Almost every season, each team in the NFL has a player (or if they're lucky...two) who comes out of nowhere is exceed expectations, and become a key cog in the team. Sometimes the player is a flash in the pan, other times they become a star.
The Colts are a team that has had some very good luck with players like this. Last year's example of this was clearly Daniel ‘Boom' Herron. With a running back stable of Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Vick Ballard it looked like the Colts were set. Injuries and poor play pushed Herron into the starting line-up where he was able to produce very effectively for the Colts down the stretch.
Since training camp is right around the corner, I'll be taking a look at players on the roster who have seen limited (if any) playing time in recent years, but could be primed for a big year. And yes, I'll be including some players who fans hope can emerge and have a big year.
I won't be including players the Colts drafted this year, since, as a rule, we hope all of those players produce in some way this year (even if we know some won't).
Daniel Adongo - OLB
Naturally, I had to start with the fan favorite Adongo. Since word (and his highlight film) surfaced that Ryan Grigson would be signing Adongo, he became a huge hit with fans. The athletic rugby player from South Africa seemed like a perfect candidate to be a prime pass rusher.
Adongo spent most of his first year on the practice squad, as I think most of us expected. Coming into last season, Adongo bulked up, leading plenty of fans (myself included) to have high expectations for the linebacker. A torn arm muscle in the pre-season ended the hype before it began.
Adongo will be headed into his third year on the Colts this season. Pass rush is still a huge concern, and Adongo could be the player to fill that role. He'll certainly get some chances during camp and the pre-season. This could be the first time we see a healthy Adongo in (hopefully) some extended game action.
I, for one, hope he becomes an absolute terror in the pass rush. He certainly has the size and athletic ability to do so, the questions are his durability and if he can successfully make the transition to football. If he doesn't produce anything this year, it could be the end of the Adongo experiment.
Erik Swoope - TE
Full disclosure. I had forgotten Swoope was on the team until our friends over at State of the U emailed to ask if we wanted to get some extra information on the plethora of Miami players on the Colts' roster.
Swoope played basketball at Miami, and never played organized football at any level. The Colts signed him to the practice squad last year as a project player. It isn't unheard of for basketball players to convert to tight ends in the NFL. Marcus Pollard, Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, and Jimmy Graham are just a few to be able to make a very successful transition.
The tight end position is a bit crowded with Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, and Jack Doyle already occupying three spots. However, it is easy to see Swoope swooping in (sorry) to get some playing time. Doyle is a nice player, but hardly a game-breaker; Allen is the most talented of the group, but is injury-prone; and while getting better, Fleener isn't the most consistent tight end in the league.
With all of the other offensive weapons, it's easy to forget that Swoope could be another target for Andrew Luck. If Swoope can develop this year, the Colts' offense could really be scary.
Duron Carter - WR
Staying with the offensive side of the ball here. I'm not sure if it's fair to include Carter, since I said I wouldn't include rookie. However, he has played in the CFL, I'll include him.
Carter is another player with very high fan expectations. Most of this comes from the fact that he is the son of Hall of Famer Chris Carter. Still, it would seem that Carter has the ability to become at least a solid receiver in the NFL.
Much like Swoope, Carter is in a very crowded position on the team. He'll be competing against T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Vincent Brown, Griff Whalen (more on him later), and now Phillip Dorsett. It's definitely possible Carter doesn't make the team.
Still, if he lives up to fan expectations, Carter could fill the role his father played for so long. He could be a reliable receiver who can consistently move the chains, with big play potential. The Colts really don't have a player like that within the receiving corps. Johnson may be able to fill that role, but he won't be around too long.
Kelcy Quarles - DT
The defensive line is one of the biggest concerns most fans have with the Colts, and rightfully so. While some players fill some nice roles (mainly Arthur Jones and Zach Kerr) there is no definitive nose tackle on the roster.
I'd like to see what Quarles could do given the chance. He was named to some All-America teams in his time at South Carolina, including leading the Gamecocks with 13.5 tackles for a loss his junior season.
While Quarles may not be right at the top of the depth chart when camp opens, I'm sure he'll see some opportunities. As I mentioned, Kerr and Jones are good players on the line, but the Colts need a third lineman. Quarles could become one of those players who steps into the role given a chance.
Dewey McDonald - S
We all know that safety is a concern for the Colts. Drafting Clayton Geathers may help down the road, but he definitely isn't a plug and play rookie.
Mike Adams was a pleasant surprise last year, but I'm not sold on the safety's ability to repeat that success in year two with the Colts. Add in Dwight Lowery (who I'm not sold on yet either) and you have a very shaky safety position.
The Colts have had a crazy amount of luck in finding safeties who can play good football in recent years. I'd like to see what McDonald can do with some extended playing time. He saw some action in blowouts last year, and I don't remember even thinking too harshly of him.
He'll definitely get some opportunities, especially with Sergio Brown gone this year. I wouldn't be surprised if McDonald (or one of the other safeties currently on the bench) jumps up to a starting role. But out of that group (not including Geathers) I like McDonald the best.
Ulrick John - T
You don't normally see this kind of hype (fueled partly by Grigson gushing about this kid) for an offensive tackle taken in the seventh round. However, for fans of a team starved for an elite tackle since the retirement of Tarik Glenn (and who suffered through the disaster known as Tony Ugoh) it makes sense.
John has the size to be a great lineman in this league. And, while he was a standout at Georgia State, it remains to be seen if he can play at the NFL level. Had he not been injured last year, you can be sure John would have seen the field in one of the Colts many different offensive line groups.
Grigson speaks highly of John, and so he suddenly has expectations to be, at the very least, a serviceable tackle. It would be huge for the Colts if John could provide some stability at tackle (specifically RT) and we might get to see if he can produce this pre-season.
Griff Whalen - WR
I said I would have a bit on Whalen, so here it is, as promised. It wouldn't be a stretch for fans to suggest that the only reason Whalen was signed in the first place was to give Luck some familiarity on the roster. Yet, here he is, a few years later still on the team.
Whalen is a player that would fit much more into the Bill Polian-era Colts. A small, very average ability receiver, who doesn't make many mistakes. Cut from the same cloth as Austin Collie, Blair White, and Anthony Gonzalez. Whalen has stayed around because he was always reliable. He could catch without dropping, and field punts without fumbling (until the middle of last season).
For whatever reason Whalen always manages to stay on the roster in some capacity. This year, though, may be the year the Colts release him (to a fair amount of rejoicing amongst fans). One thing that could potentially (and this is a stretch) keep Whalen around would be that he is the back-up holder to Pat McAfee. So on those rare, glorious occasions when McAfee gets to kick field goals, Whalen is his holder.
Yes, I know, that's no reason to keep a player around, but it does add to Whalen's versatility. I'm still waiting for him to become the Colts' version of Julian Edelman. I don't think that day will ever come.
That's it for my list of players who could become important to the team this year (ok maybe not Whalen). Is there a player riding the bench that you think could make an impact for the Colts?