The Indianapolis Colts preseason is finally under way. There’s nothing wrong with being excited about the preseason. And what casual fans don’t understand, is that watching the meat of the roster for depth chart movement and the bottom of the roster players to see who will round out the roster is what it’s all about.
The other day I went through (here) who I felt were — for a lack of better words — virtual locks for the roster, and discussed those who were on the roster bubble. By my count it left 5 spots on the roster with special teams already accounted for.
Now, some of those current 48 ‘spoken for’ roster spots may be opened back up for interpretation, or they could look even more concrete. Then we need to go through the process of filling the open roster spots after each game. So, that’s what we’ll do.
Today, our first evaluation, to fill the roster, is finally here. Now we have to consider that Deon Cain will not be on the roster after the news of his season-ending ACL injury. Thus, I added the next receiver on my personal list to the roster. At the moment, that receiver is Kasen Williams making the “last 5 in” technically 6 now.
We’ll also list 5 bubble players who are just on the outside looking in. Naturally, this is sort of a take on Joe Lunardi’s bracketology process, but I thought it could be fun. Let’s dig in.
Last 5 In:
Thursday night Williams hauled in 3 receptions (4 targets) for 46 yards. Williams still hasn’t put his full potential in view of the fan base, but his 6-foot-2, 220 pound frame offers a possession-style receiver to the corps where there really isn’t one currently.
With Deon Cain now on the shelf for the remainder of the 2018 season, Williams brings the most of what the Colts will miss without him. Williams doesn’t have Cain’s speed, but the Colts already have that aspect from others at the position.
There he is! Ridgeway has been one of those players who fans thought would break out within a year or two of his being drafted. He had a nice season last year, but had been very quiet thus far through training camp. Thursday night Ridgeway put 2 sacks and 3 tackles for loss on the board in the second half.
Granted, his flash was against the Seahawks’ third and fourth-string offensive linemen, but we’ve seen him flash in the regular season in previous seasons. We know he can do it. Per my roster, this gives the Colts 10 defensive linemen. That’s a lot, but top talent makes the roster, right?
Le’ Raven Clark
Clark didn’t get a ton of snaps Thursday night despite the offensive line being low on bodies. J’Marcus Webb has been getting the first-team snaps, but if the Colts want athleticism Clark is by far the best of the rest.
Clark still has a long way to go in his trek to being a legitimate NFL starter, but he’s got experience and he’s solid as a run blocker and has the potential to be a much better pass protector if it all can come together.
Pascal has been a late riser at training camp, but a noticeable one. In Seattle he caught his only target for a big gain (32 yards) via a fade route off the hand of Phillip Walker. Pascal has tuned himself into quite a good route runner, has the speed the offense could use to create mismatches and is right at that 6-foot-2, 220-pound mark that is so common among the team’s depth chart at the position.
Pascal has been one who has been constantly been working on fielding punts in practices, and has been getting noticed more often from the team’s quarterbacks as well. Talent and chemistry with the passer is key in the NFL and it appears Pascal has been forming the beginnings of that bond over the past couple weeks.
With Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers headed back to the field sooner rather than later, the Colts need another safety who can offer coverage skills, one who isn’t a missed tackle waiting to happen and one who can get physical in the box. Most would probably put T.J. Green in this group simply because of his getting the starter snaps with Hooker and Geathers out, but not I.
Martin scooped up a fumble and nearly had an interception off a tipped pass in Seattle, but only notched a single tackle in the Colts preseason opener. With a couple of the UDFA rookie safeties in the group like Chris Cooper and George Odum doing a solid job as well, Martin simply offers the power and aggression the backend of the Colts’ secondary will need in this new scheme. So far, I like Martin to squeak in.
The early days of Colts training camp didn’t offer much in the way of depth cornerbacks standing out amongst the crowd. However, in the last week or so, Jackson has done a nice job in all aspects of the position. He’s a solid tackler, he has been much better in coverage and has done well breaking on the ball in front of him.
Jackson has showed the speed to recover when initially beat deep as well as the willingness to stop the run just as he did Thursday night when he limited Rashaad Penny to a very short gain after crashing the box. With what we currently have on my roster, the Colts have four corners who can play on the boundary, but only two who have nickel abilities. Jackson offers some of that versatility as well.
First 5 Out:
Simply put, Morrison is always going to be in the mix because of his physicality and aggression — he just is. He didn’t get a ton of reps in Seattle, but it’s very clear what he does, and doesn’t bring to the conversation. Morrison is a hard worker, he’d literally go head-on into a brick wall if a football was stuck to it and he adds some attitude to a very young and experienced linebacker corps.
On the other hand, it’s just as obvious what he doesn’t have: speed, coverage ability and consistency. Unfortunately for Morrison, these are all aspects Chris Ballard and Frank Reich are wanting to become staples from their defensive talent.
Daniels isn’t the only tight end on the roster bubble by any means. The common assumption is that he and Ross Travis will be battling it out all preseason for the final spot at the position. He caught a touchdown Thursday night in Seattle, and has a real toughness about him that is appreciated by his teammates and coaching staff.
Daniels has some physical limitations, namely speed and size in comparison to the rest of those at the position, but he does have the intangibles. This will be one to watch very closely over the next few weeks, but right now, I just don’t see that he offers as much as the others.
Earlier when talking about Robert Jackson, we touched on the ability to play in the nickel role. White will be in the mix for that reason and a couple others as the preseason continues. He was active in the Colts preseason matchup with the Seahawks, accumulating 2 solo tackles and offering some quality coverage in limited time.
White was brought in last season by Ballard specifically to offer quality depth to a developing roster, which I think gives him a bit of leverage, but I just don’t think he’s quite as pliable as a few others. One good preseason game could easily put White on the ‘in’ list, which makes this another fun battle to follow throughout the 53-man cut downs.
Similar to a few others on the current 90-man roster, Green will always be in the conversation until this roster’s talent level rises to contender status. He is a physical player and is long and fast, which goes a long way when talent isn’t exactly sitting around every corner for the Colts right now.
Green’s inability to see what he’s hitting leading to missed tackles, his lack of awareness in coverage and lack of fundamentals are constantly leaving the fan base wanting more from him. I think the Colts have shown the willingness to move off of players when chemistry can be improved without them, yet, traits are a large portion of what Ballard looks for in players and could give Green more time when it’s all said and done.
Since being drafted in the seventh round, Adams hasn’t been one of the rookie names heavily talked about. Thursday night, though, Adams showed that he can be disruptive and physical as a SAM backer for the Colts. Adams is more stout than his measurements would suggest, and I think he has enough speed to move around a bit in sub packages.
Adams tipped a pass which nearly led to an interception, and took on all comers in the run game. Adams finished with 2 total tackles in Seattle, and though he technically sits behind Morrison on the depth chart, I think his special teams ability could keep him in the running throughout the preseason.
Here’s a look at the roster with the changes: