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4 things to know about Colts safety Malik Hooker

Malik Hooker, Colts

Now in his third year as an Indianapolis Colt, former Ohio State Buckeye Malik Hooker is a key cog on an improved defense. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound safety has proven to be the right pick at No. 15 in the 2017 NFL Draft, as he’s been a focal point to a shored up secondary. With that known, here are four things to know about Hooker.

4. His Previous Head Coach Compared Him to Ed Reed

Being mentioned in the same sentence as Ed Reed — a first-ballot Hall of Famer that reinvented the free safety position — is an honor it’s own right. Being compared to him is even more so. Former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, now the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, did just that, as he told him, according to Colts.com;

We felt like you’re a top-five pick. You’re going to be another Eddie Reed. Closest thing I’ve seen [to Reed]. I coached him in college. You’re the closet thing I’ve seen [to Reed].

Impressive stuff.

3. PFF Grades Indicate Improvement from Year One to Two

Pro Football Focus gave Hooker an overall 79.7 grade in 2018 — a 14 point upgrade and the 16th best for all NFL safeties. That grade includes a 73.5 in run-defense, 78.3 in tackling, and an outstanding 82.2 in coverage. His overall grade was the second-highest for any Colts defender, behind Darius Leonard.

According to the analytics firm, Hooker allowed just 44.4 percent of targets to receptions in 2018 — the second-best for all safeties (including playoffs). Throughout his second season, he played in 616 coverage snaps and got targeted just nine times. That turned into 51 yards on four catches and two interceptions and a couple of pass breakups, per PFF.

2. He’s had Injury Troubles

Hooker got off to a fast start in his rookie season, starting six games out of seven and turning that into 21 total tackles, four pass deflections, and three picks. His season then took a sudden stop by way of a devasted torn ACL and MCL. Before his rookie season, he suffered through a groin and hip injury as well.

In his second season, Hooker missed two games due to a hip strain. Then, in the playoffs, against the Kansas City Chiefs, he missed another due to a foot injury. SportsInjuryPredictor.com flags him as high-risk for re-injury with a 57.6 percent chance of doing so. His chance of injury per game stands at 5.2 percent and is expected to miss 5.2 percent.

1. The Colts Win More Games When he Plays, Duh

For a safety comparable to Ed Reed and ranking as the 16th best according to PFF, the Colts, logically, are a better team when he’s on the field. In the 22 games Hooker has played, Indianapolis is 11-11 (including playoffs) — factoring in their putrid, Andrew Luck-less 2017. That converts to a .500 win-rate.

When he’s off the field, the Colts take a hit — obviously. In the 12 games in which Hooker hasn’t played, Indianapolis is 4-8, converting to a lowly .333 win percentage. It should be clear that the Colts defense is far better with him on the field. If he can do so consistently in 2019, they should have their backend linchpin and a potential star. They may also benefit in the area of a better record.