There's the important distinction here to make between what I think it *will* be, vs. what I think it *should* be.
For the purposes of this prediction, I'll put what I think the roster will shake out as, with what I think it should be in brackets (if there is a distinction to be made).
Special Teams - 3 spots - no distinction necessary here, as it's very obvious who will take up these 3 spots.
Offense - 24 spots (23)
Let's face it, you know it, I know it, everybody knows it. Painter is sticking on this roster. Let's also not pretend though that it has anything to do with his "improvement" against GB. He was going to be on the roster, barring season-ending injury.
I personally think Manning will be back and he'll be fine, and that Painter is as good as he's ever going to get, and simply doesn't warrant an extra roster spot that could be going somewhere where the Colts actually require depth.
Pretty straight forward, Brown simply isn't getting cut. Not going to happen. I'm also not ready to see him cut just yet. I just personally like Spann over Evans so when it comes down to a choice between those two, I'd rather the Colts take Spann - he looks to me like he has more breakout potential, whereas Evans looks a tad more consistent. I would rather have that potential, as I think Addai and Carter will provide enough consistency as the top 2. I think the team is higher on Evans.
I think it's pretty clear right now what the pecking order is in receiver depth. I like Taj Smith, but he's just so inconsistent (more so even than Garcon). He does contribute on special teams however, and if the team does elect to cut Gonzalez, I think Smith will be the guy that gets that 5th spot since he's also solid on special teams. I do *not* think the Colts will cut Gonzalez - he's in his final year of his rookie contract, has more talent than everyone on the roster except Wayne, and should he get healthy, would cost very little on his second contract or with an RFA tender to retain. Look for Chris Brooks and/or Taj Smith to hit the PS.
This is the most definitively easy to predict position. The Colts will run with these 3, as DeVree and McNeill have simply not shown themselves as being worthy of a spot, though one of them may likely make the practice squad.
OT - Anthony Castonzo, Jeffrey Linkenbach, Benjamin Ijalana - 3 (3)
This is relatively stable. Guys like Tepper and Toudouze have been flat out bad in preseason and really aren't worth keeping around. An injury to Linkenbach will see Diem in at RT and DeVan/Pollak in at RG, an injury to Castonzo will see Link to LT Diem to RT Pollak/Devan to RG, injuries to both Link and Castonzo would be catastrophic in any situation, but would see Reitz to LT, McClendon in at LG, Diem to RT, Pollak/DeVan to RG. It's possible that down the road once Ijalana develops more, Diem won't need to shift out and Ijalana will simply step in at RT, and Diem shifting out becomes the backup to the backup option.
creds to strandedincarolina for reminding me that Reitz was actually an OT, and could step in at LT should both starting OTs go down.
Pollak has been the primary backup at C and RG, so he will certainly stick on this roster. It would be shocking to me if Pollak was cut.
The one possible surprise that could come is if the Colts keep a guy like Tepper or Toudouze as extra depth at the Tackle spot.
Defense - 26 (27)
I just have so little faith in both Melvin Bullitt's ability both to be consistent on the field, and to be consistent*ly* on the field, and that the safeties will see so much action due to week cornerback play that we just need to have more depth here. There are *going* to be injuries out here. I would keep an extra safety around - Afalava or possibly a vet that gets cut from another roster.
Some people seem to think Terrence Johnson is ok, but he looked bad to me in coverage, though he had some good stops in run defense. He's generally bad, and I think this is the group of 5 moving forward, I would be surprised if another vet wasn't brought in here though, as this group as a whole has been terrible in the preseason. Either someone else like Johnson or Brown will stick, or a vet will round out the group. Hopefully a decent vet who is cut due to depth/salary from another team.
Defensively, this would seem to be the only group that is a virtual lock. These 6 guys will be on the 53 man roster, with Moten and Wheeler also being solid special teams players.
Brayton shouldn't make the team, though I also wouldn't be surprised if he got a spot over Chick. Anderson is better and younger than Brayton who will probably wear down a lot during the season, and frankly, hasn't been good enough to warrant a spot. I'd take Chick over Hughes too frankly, but the Colts like to think longer term, and Hughes has probably shown enough improvement that the front office still thinks he has a chance to develop (which I do think is possible), and that will warrant him taking up a roster spot.
I really don't get what the team sees in Foster. He's worse against the run than Anderson, and worse as a rusher than Chick or even Wheeler lining up as the Joker. He's a waste of a spot that would be much more valuable if spent on a guy who can spell Freeney while still getting decent pass rush, thereby keeping freeney healthy and rested for playoffs where we really need him to dominate. Foster is advertised as this hybrid utility player, but we shouldn't be utilizing him either situation because he just isn't good in either. Ogbu has looked better to me than Mathews, and I think he has more upside, but there's a chance if the team does realize how mediocre Foster is, that they'll wind up adding a player, and I think they'll pick Mathews, which would still be a mistake. Look for Ogbu to make the PS if he doesn't make the roster.
The defensive line is obviously the most volatile position right now, but this is how I see things shaking out. Feel free to share thoughts, opinions, hate, etc.