The Colts have added several pieces to their roster this offseason, both through the draft and in free agency. Since their roster from last season is set to return, I wanted to take a look at which players are most likely to be affected by the new faces in the organization. Some may lose playing time, others their jobs. One way or another, this offseason has pushed these guys to the roster bubble.
Rogers is a success story by most accounts. Signed as an UDFA in 2016, he has managed to make himself a factor on the offense and on special teams, as well. This offseason was not a good one for him. The Colts brought in Devin Funchess to play the big slot role and complement T.Y. Hilton, but they didn’t stop there. They drafted Parris Campbell in the second round, a player who almost exactly fits the role that Rogers has filled, except with far greater natural ability.
This isn’t even factoring in the return from injury of Deon Cain or the signing of UDFA Penny Hart, a player many thought would be drafted, and who has the skills to be a quick player out of the slot and one who can also be an asset in the return game.
I have been a bit up and down on Rogers in his time with the Colts. There are times when he is a pure fighter and I feel like he has earned his spot. Other times he seems out of his depth and unless other receivers are drawing heavy coverage, he is ineffective. His finish to 2018 was a strong one, and he will need to hit the ground running if he wants to stay a significant part of this offense, because the competition has been cranked up.
First, don’t misunderstand Hines’ place on this list. I don’t think he is in any danger of losing a roster spot. Hines proved himself to be a valuable piece in Frank Reich’s offense in 2018, and I think he will continue to be utilized inside of it. However, like with Rogers, the addition of Parris Campbell creates some disruption for Hines in terms of the kinds of situations he may be used in.
Frank Reich is very clever, and I’m sure he’ll get both these speedy guys involved in the offensive game plan, but where Hines was used heavily in the passing game and occasionally as a gadget player last year, he may see that role diminished by the involvement of Campbell, whom Frank Reich seems really enamored with. This doesn’t mean Hines can’t be a great impact player for the offense, but it does mean he probably needs to get solid production when he gets the opportunity to carry the ball.
Nate Hairston is a player who had a very solid rookie season, but followed it up with a bit of a head scratcher. The emergence of Kenny Moore relegated Hairston to a backup, and when the starting group of Moore, Quincy Wilson, and Pierre Desir were healthy, he was on the sideline.
The addition of Rock Ya-Sin and Marvell Tell are both bad news for Hairston, who was already struggling to see the field. In his rookie season he played his best ball at the nickel spot, and that’s where Tell will look to make a name for himself. Ya-Sin will likely be looking to displace a starter, and if he can, this will only further displace Hairston. This is a big offseason for Hairston, and he’ll need to come out hot at training camp and in the preseason if he wants to see the field in 2019.
Zaire Franklin and Skai Moore
These two aren’t exactly shocking, as it is never exactly a surprise when a 7th round pick and an UDFA find themselves on the roster bubble. However, the injection of new talent at the linebacker position in this draft should be troubling to both these players.
For Franklin, the question is not about ability. He is an athletic player who has exactly the leadership and talent traits that the Colts look for. For whatever reason, 2018 saw him lose out on playing time, as the season went on, to Matthew Adams. The SAM linebacker position is one that requires versatility, because it is one that is only used about 30% of the time. That means special teams and pass rush ability are critical to the role.
Skai Moore was the guy tasked with backing up Darius Leonard. While he did solid work when called upon, he lacks the speed and size that rookie Bobby Okereke will bring to the table. His instincts are solid, and he was a factor in special teams, but if he wants to see the field this year (or a roster spot at all), he’ll need to make a name for himself there.
This is a weird one, I know. Ebron is in no danger of losing his spot. He was a deadly red zone weapon last season, and that is likely to continue. However, much of his red zone production came because there were no other viable red zone targets. T.Y. Hilton was playing with one leg (very well, but still), and Jack Doyle was on the sideline. Given the Colts’ other receiving weapons (or lack thereof), that left little choice but to find ways to get the ball into the hands of Ebron.
The return of Jack Doyle to full health is likely to cut significantly into the opportunities Ebron gets this season. Add to that the addition of several viable receivers and a healthy T.Y. Hilton, and you get a greatly reduced role in the offense for Eric Ebron.
None of this is bad for the Colts. In fact, reducing Ebron’s role makes him even harder to plan for on defense. I anticipate that while his production overall goes down, his efficiency may go up. However, when you’re entering a contract year, adding more mouths to feed is likely to put a dent in your asking price at the end of the season.
What are your thoughts? Who do you think was most impacted by the Colts’ offseason?