When camp opened, these were the defensive players we determined were on the rise. Now with training camp closing for the 2013 season, we think that the players listed below are worth noting:
Kavell Conner, LB
Despite Conner and fellow inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard being engaged in a spirited competition for the right to start beside Jerrell Freeman, the Colts "unofficial" depth chart has Pat Angerer listed as the starter. This despite the fact that Conner is better and more durable than Angerer. All throughout camp, and especially during the preseason opener against the Bills, Conner has played well. Whether it's pass coverage for filing gaps to stone running backs, Conner has stood out at ILB.
This is nothing surprising.
Conner outplayed Angerer and others last season when he started on the inside. Still, despite this, the Colts opted to bench Conner in favor of Angerer got healthy enough to play in 2012. Just like last season, an injury has forced Angerer to miss virtually all of training camp, and once again Conner has stepped in and proven he is simply a better option at ILB.
Howell is one of those players that, despite not having elite talent, he's always around the ball and making plays. These aren't game-changing plays in the sense that he's creating turnovers, but they are the types of plays that make you notice him.
Sound tackling. Good angles. Toughness. Smart reactions.
He's also looked very solid as a special teams player, which is critical seeing as the only shot he has at making the 53-man roster is as a reserve safety, and reserve safeties MUST be good special teams players.
Howell played virtually all of the Colts preseason opener, and Chuck Pagano described his play in that game as a "statement." Personally, I think Howell has already solidified his status as a member of the 53-man roster.
Darius Butler, CB
When I did this write-up after the first week of camp, I listed all the corners as players who were on the rise. This time around, Darius Butler needs to get some individual attention. The man has consistently looked good all throughout camp, which is really a tribute to his hard work considering his career was in the dumpster this time last year.
Butler is firmly cemented as the Colts slot corner, which will allow Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, and Cassius Vaughn all to work on shutting down the outside receivers. Outside of Toler's terrible play in the preseason opener, all the corners have looked consistently good.
However, the best performer of all of them has to be Butler.