The preseason has come and gone and the Colts are finally getting ready to play meaningful football. GM Chris Ballard and Head Coach Frank Reich have trimmed this roster to 53 players in hopes of turning around a very poor 4-12 record from the year before.
Along with deciding who made the actual roster, the coaching staff and Ballard had the tough decision of picking the 10 players that they want to stash on the practice squad. Here is a a brief summary of each player that Ballard and Reich decided to stash and develop:
Phillip Walker, QB:
Phillip Walker was a very pleasant surprise for the Colts this preseason. Entering the offseason competing with Brad Kaaya for the third string role, Walker was very effective throughout the preseason. He finished the preseason with a 61.2% completion percentage for 446 yards with 4 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions. He also boasted an impressive 9.1 yards per attempt and the highest rating among Colts QBs with 101.2.
The former Temple QB went undrafted last season and spent time with the Colts during the preseason and on the practice squad last year. Walker may never develop into an NFL starter with his smaller stature and average level arm but so far he has played well enough in his limited opportunities to stick around with the organization.
Mo Alie- Cox, TE:
Mo Alie- Cox has had a very interesting route to the NFL. The former VCU basketball player has yet to play in a football game since his freshman year of high school. He was on the Colts’ preseason roster last year before suffering a leg injury which landed him on IR. Alie- Cox offers a unique blend of size (6’6” 267) and athleticism and that combined with his basketball background makes him a very intriguing future option for the Colts.
Daurice Fountain, WR:
Daurice Fountain had a very up and down offseason and seems to be pretty far away from playing in an NFL game at this point. Fountain, a 5th round rookie in this past draft, put up pretty impressive numbers at Northern Iowa against 1-AA competition. His senior season in 2017, Fountain caught 66 passes for 943 yards and 12 touchdowns. Despite that production in college, Fountain only grabbed only 4 catches for 46 yards in the preseason and struggled to stay healthy.
Fountain has rare talents from an athletic standpoint. He excels at high pointing passes and is an effortless athlete running down the field and elevating for balls in traffic. A year on the practice squad could do him some good though as he learns the nuances of route running and properly gets acclimated to playing against top level talent.
Steve Ishmael, WR:
The undrafted Steve Ishmael had a very solid preseason and really showed off some potential as a possession receiver in the NFL. Ishmael played his college ball at Syracuse and actually holds the career receptions record at the school, a record previously held by Colts’ legend Marvin Harrison. Ishmael finished his Senior season with 105 catches for 1,347 yards and 7 touchdowns. In the preseason this year, Ishmail had 5 catches for 77 yards.
Ishmael may never be a great NFL receiver as he lacks the top level athleticism for it but where he wins is with his toughness and excellent hands. If he can work on his craft as a route runner, I fully believe he can be a solid underneath receiver in the NFL for many years. The Colts getting him onto the practice squad was a very good move in my eyes.
Lenzy Pipkins, CB (Packers):
Lenzy Pipkins has jumped around a little bit this preseason. Starting this offseason on the Packers roster, Pipkins was dealt for LB Antonio Morrison just before the final preseason game. Pipkins played well enough in that game to initially make the 53-man roster before being waived in favor of veteran safety Corey Moore. Pipkins was an undrafted free agent who appeared in 12 games for the Packers last season.
Pipkins is solid corner who has decent size (6’0” 200 lbs) and athleticism to play in the NFL. Obviously Ballard liked him enough to specifically trade for him this offseason. Despite not making the roster, I doubt Pipkins stays on the practice squad very long. He played very well in limited snaps with the Packers last year and will likely be the first call up for any injury to the Colts’ secondary.
I love how Lenzy Pipkins has performed during the preseason so far. This is near flawless coverage from the rookie CB. pic.twitter.com/BWDdMTOuy2— Andy Herman (@SconnieSports) August 23, 2017
Jamil Douglas, OG (Falcons):
Jamil Douglas is a big, lengthy guard who played his college ball at Arizona State. In college, Douglas was All-Pac 12 twice, earning first team honors in 2014. This along with a pretty decent combine ended up getting Douglas drafted in the 4th round by the Dolphins in 2015 NFL draft. Since then Douglas has bounced around the NFL, only starting 6 games over his 4-year NFL career.
Douglas may not have had the career he was projected to have when he was drafted in 2015 but he is valuable guard depth on the practice squad. He had good enough traits to warrant that selection in the draft so maybe if the Colts can develop him a little bit, they could have a hidden gem. Overall though, it never hurts to take a shot on former 4th round picks.
Jihad Ward, DE (Cowboys):
Speaking of taking a shot on former draft picks, the Colts also signed Jihad Ward to the practice squad. Ward, a 2016 second round pick by the Raiders, has been very underwhelming in his short NFL career. In his 21 games played as a pro, Ward only has 1 sack and has created very little pressure. In college, he was a bit more productive as he tallied 5.5 sacks in two years playing for Illinois.
Ward is a very interesting signing here. He definitely has the tools to be successful as evident by his second round selection in 2016. He also fits favorably with what the Colts look for in a potential 3-tech defensive tackle. The problem is simply, Ward has not been good at all in his short NFL career. Hopefully the Colts’ coaches can help him live up to his potential here on the practice squad.
Carroll Phillips, DE (Jaguars):
Carroll Phillips addition to the practice squad is more promising to me than Jihad Ward. Phillips, an undrafted free agent in 2017, spent time with the Jaguars the last two seasons. Despite not recording a stat yet in the NFL, Phillips was very productive in college his senior season where he notched 19.0 tackles for a loss and 9 sacks playing for Illinois.
Phillips intrigues me a lot because he fits the Ballard mold for a left defensive end. Ballard has said in recent interview that he views the left end spot as one with athletic players who can rush the passer. Although Phillips is still raw in terms of technique, he possess plus quickness and athleticism which is desired for the position. This guy could be a solid pro if he properly develops on the practice squad.
EDGE Carroll Phillips (Illinois, 6'3", 243lbs, 4.64). Already 25, but tested well, shows nice speed + bend on outside. No real counters. pic.twitter.com/zp7zuyLHmj— Jeremy Stevenson (@MyColtsAccount) April 24, 2017
Ahmad Thomas, LB (Packers):
Ahmad Thomas is another interesting add to the Colts practice squad. The former Oklahoma safety and undrafted free agent, Thomas bulked up over 25 pounds since college to play that coveted hybrid linebacker position in the NFL. In college, Thomas had 222 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 4 interceptions as a 3-year starter for the Sooners. He has yet to play in an NFL game.
Thomas clearly fits the new direction of this team’s linebacker core as the key intangible this team appears to be looking for is speed. Standing now at 6’0” 215 pounds, Thomas may not have the ideal experience or strength to be an every down linebacker but with proper coaching he could become a valuable special teamer/ money backer.
Jeremy McNichols, RB (49ers):
Jeremy McNichols has already had a journeyman type career in the NFL. A former 5th round draft choice in 2017 by Tampa Bay, McNichols was very productive at Boise State. McNichols had 4,294 yards from scrimmage in his three years with the team and also tallied 44 touchdowns in his time as a starter. McNicols has yet to carry the ball in his two games that he has been active in the NFL.
McNichols is a bit of an odd case. Clearly he has the talent to be an NFL player yet he has bounced around to now his third team in two seasons. With rumors of him struggling to pick up a playbook and work ethic issues, its tough to say if this practice squad stash will amount to anything. Still, like I said earlier with Douglas, it never hurts to take a shot on these former draft picks.