Re-Sign or Release? Mike Doss

Jerry Langton kicks off his Colts free agent series where he'll provide his analysis and recommendation regarding each of Indianapolis' upcoming free agents. Today he takes a look at safety Mike Doss...

Mike Doss
Safety

2006 regular-season stats: 22 tackles, 4 assists, 1.5-1.5 tackles for loss, 2-47-0 interceptions, 5 passes broken up 2006 playoff stats: None

The player: Colts fans were delighted back in 2003 when Bill Polian drafted Mike Doss at the tail end of the second round. Doss was such a visible player at Ohio State with all kinds of big plays and nasty hits that many considered him a shoo-in as a first rounder. But there were questions about his coverage abilities, his take on the mental aspect of the game and, most of all, his character.

The critics had a point. Although Doss quickly became a competent starter with the Colts and had a few big plays, what stood out throughout most of his career were the frustrating concentration lapses and the infuriating missed tackles.

Then, just before the 2006 season, Doss was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, discharging a firearm within city limits, inducing panic and obstructing official business, and many observers posited that the image- and character-conscious Colts would trade or release him.

But they didn't, and Doss rewarded them with some outstanding play. He showed a marked improvement in both zone and man coverage, tackled better and showed what appeared to be a much better understanding of how offenses worked. It was like the light went on for him and it couldn't have come at a better time - Bob Sanders, the Colts' top safety, was out with a knee injury. During the first six games of the 2006 season, Doss not only showed excellent safety play, but also leadership and an enviable work ethic.

Then disaster struck. In game six, Doss was struck down by a torn ACL and missed the rest of the season. The Colts got by because Sanders eventually came back, rookie Antoine Bethea stepped up and players like Marlin Jackson, Dexter Reid and especially Matt Giordano filled in the gaps.

(Getty Images/Andy Lyons)
Should he stay or should he go: While the Colts definitively proved they could get by without Doss in the 2006 playoff run, there are complications. Because of the way Bob Sanders plays and the fact that he's restrained by the physics and biology of the human body, he will always miss some games. In his career, he's played just 24 of a possible 36 regular-season games. He simply can't be counted upon to be there every day. The other starting safety, Antoine Bethea, was a sixth-round draft pick who played way beyond his small-school background which raises questions of whether or not he can repeat that level of performance. Jackson has some talents, but the Colts went 4-4 with him at safety in 2006 and 8-0 with anyone else. Reid and Giordano have their strengths, but neither are considered long-term starter material.

Doss is a starting-quality safety who, if he's past his knee injury, would command a hefty salary on the open market. While Doss is obviously a good safety, I'm not sure the Colts can afford to gamble the salary-cap space he'd need when his injury and character issues are considered.

Besides, no matter what happens with Doss, the Colts starting safeties entering 2007 camp will be Sanders and Bethea. Unless the Colts can re-sign a healthy Doss at a very reasonable rate, I don't see him coming back as a third safety.

Who'd replace him: With Sanders' injury history and questions (perhaps unfair) about Bethea, the Colts will be looking for a dependable third safety who can start if necessary.

The on-roster candidates are Jackson, Reid and Giordano. Jackson has a great degree of talent and could well grow into the role, especially if he stops taking reps at corner. His lack of top-end speed is a concern, though, as he's often outpaced in deep coverage.

Just to be safe, I would expect the Colts to draft a safety with deep coverage skills to groom for the No. 3 spot. Boston College's Larry Anam is just the kind of hard-hitting safety with deep coverage abilities that the Colts really appreciate. And he's not the kind of guy who'll start shooting up a nightclub parking lot.


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