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Stampede Blue Tweetbag: Talking Colts position battles and expectations for 2016

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Answering your questions about the Colts:

Basically, this question seems to be all about expectations for the Colts. Last year, it was clear that the Colts were going all-in for a Super Bowl. That's why they signed so many veterans and were so aggressive. Part of that I think was because of the uncertain job status of both Ryan Grigson and especially Chuck Pagano - there was a lot of pressure to win now. This offseason, the Colts have kind of hit the reset button while still keeping both Grigson and Pagano. They made a lot of staff changes, were much more calculated in free agency, drafted with the future as much in mind as the present, and have overall taken a more long-term approach. I think this stems from a change in culture and from much more job security for the men in charge, and I think it's a change for the better.

The Colts are now working to build a team that can consistently contend, and they're doing so by trying to add and develop young talent. That's not a bad thing, but it also should factor into the expectations this year. So while the Colts will always tell you their goal is to win the Super Bowl each year and while with Andrew Luck they have a chance to compete each year, I think that realistically the expectations are to build a consistent contender - which might not necessarily mean Super Bowl expectations in 2016, though the Colts should still be good enough to warrant Super Bowl hopes from fans and players alike. The bottom line: it's not 'Super Bowl or bust' this year like it was a year ago.

I've said for a while now that I think the Phillip Dorsett pick will continue to look better as time goes on, and I think that will be true in 2016 as well. As long as Dorsett stays healthy, he should make a significant contribution to the offense this season because he will get plenty of opportunities. T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief will be the top two on the depth chart while Dorsett will be the number three wideout, but after that there's just a lot of question marks. That leaves Dorsett firmly and comfortably in the mix at wide receiver, and the Colts will likely embrace his versatility. They can move him around the formation either on the outside or in the slot, and they also can use him on end arounds and the like. So if he stays healthy, Phillip Dorsett should have plenty of opportunities to impress, and the expectation is that he'll take advantage of them to have a nice sophomore season.

I'll start with the obvious qualifier that it's still too early to tell and things like injuries can still happen, but I'll give my early guess. At right guard, I think it will be Hugh Thornton. Maybe a guy like Jonotthan Harrison can compete, but he's just making the move to guard and we haven't seen him play yet. If Thornton can't beat Harrison out, that's probably a bad sign for him. Thornton has plenty of talent, but his problem has been consistency (incidentally, that was also one of Harrison's biggest problems at center). If Thornton can show improvement after losing weight and transitioning to Joe Philbin's system while also getting the chance to play alongside Ryan Kelly, I think he actually could be a solid starter. There are a lot of ifs there, but I do think Thornton will be the starting right guard.

As for right tackle, I think that position is one of the hardest to determine on the roster at this point, though I expect it to come down to either Joe Reitz or Denzelle Good as the week one starter. Many will ask about the rookies (Le'Raven Clark and Joe Haeg), and while I like the talent of both it wouldn't be ideal for the Colts to have to insert them into the starting lineup from day one. The Colts have really talked up Good this offseason, while Chuck Pagano has made it clear that he'd be comfortable with Reitz as the starter as well. I think it's really too tough to tell right now which of those two will wind up starting, though I don't think either would neccessarily be a bad choice. I think the Colts ideally would want Good to win the spot so that they can see what he can do, but that they won't just hand him the position if Reitz is outplaying him in camp and preseason.

This is a good question, as we've talked a lot about the Colts' defensive line but not much at all about how all of the players might fit in. The Colts have a lot of good players up front, including Henry Anderson, Kendall Langford, Arthur Jones, David Parry, Zach Kerr, T.Y. McGill, and Hassan Ridgeway - all of whom might make the 53-man roster, depending on how camp goes and how depth at the other positions look. So how will they all fit in? One thing that should be certain is that the Colts won't be sitting Henry Anderson when he's healthy. Owner Jim Irsay recently said Anderson and Andrew Luck might be the Colts' two best players, and the Colts won't be sitting either of them. Anderson and Arthur Jones are both listed as defensive tackles on the Colts' roster, meaning they will have to get creative. That's no worry, as the Colts really value versatility up front.

At defensive end (a position that Jones can and has played before, too), there's the decision between Jones and Kendall Langford. Based on how well Langford played last year, I don't know how you could start Jones over him to begin the 2016 season. That leaves the nose tackle position, with David Parry the presumed starter after starting all 16 games as a rookie last year. The Colts really could use another player to rotate with Parry, and while that might be Zach Kerr (he's the only player listed as a true nose tackle on the Colts' roster), it also could be Arthur Jones (who can and has played some nose tackle before, too). But here's the most important thing to remember: defensive linemen rotate a lot. Even if the Colts go with the starting lineup of Henry Anderson, Kendall Langford, and David Parry next year, Arthur Jones will be a very valuable replacement at all three spots who could see just as much (or close to) as much playing time as if he was starting.

We got several questions about Jack Doyle, and we'll actually have more on the tight end competition a bit later today (meaning we'll focus mainly on Doyle here and not on the position as a whole). I think the way this question was asked was very appropriate, because I think it's where a lot of the concern comes. Over the past couple of years, Doyle has been as good of a number three tight end as there is in the NFL. Now, with Coby Fleener gone, Jack Doyle will be the number two tight end - a role that I still think he can handle capably. He's a solid blocker and a solid receiver, so as the number two guy at the position I think he'll do fine.

The question becomes how he'll do if/when he has to become that number one guy. While some will debate the label of Dwayne Allen as 'injury prone,' the reality is that he's missed at least three games in each of the past three seasons. That means that, if the trend continues, Jack Doyle will be asked to start a few games in 2016, something that is some cause for concern. He can handle a lot of the responsibilities that Allen can (unlike Fleener, who was mainly a receiving tight end, Doyle is a more balanced tight end like Allen is), but he can't do them nearly as well. So if the Colts have to play without Allen, they will be very thin at tight end. With that said, I don't think Jack Doyle is a bad number two tight end to have when you're paying your starter $7.35 million per year on average - you're just counting on that starter to stay healthy and play. If that happens, the Colts should be fine. If it doesn't, the Colts could be in trouble at the tight end position.

There are several position battles of interest - including right guard and right tackle, which we talked about earlier - but I think the most interesting and perhaps the most important one is at inside linebacker. It hasn't been talked about as much (we'll have an article talking more about it later today, too), but it's a significant position battle. The Colts have to find a way to make up for the loss of Jerrell Freeman (one of their best defenders last year) to play alongside D'Qwell Jackson (who is just an average player at this point in his career). Nate Irving is coming back healthy and is the favorite to win the job, though guys like Sio Moore, Antonio Morrison, Amarlo Herrera, and Junior Sylvestre could all push for playing time. I expect Irving to win the job, but it will be a very interesting competition to watch, as even if Irving does win it, the Colts will be looking for younger guys they can develop to eventually take over for Jackson down the road.

My opinion on the Colts and Dwight Freeney is well-known: I absolutely think it's a move the Colts should make to at least see what he can do to help their pass rush. But since we've talked a lot about whether the Colts should sign him and since you asked why they haven't, I'll explain that second part rather than the first (based on what we've heard). Basically, it sounds like the Colts are just wanting to let their younger guys develop rather than bring in another veteran. On the surface, that sounds like a good idea, as that has been a theme this offseason (and as I mentioned earlier, a change I think is for the better and was needed after last year). But the young guys the Colts have on the roster aren't guys that are expected to contribute this year - guys like seventh round pick Trevor Bates, undrafted rookies Ron Thompson and Curt Maggitt, and converted defensive lineman Earl Okine.

When your young guys at a position are a seventh round pick, two undrafted players, and a former defensive lineman making a position switch, you likely won't have too many immediate contributors out of that group but rather more long-term projects. With the Colts thinking long-term this offseason, however, that's what they are opting to do with their pass rush. I don't think signing Dwight Freeney to a one-year deal would detract from the development of the younger guys but actually could even add to it by adding another veteran and taking some of the pressure off, but the reality is that the Colts want to develop younger players. The question that no one knows the answer to yet, however, is whether they're doing so at the expense of the present.