One of the biggest emphases this offseason for the Colts has been competition, and there may not be a better example of that come training camp than the inside linebacker position.
Simply put, we have no idea who’s going to be starting there. There are several candidates but not any clear frontrunners yet, and that means that it will be a position of considerable interest this offseason, training camp, and preseason.
Fans aren’t alone in realizing the competition there, however, as defensive coordinator Ted Monachino admitted this week that the position is wide open at this point.
“Wide open,” he agreed. “There are six good players in there right now, five of them that are working for us. Wide open. I think that the experience that Antonio [Morrison] and Edwin [Jackson] got a year ago puts them in a place that our new guys and even Luke [Rhodes] they are not at that place. But I will tell you, when you put them out there they are all cut from the same cloth. They all look the same and they all practice and prepare the same. It’s wide open. I know that Jon [Bostic] and Sean [Spence] are great additions to the group. I know that Luke is a guy that continues to take strides to find himself in the depth.”
At the position there’s Edwin Jackson, who played in all 16 games for the Colts last year and started eight of them.
There’s Antonio Morrison, who also played in all 16 games for the Colts in 2016 as a rookie, starting four of them.
There’s Sean Spence, who spent the past three years with the Steelers and Titans before signing as a free agent with the Colts this offseason.
There’s Jon Bostic, who also signed with the Colts as a free agent this offseason after stints with the Bears, Lions, and Patriots over the past few years.
There’s Anthony Walker, the Colts’ fifth round pick out of Northwestern who was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior in 2015.
And there’s Luke Rhodes, who signed with the Colts midway through last season and who played in four games for Indy in 2016.
Who out of those six will wind up as the two starters? That’s anybody’s guess right now, and the Colts haven’t even really had a chance to work with Walker yet. There’s a long way still to go, but it’s an important area to get figured out. The Colts took steps to improve all over the defense this offseason, and the hope is that the inside linebackers should be helped out by an improved defensive line, especially with the addition of Johnathan Hankins. But last year the linebacking corps, both inside and outside, were the team’s biggest weakness, and while the Colts did make moves at the ILB spot it’s far from fixed.
One player that it doesn’t seem the Colts will play at inside linebacker, however, is John Simon, who will remain an outside linebacker.
“John is strictly an outside guy,” Monachino said. “He’s a guy that stands at the end of the line of scrimmage and sets guys down and builds a high edge and can rush the passer when we ask him to. John wouldn’t fit inside. Now, there will be some things that we do with John where we may move him around the formation a little bit. But to say that he’s an off the ball, read scheme kind of linebacker, that’s not our plan for John.”
While Simon won’t be a part of that plan for the Colts at inside linebacker, they do have several guys who might be. Which of them winds up starting is anybody’s guess right now and will be one of the biggest areas of competition to watch as we get closer to the season.