As the Indianapolis Colts carry a wounded 90-man roster into preseason competition, some of the Stampede Blue writing staff wanted to discuss players at positions on offense and defense who may be entering the first game on the roster bubble. Each of these players will have an opportunity to stand out and may well need to do so if they hope to make it through cut day in a few short weeks.
Chris Blystone (CB): Ballard said that he looks for players with “unique traits.” David Parry doesn’t spring to mind when you think unique. He was a reliable starter at the nose tackle position for the last two years but how much credit do you get for being a reliable part of a terrible defense? Given Ballard’s philosophy and the depth at the position, I think he ends up on the outside looking in.
Verdict - Cut
Stephen Reed (SR): With the recent departure of Kendall Langford, I'm thinking Parry is almost a lock to make this roster — assuming the Colts will keep eight defensive linemen. I don't see Parry as the second string NT, as I expect Grover Stewart to overtake him. If the Colts only keep seven defensive linemen I'd lean towards the Colts keeping T.Y. McGill and trying to trade Parry for a late round pick.
Arrow up if the Colts keep eight, Arrow down if they only keep seven.
Matt Danely (MD): While surprisingly productive last season, Parry doesn’t hold the point of attack well enough to help the defense improve. His pass rush ability is also limited. Parry has been very limited in practices in camp, and seems to be among one of the stronger position groups on the team this year.
Brett Mock (BM): David Parry took more snaps than any other player on the Colts defensive line in 2016. He was scrappy and productive. While he was certainly miscast as an every down NFL nose tackle, I think he has shown plenty to suggest he is capable of playing competitively at this level. Langford’s release may completely seal it for him.
CB: The guy has been notably quiet in a unit where he is one of the more experienced players and where there have been a lot of questions about the talent level from top to bottom. The opportunity to take a spot has absolutely been there, but he has not shown any reason to believe he is going to do it.
Verdict - Cut
SR: Rookies get listed at fourth string on a depth chart in order to motivate them, not veterans. If cut, the Colts also save some money on this year's salary cap since only about a third of Spence's salary was guaranteed. I'd say the bottom has dropped out of his value and I don't see him making the team in almost any circumstance.
Spence's arrow is way down in my opinion.
MD: I hoped Spence would come in and make a solid impact. The reality is that he’s a ways down the depth chart and in desperate need of a quality performance Sunday. He may just get it with some injuries to Jon Bostic and Antonio Morrison who are the projected starters but there’s almost nothing to suggest that he’s impressing anyone within the Colts organization.
BM: Spence has faced incredible adversity in his NFL career. I will forgive him if he chooses to hold back a bit in the first two weeks of training camp practices to save his body for crunch time. That said, he better show up in a big way during the preseason games if he hopes to find a spot on the roster. That or take more risks in training camp.
CB: Before last year, T.J. Green had started exactly one season at safety. Defensive Coordinator Ted Monachino said that Green has “made great improvement” in learning and understanding how to play the game. We forget how inexperienced the guy is at safety. His speed, length, and size are not coachable. With the loss of Geathers for at least the first six games and the inexperience in the defensive backfield, I would be stunned if he was not on the final 53.
Verdict – Roster Spot
SR: Yes, Green hasn't lived up to his draft spot. However, he's got quite a bit of potential if he can put it all together. I'd like to see Green start working on his cornerback and coverage skills more. His skill set could translate well to being a press-man CB similar to Richard Sherman. It looks as if the Colts are being patient with him and while he's unlikely to be a starter this season, I still believe Green makes this roster.
Like Green himself, his arrow isn't quite sure where it's going yet.
MD: While I believe Green’s stock has a long way to go, Ted Monachino thinks otherwise. He stated that Green has grown by leaps and bounds – to paraphrase – and despite lacking any noticeable plays in practice, he apparently is doing what the coaching staff wants from him. I’ll give the staff the benefit of the doubt here simply because I haven’t seen any glaring issues in the practices I attended.
BM: T.J. Green has shown incredible speed and power on the football field. He’s not yet shown the ability to harness it. I think the Colts will give him the opportunity to continue unlocking doors because he has a tremendously high ceiling. It is in his best interest to use the next 21 weeks to show consistent steps up the ladder toward his ceiling if he plans to be back in camp in 2018.
CB: I cannot seem to dis-associate Banner from the alter ego of the Incredible Hulk. Banner is a very large man but there has been some concern about how well he can move to protect against some of the elite pass rushers in the game. I still think his measurables will keep him on the roster unless he really struggles in the preseason.
Verdict – Roster Spot
SR: Banner being listed as the second string RT is not surprising given the lack of overall depth and talent across the offensive line. He has been praised in camp and will continue to benefit from getting into a more consistent NFL strength and conditioning program.
I'd say Banner's arrow is up in terms of making the roster.
BM: Banner is the type of player an offensive line coach gets excited to work on. His wildest upside for 2017 is likely that he will be able to show the same kind of promise as Le’Raven Clark did in the last few weeks of his rookie season. Absent injuries, don’t expect to see him on the field at all.
CB: I really had high hopes for Aiken given his production in 2015. The problem is that he has been pretty much invisible in training camp so far. That is more discouraging when you consider that Dorsett and Moncrief have both missed time and that Bug Howard has started to turn heads as another player who could fill the role of a big, physical receiver. He still has a chance to show something in preseason but he’s on thin ice.
Verdict – Roster Spot
SR: Aiken was reportedly brought in to challenge Dorsett for the WR3 spot but it looks like Chester Rogers has that spot locked down. Up until the last few practices, Aiken has seemingly been outplayed by Dorsett and Bug Howard. The question is, does Aiken offer more than a cheaper, younger WR who does similar things, like Bug Howard? I'm not so certain he does.
Aiken's arrow is pointing down on his roster spot.
MD: There nothing positive coming out of practices from anyone covering the Colts or from the coaches either. Aiken simply doesn’t create space, doesn’t have any explosion to his game and doesn’t present a noticeable mismatch against linebackers from what I’ve seen out of him. I wanted to see Aiken become a real contributor, sadly we just haven’t seen that yet.
BM: At this point Aiken is clearly fighting with three players for what may be the final spot on the wide receiver depth chart. He does not have the speed and special teams return ability of Quan Bray and is more expensive and older than undrafted rookie Bug Howard. Absent a preseason injury, he could be on the outside looking in.
Henry Krieger-Coble or Brandon Williams?
CB: Given the inexperience of Erik Swoope and the lack of a true blocking tight end, I would look for the Colts to go with Brandon Williams as their third guy. They may have brought in Krieger-Coble because they like what they have seen from Swoope as a blocker — as reports indicate that he has put on some weight. Regardless, Williams’ experience might be valuable given Swoope’s lack of it.
Verdict – Brandon Williams
SR: I'm going to go out on a limb and say Krieger-Coble ends up with the last TE roster spot. He is just a far better combination of what the Colts offense likes to do. Yes, Williams is a better blocker but he has only a handful of NFL receptions. I prefer versatility but it really depends on what the coaching staff intends to do with the offense.
If they want to be a versatile and unpredictable offense, they'll keep Krieger-Coble.
MD: It’s important for the Colts not to be predictable, and without additional receiving threats like Erik Swoope and Henry Krieger-Coble they could be. I like Williams and I think he’ll surprise us with some nice catches this year, but like him even better when he is paired with either of those two — or even Jack Doyle. Four tight ends may be hard for the team to carry on the roster, but I really think it would be a smart route to take.
BM: The Colts starting tight ends Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope will be asked to perform in all phases of their game. Neither player will likely be one of the best blocking tight ends in the league but both should be able to do so well enough to get the job done. This gives the Colts the greatest offensive flexibility when either or both players on the field. If either should go down, the best way to keep that same chemistry is to put in another player who will perform at a similar level in both phases. That is Henry Krieger-Coble to me.