In our first two parts of the building blocks series we discussed Chris Ballard’s first haul of free agents and the expectations they’ll face and in the second we looked at how the 2017 draft picks will need to grow and impact this season and beyond.
For our final edition of the building blocks series, we’re going to look at those who were brought onto the Indianapolis Colts roster in some form or fashion after the initial undrafted free agent signings took place. Some of them were obtained to fill holes last season, and some appeared to be developmental acquisitions who were signed in accord with Chris Ballard’s vision for the future of the team.
We won’t go in-depth on all of them, but you can see Ballard’s immediate focus on building depth. Some of them may have the potential to make an impact if the new staff can get the best out of them, but there are several who could at least become rotational options if they can get through camp.
The Colts are in a total rebuild. They have several starting positions to fill in various spots on both sides of the ball, but this group may be the impetus of critical depth being established which is every bit as important as having quality starters. Basically, this is the crew who we’re going to be debating making the team late in camp and into the preseason.
There may even be a diamond in the rough in among this group as well. Only time will tell. Let’s dig in to some of the forgotten.
Mbu hasn’t gotten a ton of experience in the league in his young career, but did play in 7 games last year for the Colts after being signed and brought up from the practice squad. As a specialty, Mbu is considered a nose tackle and will have to prove that he can succeed in more of a one-gap system by getting to the quarterback and disrupting running backs.
He’ll have some serious competition as the Colts have current defensive tackles he’d need to beat out, and they could quite possibly add an interior D-lineman in the draft. He will definitely be one to keep an eye on if he makes it into camp.
I have total belief that the Colts really like what they see in Travis. The 6-foot-7 tight end got some targets late in the season after the Colts claimed him off waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs. He has some solid speed, the notable length and is more of a move-type end who could be a big target for Andrew Luck next season.
Jack Doyle has his role, it’s unknown how Erik Swoope will return after a year away and Darrell Daniels was used as more of an H-back/in-line end combination last season. Travis really adds the potential to emerge as a big target next season if he can come out strong in camp. The Colts really need a legit threat up the seam, and personally, I definitely think he could be that guy.
Martin is a nearly a carbon copy of Clayton Geathers in terms of size (6-foot-2, 220 pounds). With the Colts needing another body at the position, and the lack of real production from T.J. Green, offers Martin a chance to compete for a backup role — especially if he could beat out Matthias Farley.
We’ve yet to see exactly what Martin can do in coverage or against the run, but Ballard saw it fit to trade for him at one point and must have had some real interest in him.
Jones is an interesting acquisition for the Colts and though he was brought in as depth with the hopes that he could eventually replace Frank Gore if necessary, his real value could come this season. The Colts have their change-of-pace back and big-play threat in Marlon Mack, and they are expected to draft a back and maybe add one in free agency too.
Jones isn’t on his career upswing at the moment, but he’s going to get a realistic shot to hold a significant role in the Colts backfield in 2018. With Jones, Mack and two more quality backs, the Colts could be well on their way to building a backfield in the vision of what Frank Reich had at his disposal in Philadelphia.
White is one to watch going forward as well folks. He, too, was claimed off of waivers from the Chiefs and fits the physicality Ballard is looking for from the corners. He did, like many others in this group, get up to the active roster last season for a handful of games and was solid in very limited action.
White will be there to battle for a depth position, with the need to prove that he can be exceptional as, both, a boundary option as well as an asset working in the slot.
Again, Ballard brought in a guy who fit his vision for the future of this defense. By now, you have to think that he must have had a scheme change in mind through most of his first year at the helm.
Grace was signed off of waivers from the Falcons and is molded differently than most linebackers the Colts typically roll in. At 6-foot-1, 223 pounds Grace has the speed at the position that they’re looking for and has proven to be a solid special teams guy as well. The Colts will need for one of these lesser known signings to step up and surprise in a position that is very much in limbo.
K.J. Brent and Krishawn Hogan
The Colts possibly find themselves in a position where they don’t re-sign Donte Moncrief, and only have T.Y. Hilton and Chester Rogers as the top returners under contract. Receiver is another position the Colts are expected to target this offseason, but Brent has some real size (6-foot-3) that the Colts currently are missing at the position.
If another potential big target, Krishawn Hogan (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) can comeback from injury the Colts could very well have their size issue figured out and they may have a couple leading candidates for a young possession option of the future if either of them were to workout.
Both have very good attributes that need to be cultivated, but if the Colts added a receiver later on in the draft and one of these two are on their game early in the summer, it could make for a very interesting road to the 53-man roster.
Simply put, the Colts need depth along the interior of the offensive line. Fabiano got some action late in the season after injuries ravaged the center position and he performed pretty well in the process. He’s young and will be the leader to become the backup to Ryan Kelly heading into camp.
Darnell Sankey and Jeremiah George
Sankey came in during the preseason and really played well. he showed that he could cover and be a quality run defender. He hung around the team going back and forth between the practice squad and active roster before being signed by the Baltimore Ravens to finish the year.
The Colts signed him to a futures contract and are hoping to see if his potential can get him to a rotational role with the team. Another who was brought in early on last year was George. His ability to cover, tackle efficiently and rush the passer makes him a very intriguing possibility as the defense transitions into a 4-3 this season.
I don’t think he sits in as a middle backer, rather he may be able to align as an OLB in some subs and bring a nice diversity to the defense with his speed and instincts. One of these two will make the active roster out of camp (hot take) even if the Colts go heavy at the position in free agency and the draft.
Reid, despite the majority of it being in his second season in the league, has considerably more experience than anyone else on this list. He started 12 games in the 2015 season in Detroit and had a pretty productive season. In fact, with 29 total tackles and 2 sacks, he rivaled Johnathan Hankins 2016 season in New York just in terms of production.
Reid hasn’t done much of anything since, but there is definitely the talent there for the Colts coaching staff to attempt to pull out of him. Obviously, most of these positions are target positions for the Colts offseason, but if Reid can develop into a notable gap-splitting 2-tech/3-tech force in camp he may just find his avenue that allows him to return to form.
There are also a few more to watch as the roster transitions to see if they can get themselves into position to battle for a roster spot including Johnathan Calvin, Kolby Listenbee and Brad Kaaya.
Of course there are more guys on the roster who are hoping to get themselves noticed next season, but these are the ones who have the best combination of talent and fall into the right age range for Ballard’s rebuild.
From this group I’m going to offer some very early predictions on a few of these player’s chances to become something on this roster for the 2018 season. If I had to guess who the players with the most impact I’m going with Reid, White and Grace on defensively, and Travis and Jones being a couple of key players on offense.