As I was reading through Phil B. Wilson's observations from OTAs (a must read if you want to know what's going on with the Colts this offseason), one comment in particular struck me as surprising. Wilson writes the following about the inside linebacker position:
Acquired LB Kelvin Sheppard starts inside if Pat Angerer’s foot isn’t ready yet. Angerer is coming off his second foot surgery and expects to get an MRI soon to see how that right foot progressing. The guy hasn’t been healthy since before that preseason opener last August. Sheppard is more of a classic middle backer, his 250 pounds are 15 more than Angerer. But because Angerer is such a fast tackling machine when healthy, it’s still his spot if the foot cooperates.
Kelvin Sheppard. If you recall, he was the player the Colts got from the Buffalo Bills in the Jerry Hughes trade. Sheppard is a good inside linebacker, but there wasn't much talk of him starting at the time he was acquired.
Now, it appears that he's right there in the mix.
Now the big thing to keep in mind here is that Wilson says that he thinks Sheppard will be starting, but only if Pat Angerer isn't ready to play. He underwent a second surgery on his foot earlier this offseason and may be out until training camp. For a guy who wasn't healthy at all last season, the injury concerns are real. While he certainly is on track to play at this point, it's not certain - especially given his injury issues this past year. At the time the Colts traded for Sheppard, I noted that I wondered just how confident the team was that Angerer could ever be fully healthy again and regain his 2011 form. I still have those doubts. It has long been assumed that, if healthy, Pat Angerer will be starting alongside Jerrell Freeman at inside linebacker. The coaching staff likes Angerer and he is the type of guy that Chuck Pagano loves - tough and loves to play the game. He proved that much last year, but still - if he's not healthy, he won't be playing. And according to Phil B., the guy who would take that spot could very well be Kelvin Sheppard (I'm seriously going to accidentally write Kelvin Sampson one of these times...).
That leaves the question: what about Kavell Conner? For a guy who started 12 games and played in two others last season, we haven't heard much about him at all. And not only did he start a year ago, he played well too. Conner notched 54 tackles, a sack, and batted down 4 passes and proved to be a very good run defender. The duo of Freeman and Conner worked very well for the team and they were one of the bright spots of the season last year. While Angerer was never healthy and his play on the field showed it, Conner still kept him out of the lineup with his play. For him to suddenly be relegated to the team's third option is surprising. Again, this is all based off of one man's observations, but Phil B. is about as good as they get when it comes to covering the Colts.
We won't know for sure until we get to training camp and can really see these players fight it out for the starting spot. While Angerer will have the clear edge if healthy, Sheppard and Conner will both be battling for the spot as well. At the time the trade for Sheppard happened, I didn't give him much of a shot at actually winning it. Like, no shot at all. It appears I was wrong.
Folks, there is a real chance that Kelvin Sheppard could be starting at inside linebacker for the Colts next season. What are your thoughts on that?