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Chuck Pagano on Colts’ inside linebacker competition: “I like where we’re at with those guys”

Indianapolis Colts v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts have many areas on the roster that could still be considered question marks, but perhaps none more so than the inside linebacker position.

At that position, there are not only questions about the talent level but about who will be starting there, as it’s a wide open competition right now.

There’s Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison, the returning players who each started a handful of games last year. There’s Luke Rhodes, who is also returning after having played in four games for Indy last year. There’s Sean Spence and Jon Bostic, who were both signed in free agency this offseason and who have 37 career combined NFL starts between them. And there’s Anthony Walker, who was drafted by the Colts in the fifth round this year out of Northwestern.

Those six players will be competing for playing time and for the two starting spots, and right now there’s no clear frontrunner. The Colts seem to be comfortable with where they’re at, but they’re letting it play out.

“Yeah, again, we’re trotting guys out there and we’ve got to have a first group, second group, third group,” Chuck Pagano said earlier this week. “We’ve got 90 guys on the roster with 80-something practicing. Depth right now and where you’re at on the depth chart is irrelevant. It’s learning the position, knowing what to do and getting better every day. That’ll hammer itself out. We’re in shorts and we’ve got to get to training camp. We’ve got to get the pads on and figure out who is going to end up being lined up. I like where we’re at with those guys. I feel good about it. Jon Bostic has come in and done a nice job. Sean Spence has done a nice job. Of course Edwin [Jackson] and Antonio [Morrison] are doing a great job, they know the defense inside and out. It’s good competition there. Luke Rhodes is in there doing some good things. It’s a good group and obviously when [Anthony] Walker gets back he can be another piece to the puzzle in there.”

Walker is currently finishing up school, as per NFL rules he can’t participate with the Colts until he finishes up his semester. So he’s not around currently, but the other five are getting reps in OTAs and trying to show what they can do. There’s only so much that can be learned from practicing in shorts in non-contact drills, however, so the Colts will also have to see how these guys do in training camp and preseason action - since, after all, it’s pretty important for inside linebackers to be able to tackle (though you might not have gotten that impression from watching the Colts recently).

At this point, it’s anybody’s guess as to how the position ends up. Most likely, the team will use a rotation involving several of these guys even though two of them will win the starting spots. We’re still a long way away from figuring out the position, but Pagano likes where the Colts are at. That’s the optimistic way to view it, as the group overall isn’t exactly one that inspires confidence, but at the same time it could be good enough to win with, especially if the Colts do have an improved defensive line up front.