The Indianapolis Colts are finally in the offseason as a very up and down 2019 season comes to an end. After starting the year at a promising 5-2, he Colts finished the season with a record of 7-9 as they missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. As we go into the offseason, there will be a lot of evaluating going on as this team truly prepares for life after Andrew Luck. This is a major offseason and this team has to be better than one that is built to win with a star quarterback. As the Colts look to evaluate their roster this offseason, we will be doing the same with a series of film rooms that go over returning players as well as players who may be departing.
Today we will be starting the offseason film rooms with a duo of receivers who are set to potentially hit free agency this year. Young receivers Chester Rogers and Marcus Johnson have both made cases to make this team in the future but there will likely be some roster casualties going forward. Have these players done enough to make this team going forward? Let’s look at the film to find out.
We will start with Johnson since he has the highest chance of returning next season. A former UDFA, Johnson built a good enough rapport with coach Frank Reich when they were both with the Eagles to warrant a trade at the end of the 2018 offseason as the Colts traded tight end Darrell Daniels for the receiver. Johnson made the opening day roster and finally started to break out against the New York Jets before an injury ended his promising season. He was back again this past offseason before being waived late in the preaseason. From there he was re-signed to the practice squad and eventually brought back to the roster late in the season. In 8 games played with the Colts this year, Johnson tallied 17 catches for 277 yards and 2 touchdowns.
While he may not be the most well rounded receiver on the team, Johnson does offer a ton as a deep threat to an offense. He has track runner 4.3 speed and gets behind defenses with ease. He is difficult to match-up with in man coverage as a result as he is often able to break open down the field. He also showcased a good amount of nuance and quickness in his intermediate route running this season. He was able to get open a good bit in that area of the field despite Jacoby Brissett struggling to get him the ball. If Johnson is to have a chance at making the team next year, it will be with his deep and intermediate game.
Where Johnson has his struggles though is in the short area of the field. He can stretch the field and work open deep but he he struggles with his spatial awareness and hands in the short area of the field. He has struggled to get open underneath and when he has found openings, his hands have been a bit inconsistent. Although the pass below is a pretty poor throw, he has to be able to make this catch in the future. This is an area that he has to improve upon going forward to become a complete NFL receiver.
Verdict: Re-sign him on a cheap one year deal
Johnson has shown quite a bit in his two years with the Colts. He has excellent speed and can make plays in that area of the field when given the chance. I think that alone warrants another look at him next offseason. Bring him back for solid depth and have him compete with other younger players who are brought in. He is a very solid player to have either round out a receiver group or have around in the offseason/preseason.
Everybody’s favorite slot receiver is the next player we will be highlighting today. An UDFA for the Colts all the way back in 2016, Rogers has been a mainstay with the team for years. A steady contributor for a couple years, he broke out with Andrew Luck under center in 2018. Last year he was able to tally 53 catches for 485 yards and two touchdowns. This year with a new quarterback under center, the numbers fell off drastically for him. He only totaled 16 catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns through 12 games before ending up on season ending IR. He also totaled 551 yards returning punts in his four years in Indy on 60 returns.
Rogers does a lot of things right at the wide receiver position. He is a good route runner who knows how to work open against zone coverage and create space against man. As a slot receiver, he works the short game extremely well and is a good outlet for his quarterback. He is good off the line with his releases and creates good space against man coverage. While he doesn’t have the best catch radius, he adjust well in the air to difficult passes. He offers a safe floor as a punt returner and is a high effort blocker on offense too. By the very definition, he is a coaches type of player.
Chester Rogers does all the little things right but he really struggles with the important things. His hands are extremely inconsistent as drops have been a problem throughout his career. He had five drops this season compared to just 16 catches. Most of these drops are concentration drops but he doesn’t offer very strong hands in traffic either. Athletically he isn’t great outside of his quickness. He can make players miss in open space but he won’t win vertically with his speed. He is fantastically unspectacular as a punt returner as he doesn’t create much yardage with the amount of fair catches he calls for.
Verdict: It is time to part ways
Rogers has been a decent depth player for the Colts in his career and enjoyed a nice breakout in 2018. With the need for the team to get more explosive and dynamic on offense next year, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to bring back Rogers. He is an NFL caliber receiver and he’ll pick up somewhere else with a team looking for a depth slot receiver and steady punt returner. It just shouldn’t be in Indy with his capped ceiling and inconsistent play over the last couple of seasons.