The Colts just recently finished getting their roster cut down from 90 players to 75, but they’re not done: by Saturday at 4:00 p.m., they’ll need to clear up 22 more spots to get down to 53 players.
I’ll just be completely honest right up front: this roster prediction was far harder than my roster predictions in years past (which have proven to be quite accurate) because of injuries. I often found myself changing things up and trying to figure out how everything fit together. I wound up looked at filling holes rather than keeping talent, which is never what you want to do but what the Colts may have to do this year with all of the injury situations.
Speaking of injuries, because of how much they affect this roster prediction, I’ve included an asterisk by any player currently dealing with an injury. This can be someone who’s day-to-day and expected to be back by week one (like Joe Reitz or Patrick Robinson) to guys who are week-to-week and aren’t expected to be back for a little while still (like Vontae Davis). Chuck Pagano pointed out on Tuesday that the Colts have until Saturday to get a better feel for their injury situations, so they’ll have a better idea than we do - which makes predicting the roster even tougher.
With my excuses now firmly in place in case this roster prediction doesn’t turn out to be accurate, here’s my second try at projecting the Colts’ 53-man roster:
Quarterback (2): Andrew Luck, Scott Tolzien
As I wrote yesterday, I’d be very much in favor of the Colts keeping Stephen Morris as their backup quarterback, but I don’t expect it to happen.
Running Back (3): Frank Gore, Robert Turbin, Stevan Ridley
Frank Gore and Robert Turbin should be locks right now, leaving one or two other spots. The team likes Josh Ferguson (and I do think he’s better than his preseason numbers indicate), but Jordan Todman has flashed occasionally and has produced on special teams. Stevan Ridley was just brought in, so it’s impossible to know what he’ll do with the Colts without seeing him on the field yet. I initially had four running backs making it, but with injuries at other spots I just ran out of room here. I have Ridley making it here, but it’s not certain whatsoever. I think Todman will make a very strong push, and since we haven’t seen Ridley it’s basically a tossup between the two of them.
Wide Receiver (5): T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Chester Rogers, Quan Bray
You could even make an argument that the fourth running back spot should instead be replaced with a sixth receiver spot. Hilton, Moncrief, and Dorsett are making the team, while Bray’s return ability probably puts him on the roster too. From there, the Colts will need to fill one or two spots, and it likely will come down to Chester Rogers and Tevaun Smith. The two of them have both done some good things this preseason and the Colts seem to like both of them, so at this point it could go either way. I like Rogers better, but the team could choose to keep Smith instead - or even both guys.
Tight End (3): Dwayne Allen, Jack Doyle, Erik Swoope
I don’t really think there’s much debate here anymore. Erik Swoope entered training camp as the number three tight end by default, and he’s done nothing to lose that this preseason - instead showing a solid ability to be a pass catcher. He’s not great, but he’s clearly the third-best tight end the Colts have.
Offensive Line (10): Anthony Castonzo (LT), Jack Mewhort* (LG), Ryan Kelly (C), Denzelle Good (RG) Joe Reitz* (RT), Le’Raven Clark, Joe Haeg*, Jonotthan Harrison, Austin Blythe, Kitt O’Brien
The offensive line spots are very much uncertain because of injury situations (which will be a familiar story in this article). Jack Mewhort and Joe Haeg are both currently injured, which is a huge blow to the offensive line with roster cuts coming. With those two out, I think Jonotthan Harrison will step in at left guard, so Blythe makes the roster as the backup center. Clark has to make the team because they don’t want to lose him, but he’s not ready to play yet. So with little depth at guard, I think Kitt O’Brien could make the roster to provide at least some depth. He normally wouldn’t have made it, but injury situations will definitely impact the roster cuts. And if you’re wondering about Hugh Thornton, let me just say this: I see absolutely no way he’s still with the team unless he’s on injured reserve. Even if the Colts really did want to keep him around (and I’m not neccessarily sure that’s the case), they simply couldn’t afford to keep an injured depth player around when they’re going to just be struggling to find a healthy-enough 53-man roster. So unless Thornton goes to IR (or IR-DFR), I see no way he’s still with the Colts after this weekend.
Defensive Line (7): Kendall Langford* (DE), Henry Anderson* (DT), David Parry (NT), Hassan Ridgeway, Zach Kerr, T.Y. McGill, Sterling Bailey
I really considered going with only six defensive linemen, but I just couldn’t make it work because of injuries. Henry Anderson very well might not be ready in time for week one, while it’s unknown whether Kendall Langford will be either. Even if one or both of them play, they likely won’t be at 100% yet. So the Colts need at least some depth at the position, and that’s why I have Sterling Bailey making the team. Kelcy Quarles also got consideration, but Bailey has gotten a lot more work this preseason and has done a solid job while doing so.
Inside Linebacker (5): D’Qwell Jackson, Nate Irving, Sio Moore*, Josh McNary, Antonio Morrison
Once again, the Colts likely will be carrying an injured player on the 53-man roster, as Sio Moore likely won’t be ready for week one. As for the backup spots, its has been very clearly Josh McNary and Antonio Morrison as the second team inside linebackers this preseason, and the two of them can also contribute on special teams. The Colts seem to like Edwin Jackson, but he could be the odd man out here.
Outside Linebacker (5): Robert Mathis, Erik Walden, Trent Cole, Trevor Bates, Earl Okine
The numbers game at outside linebacker will certainly be interesting. Earl Okine has been the best of the young pass rushers; Curt Maggitt can play on the strongside and has a lot of potential; Trevor Bates can also play both spots and has been a major player on special teams this preseason; and Ron Thompson also has some nice pass rush skills. The question is how many spots they’re fighting for, and that will likely be determined by who they have to keep elsewhere due to injuries. I don’t think the Colts will want to cut either Trevor Bates or Curt Maggitt, but they may have to choose between one or the other.
Cornerback (6): Vontae Davis*, Patrick Robinson*, Antonio Cromartie, Darius Butler*, D’Joun Smith*, Jalil Brown*
Another position, another decision impacted by injuries. Vontae Davis won’t be ready to start the season, meaning that the team might have to keep an extra cornerback. The key here will be health. Is D’Joun Smith healthy? Is Jalil Brown? Is Tevin Mitchel? The depth spots could simply go to whoever is healthy. If Smith is healthy, I think they’ll keep him. If Brown is healthy, I think they’d lean him over Mitchel (even though I like Mitchel’s potential) because he’s got experience. If neither are healthy, Frankie Williams is there as another option.
Safety (4): Mike Adams, Clayton Geathers*, T.J. Green, Winston Guy
The Colts will need to make a decision on Clayton Geathers, but he’s expected to be close-enough by the beginning of the season that I wouldn’t think they’d keep him on the NFI list to start the season (meaning he’d miss at least the first six games). Because of the injury situations elsewhere, I don’t know if they will actually keep an extra safety to replace him or not. Instead, I think Adams and Green will be the starters and Winston Guy and Darius Butler will be the backups. That would save the team a roster spot at safety by allowing Butler to back up both the cornerback and safety spots.
Special Teams (3): Adam Vinatieri (K), Pat McAfee (P), Matt Overton (LS)
This one’s easy. No debate or explanation needed.
Practice Squad (10): Stephen Morris (QB), Josh Ferguson (RB), Tevaun Smith (WR), MeKale McKay (WR), Mitchell Van Dyk (OT), Edwin Jackson (LB), Curt Maggitt (LB), Ron Thompson (LB), Tevin Mitchel (CB), Frankie Williams (CB)
There are a lot of really, really intriguing players on this list. Several of these guys were on an initial version of my roster prediction, in fact, but just missed the cut. I think guys like Morris, Ferguson, Smith, Jackson, Maggitt, and Mitchel in particular are very strong practice squad guys and I think the team would love to be able to stash them there. The danger, of course, is that they can be claimed off of waivers or signed by another team at any time. That’s something the Colts will have to consider when making their moves.