Thus far through Chris Ballard’s first two NFL Drafts, the rookies seem to bring more legitimate excitement to the fan base. With the team taking on a realistic process of accepting that they may not be true contenders for a couple years, by and large, the expectations have flattened out a bit.
Amongst Frank Reich and this roster, however, their expectations are going to remain achieving success into the post season. While the reality is that a large portion of that proposed success lies on the shoulders of Andrew Luck, like recent seasons, the Colts rookies will also play a large role in the team’s season.
Last year, 5 of the Colts 8 drafted rookies played in at least 10 games, and Reich expects this year’s crop to have a similar workload. Is that a good thing, or bad?
“I think it’s good. I feel really confident in our young guys. Obviously, we are a young team. My experience tells me that you put your trust in guys, you work them hard, you hold them accountable. I think it’s exciting starting kind of a new, fresh program to have a young team.”
Now, playing a large amount of rookies does lead to the presumption that the depth isn’t that apparent one would think. On the other hand, it could also mean that the Colts feel quite confident in what they’ve got in their 11-pick draft class.
“..there’s something about the freshness of it all. There’s plusses and minuses. They make a few more mistakes, and we have to learn from those really quickly. But they also bring some juice and some energy and some enthusiasm, and we are counting on them doing that as well. I’m not a big hazing guy. Hey, this is our team. Let’s step up and be leaders even if you’re a young guy.”
Reich mentioned Nyheim Hines and how he feels that he’s a part of a backfield that features several 3-down backs, and even spoke unprompted about his ability to pass protect. Reich stated that Hines is “willing to (pass block) and he knows what he’s doing and has the right mindset” while also acknowledging that he wouldn’t likely be asked to do that regularly.
Reich also spoke highly about one of the Colts second-round picks in Darius Leonard, and didn’t really feel that starting in camp without an offseason program with the team will set him back all that much.
“Yeah, he (Leonard) looked good. He looked good in physical presence out there. I feel really good about Darius. He’s playing catchup a little bit, but training camp has a way of accelerating that process.”
We’ve heard him talk about Quenton Nelson, Deon Cain, Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis just to name a few, and when you look through this roster it’s easy to see how some of them could realistically play large roles in the 2018 season.
Maybe the largest takeaway from his presser is one that we’ve been able to pull from Ballard’s as well: the best 22 players will be the ones on the field. Reich doesn’t appear to be a guy who plays favorites, rather this young roster will have to earn their way onto the roster first, then the field,
The Colts could reasonably have somewhere around 12 first- and second-year players holding down a starting role this season if all falls right. That could make for a very interesting season, but it could potentially truly show how the Colts are progressing with their roster, especially if they can show early development and make an impact.
It’s clear that Reich believes that they will in his first year as an NFL head coach.