The Indianapolis Colts are a-changin’, especially in the last few months.
Two of their biggest moves were releasing Johnathan Hankins and trading away Henry Anderson. They also did not re-sign Frank Gore, Donte Moncrief, Jon Bostic, Rashaan Melvin or Darius Butler — all players who we’ve grown accustomed to seeing start for this team. Out with the old, in with the new.
The Colts are fully focused on speed and athleticism, and they are taking scheme fit very seriously. Although Hankins was one of the best run stoppers in the league last year, he was not fast or athletic enough for this new defense. Anderson dropped 15 pounds to make himself a little more versatile, but he is not quite fast or flexible enough to be an edge rusher.
Outside of the players the Colts have let go, we’ve also seen an influx of new players, as the main free agency waves and the NFL Draft are now through. With that, it’s time to take another look at the Colts’ roster.
This is not a final roster projection or what each player’s spot on the depth chart will be — it’s simply what the roster likely looks like currently.
Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Brad Kaaya, Phillip Walker (4)
Running Back: Marlon Mack, Robert Turbin, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Christine Michael, Josh Ferguson (6)
Wide Receiver: TY Hilton, Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, Krishawn Hogan, K.J. Brent, Deon Cain, Daurice Fountain, DeAndre Smelter, Steve Ishmael, Kolby Listenbee, James Wright, Seantavius Jones, Dres Andreson (13)
Tight End: Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Erik Swoope, Darrell Daniels, Ross Travis, Jason Vander Laan, Mo Alie-Cox (7)
Offensive Tackle: Anthony Castonzo, Denzelle Good, Le’Raven Clark, Tyreek Burwell (4)
Offensive Guard: Quenton Nelson, Jack Mewhort, Matt Slauson, Braden Smith, Joe Haeg, Jeremy Vujnovich, Mark Glowinski, Isaiah Williams (8)
Center: Ryan Kelly, Deyshawn Bond, Anthony Fabiano (3)
QB — We have to approach with cautious optimism, but it certainly seems like the Colts’ quarterback situation is settled. No one on their end is showing (publicly) any concern for Luck’s availability this season, and that’s been reflected in free agency and the draft. Even if there was an issue, they have Brissett as insurance until Luck’s return. I am sure that he currently is and will continue to be treated as the starter in practice until Luck is throwing the football.
RB — So, running back by committee it is. Unless someone rises to the top this summer, we will probably see a rotation of about 3-4 players in different roles. It makes sense for Mack to get the starts, Turbin to get short-yardage and goal-line work, with Hines as a passing-down weapon. If Wilkins makes it we will probably see him in a similar role as Mack on early downs, just to a lesser degree.
WR — I feel confident in Hilton, Grant and Rogers being on the roster. Normally, you would like to see five receivers on the regular-season roster, but there’s a good chance the Colts keep six this year. Fountain and Cain not only have nice upside, but their status as draft picks helps. Hogan, Brent, Smelter and Ishmael are also intriguing options.
TE — The tight end group is one of the deepest on the roster. Doyle made his first Pro Bowl last year, Ebron is a former 10th overall pick, Swoope was expected to take the TE2 role last year before undergoing season-ending knee surgery, Daniels played a decent role last year as a rookie undrafted free agent, and Travis and Alie-Cox are a couple of former basketball player types with upside.
OL — It’s been awhile since you could say the Colts look good at the guard positions. They now run six-deep at the position; eight-deep if you count Clark and Bond. At tackle, Castonzo is a no-brainer but there will be a battle at right tackle. At center, the duo of Kelly and Bond looks good. The Colts have about seven linemen with experience playing multiple spots, and that doesn’t include rookies Nelson and Smith. We can’t deem the Colts’ line finished until we see it proven on the field, but you’ve got to feel a lot better about the competition this time around.
Defensive End: Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, Tarell Basham, Kemoko Turay (4)
Defensive Tackle: Al Woods, Denico Autry, Hassan Ridgeway, Grover Stewart, Margus Hunt, Tyquan Lewis, Joey Mbu, Anthony Johnson, Caraun Reid, Tomasi Laulile (9)
Off-ball Linebacker: Najee Goode, Anthony Walker, Darius Leonard, Antonio Morrison, Jeremiah George, Skai Moore, Zaire Franklin, Tyrell Adams, Matthew Adams, Josh Perry, William Ossai (11)
Cornerback: Quincy Wilson, Pierre Desir, Nate Hairston, Kenny Moore, Kenneth Acker, D.J. White, Chris Milton, Henre’ Toliver, Robert Jackson, Lashard Durr (10)
Safety: Malik Hooker, Clayton Geathers, Matthias Farley, T.J. Green, Ronald Martin, George Odum, Chris Cooper (7)
DE — The Colts are in okay shape at defensive end. They have a couple of quality starters in Sheard and Simon, but I can’t say they’re going to rack up the sacks. Basham and Turay offer a ton of upside but are unproven, so what they produce is totally up in the air. The good news is that the Colts needed a pass-rush specialist going into the draft and they got one in Turay. We’ll see how much Basham and Turay contribute behind Sheard and Simon.
DT — This isn’t a top-heavy group, but it is deep with contributors. A couple of the elder statesmen in Woods (31) and Hunt (almost 31) could be in trouble if guys like Ridgeway, Stewart and Lewis impress this summer.
LB — The only thing we know about this group is that they’re young and fast. I have a decent idea where some guys will play between MIKE, WILL and SAM, but there aren’t any players who absolutely scream “starter” right now. We’ll get clarity on that in training camp and the preseason.
CB — The Colts didn’t draft any corners, so we might as well go ahead and prematurely crown Wilson and Desir the starters on the outside. I don’t see why Hairston wouldn’t maintain his nickel role, while Moore and Acker back-up the starters on the outside. We did see more competition added to this group with undrafted free agent signings.
S — Last week, I mentioned that the majority of the defensive backs the Colts were interested in pre-draft were more likely to be corners than safeties. The Colts really like the group they have now, with Martin and UDFA’s Odum and Cooper being the only ones you can say probably won’t make the roster. Hooker and Geathers could create a really exciting safety tandem if both stay healthy, but that’s a pretty big if. Luckily, Farley has proven to be reliable while starting. If Green gets enough playing time this year, then we could see some growth from him in Matt Eberflus’ simplified scheme. In March, Green tweeted, “Clean slate. Watch this.” To me, that indicates that he sees this as a clean slate under a new coaching staff, or he’s even been told as much by the new staff.
SPECIAL TEAMS (4)
Placekicker: Adam Vinatieri, Michael Badgley (2)
Punter: Rigoberto Sanchez (1)
Long Snapper: Luke Rhodes (1)
Holder: Rigoberto Sanchez
Kickoff Specialist: Rigoberto Sanchez
Kickoff Returner: Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Josh Ferguson
Punt Returner: Chester Rogers
The trio of Vinatieri, Sanchez and Rhodes returns for a second season, but under new coaching. Former special teams coordinator Tom McMahon left for the Denver Broncos, while Bubba Ventrone makes his coordinator debut this year. Hines makes a very intriguing option on both kickoffs and punts.