Texas A&M – he stepped in impressively for an injured Bob Sanders, then the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Bullitt had 42 solo tackles and four interceptions, starting nine games as Sanders had ankle and knee injuries.
It was big for me, said Bullitt, a 24-year-old native of Dallas. I definitely think I made a name for myself in this league, as a player and on this team as well. It built some confidence in some of the other players in me. It shows that the coaches can trust that they can put me in there and I can go do a good job.
Even when Sanders returns to the lineup, which likely won’t happen Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, no one thinks Bullitt will ease back into a role on the bench. Because of his success, the Colts plan to be creative and find ways to get him on the field, possibly as a nickel back.
Whatever they want me to do, it doesn’t really matter, Bullitt said.
The benefits of having Sanders are obvious; he’s arguably the biggest game-changer in the NFL, a potent run stopper with a nose for making interceptions at key moments. But he comes with a price, having missed 35 games because of injury in his first five seasons.
Even Sanders admits that having depth at the safety position is pivotal.
(We are) very deep and very talented. It’s definitely a good thing for us, Sanders said. It’s great to have one good safety on the team, but when you have three or four different guys who can all play on the same level, it’s great.
New defensive coordinator Larry Coyer will have the Colts playing a more complex defense this season, with much more deception and blitzing, so the safeties could have an even greater role.
Bullitt spent much of the offseason working on his game.
(I’ve been) working on my film study and making sure I understand the game better, Bullitt said. There were a lot of things I could have done differently last year, but it was being a young player out there and kind of getting my feet wet.
But I’m trying to take myself into that I am a starter’ role.