Cutdowns are coming fast as the regular season bears down on us. The Colts will have a lot of decisions to make regarding who stays and who goes, and there will undoubtedly be a flurry of waiver claims made to bring in fresh faces and new talent that will keep the roster fluid for a long while.
However, it makes sense to take one last look at the roster and make some final predictions about how this thing all shakes out as we head into week four of the preseason, which will be the last chance for some players to make an impression and earn their spot on the team.
Offense - 24
Quarterback – 2
The Colts have the best quarterback situation in the NFL. Andrew Luck at his best is a top 5 quarterback, and Jacoby Brissett is a league average or just slightly less than average starter. Both quarterbacks have looked sharp in the preseason.
Missed the cut: Phillip Walker, Brad Kaaya
Running Back – 4
Before getting hurt in week one of the preseason, Marlon Mack looked greatly improved. His explosiveness, ability to make plays in space, and speed to the outside have always been strengths, but he seemed like a guy willing to follow his blockers and go up the middle when called on to do it. Frank Reich’s scheme seems like a perfect fit for what Mack does well.
I also think Jordan Wilkins will have fully supplanted Robert Turbin by the time Turbin is off of his suspension. Assuming he stays healthy, I think we see a lot of these two. Hines will get use out of the backfield as a receiver and when he provides a favorable matchup, but he has a lot of growing to do.
*Won’t count against the 53-man roster until his 4-week suspension is completed.
Missed the cut: Branden Oliver, Christine Michael
Tight End – 5
This is an encouraging group. With a receiving corps that seems a bit underpowered, they’ll need to rely on these guys for big production, and I think they can get it. Keeping 5 tight ends is unconventional, but given Reich’s proclivity for using tight ends and the lack of overwhelming talent at wide receiver, it might make sense to keep one more of your talented group on the roster.
I expect Eric Ebron will be a hit for this team now that he has shed that pressure on him from Detroit. He has the potential to be a big-time playmaker and showed chemistry with Luck early on in training camp. Swoope, Travis, and Daniels all rate about the same but could all contribute to the offense in Reich’s system. As far as Jack Doyle, what more can you say? Doyle rules.
Missed the cut: Mo Alie-Cox
Wide Receiver – 5
This one could provide our first shocker. I’m just not sure that Reece Fountain makes this roster. Apart from the fact that they spent a 5th round pick on him, what does he have going for him? Ballard doesn’t seem like a guy who gets too hung up on sunk cost (See Zach Banner), and while I hoped Fountain could develop, missing on a 5th rounder is only compounded by clinging to that mistake. He is likely a guy who makes it through waivers and can spend time improving on the Colts’ practice squad.
The starters are pretty straight forward. Hilton is the obvious top guy, Chester Rogers appears likely Luck’s second favorite target of the receivers. I am out on Ryan Grant almost entirely, but it seems like the Colts like him. I’m not sure Ishmael and Pascal have a huge role on the offense, but could be valuable special teamers.
Note: I did not account for Robert Turbin’s suspension when writing this. That suspension likely keeps Reece Fountain around for at least four weeks, putting the receiver group at 6.
Missed the cut: K.J. Brent, Kasen Williams, James Wright, Dres Anderson, Krishawn Hogan, Seantavius Jones, Reece Fountain, Cobi Hamilton
Offensive Line – 8
The offensive line hasn’t looked very impressive so far in the preseason. Injuries have kept it a revolving door, and the absence of Castonzo has been notable. In our Stampede Blue chat client, we were discussing recently that the line’s run blocking suffered from a defensive approach in the preseason that simply isn’t sustainable in the regular season.
Selling out to stop the run with Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, and Eric Ebron on the team is a good way to see the Colts put up big points on you quickly. This line needs to get healthy and figure out the right tackle position, but when Castonzo is back, this is the best line Andrew Luck has been behind by far.
Missed the cut: Austin Howard, Nick Callender, Tyreek Burwell, J’Marcus Webb, Mark Glowinski, Jeremy Vujnovich
Defense - 26
Defensive Tackle – 5
There isn’t anything too groundbreaking about this group, and nothing that will really surprise anyone come cuts. Denico Autry has been a very pleasant surprise as far as the free agent class goes, and he and Al Woods seem like the obvious starters.
Hassan Ridgeway has played himself into what I would consider as a lock for a roster spot by absolutely maximizing his preseason snaps. Grover Stewart has shown some promise and offers good depth with the opportunity to continue to grow, especially given the new system.
Tyquan Lewis is a bit of a mystery. His injury, and the news that he is not that close to a return leaves the Colts without really knowing what they’ve got. He could come back healthy and be a huge impact player, or they could place him on IR designated to return and keep someone else.
Missed the cut: Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Tomasi Laulile, Brandon Banks
Defensive End – 5
The defensive ends group is a pretty interesting one. Jabaal Sheard will likely do well in this new scheme and remains the team’s most talented edge rusher. John Simon has more than proved he belongs, but he’ll need to continue to do so once the games count. Ryan Delaire has come in flashing serious potential. He has been a fun player to watch. If he does so again on Thursday, I think he is a lock for the 53-man roster.
Kemoko Turay and Tarell Basham will round out the group. Turay is a virtual unknown but a guy that Chris Ballard believes can develop and be a real force on the outside. Basham is probably on his last shot. They may let him stick around for a little bit to see if he can grow, but if he can’t show them something, he likely won’t survive this season on the Colts’ roster.
Missed the cut: Chris McCain, Margus Hunt, Anthony Johnson
Linebacker – 6
The linebacker position is one of the most intriguing on the team. There is a very real chance that come week one, this unit will be manned by two rookies and a career backup. That is more than a little terrifying, but also, if you’ve watched Darius Leonard and Skai Moore, encouraging.
4 of these 6 linebackers in this group are rookies, which means that the likelihood they’ll make big mistakes is high. It also means that there are a ton of unknowns. However, that cuts both ways, because there is always the possibility that an unknown player blows everyone away and breaks out.
Leonard was a relative unknown for many when drafted, but has looked like he has the potential to be one of the most exciting linebackers the Colts have had on the roster in a very long time. This unit might make some mistakes, but they’ll also likely make some incredible plays, like we have already seen from this so far in the preseason.
Missed the cut: Tyrell Adams, Jeremiah George
Cornerback – 6
So many questions remain at the cornerback position. Quincy Wilson is not a consistent player and has moments where he looks very good and others where he looks poor. Pierre Desir has been reliable but unspectacular as he was last season.
Kenny Moore has been a surprise at the nickel position, showing significant growth from last season. Hairston may be the odd man out here, with Moore seeming like the natural fit for the nickel. However, if he plays well as he did last season, he may end up getting in the rotation somewhere.
Milton makes a valuable special teamer, and Pipkins makes the roster because the Colts clearly thought enough of him to trade for him, even if it was with an asset they were likely going to cut anyway.
Missed the cut: D.J. White, Henre Toliver, Robert Jackson, Lashard Durr, Juante Baldwin
Safety – 4
The safety group is a strong one as far as the top three go. Malik Hooker is a freak, recovering from his ACL tear in great time. Geathers has looked like a game changer since returning to action. Matthias Farley is an admirable and balanced substitute for either of these guys and has proven that he is a more than capable starter when called upon.
Ronald Martin might be able to give T.J. Green a run for his money, but I don’t think he has the upside that Green does, and Ballard likely goes with Green for the final roster. I’m not sure he ever really develops, but perhaps with a new coaching staff they can get him going in the right direction.
Missed the cut: Ronald Martin, George Odum, Chris Cooper, Robenson Therezie
Special Teams - 3
Kicker – 1
Missed the cut: Kicker Michael Badgley
Punter – 1
Long Snapper – 1