As the Indianapolis Colts are all set for their second preseason game of the 2018 season, just around the corner are roster cuts to get down to the league-mandated 53-man roster. Most consider this waiver period to be an active 48 hours for Chris Ballard and the front office staff.
There are a few positions that are in need of significant improvement, and while the second-year GM can’t get an upgrade at every position, it’s fair to expect at least three claims as September rolls around. For now, though, the Colts still have some tough cuts to make when the roster is initially set.
Granted, injuries have already had an impact on how the roster is shaped for the Colts this season. Additionally, there will need to be a concession at a position where the Colts are already undermanned in order to keep the best talent currently available to them.
Let’s take a look at some positions that will be very interesting to watch as the Colts finish up their preseason schedule.
First, let’s just get some ‘givens’ — at least in my eyes — out of the way. The Colts will keep two quarterbacks, four running backs, four tight ends, four safeties, and six linebackers. That already is 20 roster spots, and while the possibility remains that those could move in one way for some, and the opposite way for others, it leaves several other positions that are drawing the most interest for me right now.
The offensive and defensive line, cornerbacks and receivers are where the considerations will be most heavily weighed for my money. The corners and receivers get the most back and forth in the conversation mainly due to special teams consideration. Who are the most capable gunners, return men, etc. Do they need six at each of those positions or can they live with just five?
The Colts do have Chester Rogers with some return experience and Nyheim Hines has been heavily used in training camp and was back there in Seattle as well. Marlon Mack has also been thrown in there in the past — of course he needs to be healthy first — and Ryan Grant has also been fielding kickoffs and punts this summer as well. Maybe Zach Pascal is added to the mix if the Colts think he’s borderline too.
Those, alone, give the Colts a bit of leeway when it comes to forcing an extra body at receiver and corner which helps quite a bit as it currently stands. Could they get by with just five at each position? Possibly, but I think they carry six at one or the other when it comes down to it, and health could play a large role in that as well.
Now, for all intents and purposes, we get into the most important two areas in Ballard’s eyes. Frank Reich and Ballard have both stated that they want eight starters along the defensive line, and 10 along the offensive line.
Herein lies the problem with all of that, though.
Right now, I don’t know if the Colts have 10 quality offensive linemen, and they’ve got 11 legitimately in the fight for the D-line. It sounds like a simple fix, right? Just keep nine on the O-line and 11 on the D-line. Well, if they do, they run into forcing themselves into limiting talent elsewhere.
As I sit and look at the roster, this is what I have:
RB — 4 | WR — 5 | TE — 4 | QB — 2 | LB — 6 | CB — 6 | S — 4 | ST — 3
Without either line being represented, we have a total of 34 players. If they keep 20 between the two trench units... well, you can do that math, and it doesn’t equal 53.
So, the Colts have to keep 19 to keep it to 53. Or, as stated earlier, less depending on maybe one fewer CB or TE, but that seems silly considering the talent level on the roster right now. I think the Colts have to carry at least nine offensive linemen. They’ve got nine who are worthy, but a tenth would depend upon a waiver claim in my estimation.
OL (9) — Anthony Castonzo | Le’Raven Clark | Quenton Nelson | Ryan Kelly| Matt Slauson | Braden Smith | Joe Haeg | Austin Howard | Denzelle Good
OUT — J’Marcus Webb | Tyreek Burwell | Jeremy Vujnovich | Deyshawn Bond | Mark Glowinski | Nick Callendar
Right now Good still isn’t healthy, while it feels like the team is almost forcing itself to hang on to Clark and Howard at this point. But, are you going to keep any of these who I currently have on the outside looking in?
Now, for the defensive line.
DL (11) — Jabaal Sheard | John Simon | Margus Hunt | Ryan Delaire | Tarell Basham | Kemoko Turay | Denico Autry | Al Woods | Grover Stewart | Hassan Ridgeway | Tyquan Lewis
OUT — Anthony Johnson | Tomasi Laulile | Chris McCain | Rakeem Nunez-Roches
Who are you going to cut from the 11 listed above? Hunt based purely on age? Could you get yourself to cut second-year, third-round pick Basham due to his subpar play in practice resulting in a steep dive down the depth chart? Delaire simply because you can’t get yourself to let go of a third-round pick? Ridgeway just because you didn’t draft him?
Someone’s gotta go. Simon has proven time and time again that he’s an asset who just does his job and produces when he’s in, Woods is a need right now on early downs, Autry has been a beast, Turay and Lewis are rookies — so there’s zero chance that’s happening — and I’d be shocked if Stewart were to be let go as well. Who are you dumping?
As important as they are to the Colts, I don’t think anyone who’d be made available would draw much on the trade block. Here’s the elephant in the room, though. Basham is the one guy who isn’t living up to his stock, but Hunt — despite currently running with the first team — is likely seen as the most expendable right now.
I still have a feeling that Delaire won’t get much of a fair shake in the matter, but he does have a full two weeks to continue getting the coaching staff’s attention. This is really starting to become a real conundrum for Ballard and Reich I’d guess.