So far during the Indianapolis Colts first 10 training camp practices we’ve discussed those players who are doing well, those who aren’t and we have also mentioned a few who just haven’t been noticed. The regrettably forgettable, if you will.
While being noticed for getting owned isn’t a good place to be by any means, those who can’t get noticed simply because they aren’t rising to the occasion is a similar void players don’t want to fall into. It’s very early and the Colts open up the preseason in Seattle Thursday night, and it’s difficult to shove a player into a specific designation right now.
On the other hand, with injuries to some come opportunities for others. Each practice offers a time to impress the staff and onlookers, and some are still falling under the radar. Here are some guys who need to get on the radar in a hurry whether it’s in practice or in preseason games as they close in.
Just looking across the Colts’ line (from left to right) we see Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Matt Slauson and Austin Howard. There’s five, and we should expect 9 as an ideal number to be on the roster if Frank Reich’s assessment is any indication.
After that, each tackle position needs a legit backup and versatility becomes key for the rest. With 4 spots open, theoretically, you see Joe Haeg (T/G/C), Braden Smith (G/T?) and Denzelle Good (T/G) who appear to be solid position holders within the top 8 as key backups right now.
Now the battle sits with Le’ Raven Clark (T), Mark Glowinski (G), J’Marcus Webb (T), Deyshawn Bond (C/G?) and probably Jeremy Vujnovich (G) who collectively don’t have much position versatility at all. These are your bubble players right now who need to prove that they belong. Right now, I’m not laying any money on this group in terms of a prediction.
This group is fairly set, but we need to consider what the Colts might do while Robert Turbin is sitting on a 4-game suspension. If the Colts are to keep just 4, which makes sense, that puts Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines as virtual locks right now.
The fourth spot — in whatever order you want to add him in that top-4 group — that Turbin would fill in his return becomes somewhat of an opening. Christine Michael has had a real rough time hanging on to the ball, and hasn’t become much of a pass-catching option. Josh Ferguson hasn’t been in practice for several days now, and looks to clearly be the last guy in consideration using simple elimination.
The real question with this position is; do they even keep 4 backs to start the season? This is a position that may get filled by a player not yet on the roster, or they may fill the roster spot with a premier special teams player. I don’t even know if I see a bubble from this group — there’s only ‘in’ and ‘out’ right now.
Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Erik Swoope and Ross Travis would easily be my picks right now for this group, without any hesitation. Mo Alie-Cox and Darrell Daniels (with a reasonable guess) are battling Travis for that No. 4 at the position, but I don’t see what these two could offer that the top-4 don’t already give the team.
Technically, you could put those three down as the ‘bubble’ guys who need to have good preseason tape in order to reach the 53-man roster. But, this also looks to be a clear fall off from the speed and talent this position offers after Travis.
T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers and Ryan Grant (by default in my opinion) are the top-3 at the position to the Colts coaching staff. Deon Cain is making this roster, and K.J. Brent has been the best of the rest through camp thus far. That, very quickly, gets us to 5 receivers at a position that may, or may not keep 6.
You’ve got a fifth-round rookie in Daurice Fountain that the Colts would like to see have long-term viability. Add in Kasen Williams, Steve Ishmael, Zach Pascal, James Wright and Krishawn Hogan who are all trying to make a case to the staff to keep 6, and the bubble here is large.
Fountain has been largely quiet to this point and hasn’t been on the practice field since Wednesday. In the meantime Pascal, Williams, Wright and Ishmael have all been coming around in recent days and Hogan seems to be getting more comfortable coming off of his season-ending injury by shedding the knee brace.
Most of these bubble guys have been taking time with punt returns before and after practice, and that may very well be the deciding factor going forward. This group is going to be hard to call based on talent and fit.
This group, similar to the offensive line right now, is another that is getting a heavy rotation through training camp. You figure Jabaal Sheard, Kemoko Turay, John Simon, Tarell Basham, Margus Hunt as the defensive ends right now, and then Denico Autry, Tyquan Lewis, Al Woods and Grover Stewart giving you the defensive tackle bunch.
That’s nine already, but not out of the realm of likelihood even as Reich and Matt Eberflus are hoping to have a defensive front that can play in waves throughout a game.
But, do they actually keep 9?
I think in a look at those above, if the Colts were to cut to 8, John Simon might be hard to keep especially with Hunt, Lewis and Autry having the flexibility to work at multiple positions. Simon is just a good football player, though, and he’s had a pretty nice camp to this point despite being sidelined the past couple days with a groin issue.
This actually gets pretty interesting.
Hassan Ridgeway, Chris McCain, Carraun Reid, Anthony Johnson and Tomasi Laulile fall in behind this group and, like other back-end of the roster guys at other positions, don’t offer much versatility to get them an additional edge. None of these guys fall on the ‘couldn’t-live-without-them’ list by any means, and would need a masterful preseason coupled with good practices to even be considered bubble guys.
How much special teams help to they give them? That may be the focus again for the coaching staff when it all comes down.
While it’s fair to say that this position is still wide open in terms of the starters, that’s coming more into focus, and — unfortunately for the bottom of the position — so are the immediate backups. Anthony Walker, if healthy, right now is the MIKE, but could easily lose it depending on how much time he spends out of the mix.
Skai Moore is right on his heels, and Zaire Franklin is there too for the base look offering some versatility at the other roles as well.
The SAM role looks to be Najee Goode’s to lose, and Darius Leonard with Tyrell Adams right behind him are atop the list at the WILL position. Presuming Walker is good for the regular season, that gives us 6 to work with immediately.
Watching what Antonio Morrison can do as Goode’s backup, and how much Matthew Adams (very quiet up to now) can do at other roles, including special teams, might be the kicker going forward. You still have Jeremiah George and William Ossai attempting to break in, but it’s a long road for them right now.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to Matthew Adams and Morrison as bubble guys, but I also would acknowledge that Morrison is a guy the staff seems to like quite a bit right now as a tone-setter in a physical role. That still means something in the NFL.
The cornerback unit is another one which has had a ton of rotation thus far in training camp. Pierre Desir, Quincy Wilson, Kenny Moore and Nate Hairston have all been getting first-team reps with Desir and Wilson as boundary corners and Moore and Hairston primarily, but definitely not limited to, working in the nickel role.
These four, in some 3-man combination, will represent the starters in Week 1 barring any unforeseen injury. Further down the line you have Robert Jackson, who has been rising lately, and then a mish-mash of Lashard Durr, Chris Milton, D.J. White and Henre Toliver to round out the position.
Right now I’d put Jackson in with White and Toliver as the two pushing for the CB6 spot as it currently stands. This position — in my humble opinion — is still in need of a top-4 talent to push for snaps. I think White and Toliver, and maybe Durr, could all likely be decent depth, however, if they had to sit in for a significant amount of time it could get scary back there.
Look for this to be a position that gives a hard look at someone being dispatched from their current team come the 53-man cut.
The Colts safety position is a bit clearer than most I think, but there’s still a competition for that No. 4 spot. So long as everyone’s ready to go, without any question, Malik Hooker, Clayton Geathers and Matthias Farley are the three who are safe.
Once you get to T.J. Green, Ronald Martin, Chris Cooper, Shemarko Thomas and George Odum a lot of questions arise. Green should be considered the front-runner, in my estimation, but not by much. Martin has been pretty good from what I’ve seen from him, Thomas is a physical down-hill attacker and Cooper and Odum both offer a good bit of special teams help as gunners.
Dependent upon how the coaching staff sees Green, and if they aren’t in love with any of the others, this could also be a position that gets some action as cuts come down. However, for what we know right now, all of these safeties after Farley should be considered to be on the bubble in that there’s a lot to prove over the next few weeks.
One addition that I think needs to be considered with this unit is the rise of Skai Moore in sub packages. He’s been used as the dime linebacker quite a bit when it’s being used in practices and it could play a part with the safeties as well IF the Colts get into some tough decisions with the roster at other positions.
As it stands right now, this is the group of players on both side of the ball who I believe are completely safe (in green). You can see that (including kicker, punter, longsnapper) there is currently only 48 spots “spoken for.”
This, naturally, leaves just 5 open for the rest of the field. I think Chris Ballard, Frank Reich and company do indeed have some tough decisions to make when it all boils down to it. Who is your 5 players from the field that you’d add to the Colts initial 53-man roster?