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Stampede Blue Tweetbag: Talking depth, expectations, and more

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Training Camp USA TODAY Sports

Answering your questions about the Colts:

I think the third cornerback spot could become one of the more underrated position battles on the Colts roster during training camp and preseason. Darius Butler has been fine there over the past four years, so the Colts don’t need to upgrade from him. At the same time, however, they drafted D’Joun Smith in the third round last year for a reason, and with Smith being healthy for camp this year it’s something to watch. Regardless of who wins that spot, both Butler and Smith figure to get significant playing time this year. The Colts will run a nickel defense often to defend against the pass, so the third and fourth corners should both play quite a bit. The only question is who that number three will be. If I had to guess right now, I’d say that Butler winds up staying as the slot corner but that Smith would be the first one up if one of the two outside cornerbacks (Vontae Davis and Patrick Robinson) go down.

While Tyler Varga was a good player in preseason last year for the Colts and while I did think he had a good shot to make the roster this year, let’s be honest: Varga was never going to make or break the offense. He might have been a depth back, but there are other players who can step up and fill that role - Robert Turbin, Jordan Todman, and Josh Ferguson (who I really like) among them. The Colts will keep three or four running backs on the roster, so when added with Frank Gore the team still has plenty of depth to compete. As far as the fullback part, don’t expect the Colts to keep one around. Instead, if they do want to use a fullback (and I don’t expect it to be very often whatsoever) it would probably be a tight end filling the role like we’ve seen Dwayne Allen do before.

Your question hits on one of the biggest concerns I have about this Colts roster: depth. At wide receiver, the top three looks to be a good unit with a lot of playmaking ability and a lot of upside. T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett are fine, but as you mentioned, what happens if something happens? What happens if Dorsett is invisible? What happens if one of them gets hurt? The battle for the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots are still ongoing in camp, but Josh Boyce and Brian Tyms got significant reps yesterday at practice - including with the first team. Quan Bray was also in the mix as well. So it’ll probably be two of those three making the roster, but if any of them have to play significant reps then that’s not a great thing for the Colts’ offense.

To be honest, whenever someone asks me this question I give two reasons why I think there has been such a dramatic shift in the expectations. Firstly, I think after so many people predicted a Super Bowl last year they’re moving on after getting burned. People missed on the prediction last year, so they’re moving as far away from that as possible this year. But secondly - and I think most importantly - is a shift in expectations for Andrew Luck. Last year, he was expected to be an MVP favorite as he was coming off of a 40 touchdown, 4,761 yard season in 2014. This year, he’s coming off of a season in which he turned the football over 13 times in seven games and missed nine games due to injury. While there’s plenty of reason to think that he could and should bounce back this year, I think there’s a shift in expectations for Luck. Last year, most people just expected him to cover over the flaws like he did in his first three years. But since he didn’t last year, I think many are wondering whether he can again this year. I think with a healthy Luck for 16 games, however, we’ll see a quarterback much closer to the Andrew Luck we saw in his first three seasons than we saw last year.

Like I mentioned at wide receiver above, the depth on the roster is a concern - and the tight end position is perhaps the most obvious example. They re-signed Dwayne Allen to a huge contract, but they let Coby Fleener walk in free agency. That leaves Jack Doyle and someone else (at this point it’s likely Erik Swoope) as the backups. So here’s the question that I think must be considered: Dwayne Allen has missed at least three games in three straight years, so what happens if he misses time again? You can debate all you want about whether he’s “injury-prone,” but the facts don’t lie: Allen has missed time. If that happens again, you’ll be seeing Jack Doyle as the starting tight end! He’s been good as the number three guy, but as the number one? We’ll see. Doyle saw a lot of reps with the first team yesterday, so hopefully that means he should be ready in case something does happen to Allen, but it’s still far from certain.

I think Hassan Ridgeway could carve out a nice role with the defense this year. The Colts have plenty of depth along the defensive line, but they rotate a lot with that unit and Ridgeway could be a part of that. He’s got some nice pass rush skills that the Colts could utilize right away, so I’d expect them to give him a shot in that rotation. Zach Kerr and T.Y. McGill could both be technically higher on the depth chart when the season starts, but I expect the defensive line rotation to get Ridgeway plenty of chances.

Well let’s put it this way: I think the Cubs have a better shot of winning it all this season!