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Way too early Colts’ 2020 roster projection

Carolina Panthers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

With the 2020 NFL Draft in the books and undrafted free agency action winding down, let’s take an early look at a possible Colts roster. Remember that changes to the CBA this year have expanded practice squad rosters from 10 to 12 and that the new game day rosters will expand from 53 to 55 — with two members of the practice squad moving to the active roster and back without risk of losing them to waivers.

(3) QB: Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason

This leaves Chad Kelly as the odd man out. It seems unlikely that the Colts would risk losing Eason by placing him on the practice squad. It’s possible they could sign Kelly to the practice squad as an emergency backup with system familiarity.

(4) RB: Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Roosevelt Nix

Darius Jackson and Bruce Anderson are unlikely to make the roster at a loaded position. Jordan Wilkins is worthy of a roster spot but roster size limitations may make him the odd man out. Wilkins has shown some promising traits and has been an efficient runner when he has had opportunities so it would be surprising if Chris Ballard didn’t try to get something in return — as opposed to losing him through waivers.

(6) WR: TY Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Ashton Dulin

This leaves Daurice Fountain and rookie draft pick Dezmon Patmon as practice quad candidates. Fountain needs a full training camp to really work his way onto the roster and it isn’t looking like he will get one. Patmon has desirable traits but is a long-shot to make the roster as a rookie. This leaves Rodney Adams, DeMichael Harris, Malik Henry, Artavis Scott and Chad Williams as cuts.

(3) TE: Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, Mo Alie-Cox

The addition of fullback Roosevelt Nix likely reduces a spot on the active roster for tight ends. Nix can serve the in-line blocking and H-back role. This leaves Ian Bunting, Farrod Green, Xavier Grimble, and Matt Lengel as cuts and trying to earn a spot on the practice squad.

(4) OT: Anthony Castonzo, Braden Smith, Le’Raven Clark, Andrew Donnal

As Donnal is the only other tackle on the roster who dressed for a couple of games in 2019, he edges out the lesser experienced competition. This leaves Brandon Hitner, Cedrick Lang, Carter O’Donnell and Travis Vornkahl competing for a practice squad spot.

(3) G: Quenton Nelson, Mark Glowinski, Danny Pinter

Jake Eldrenkamp will likely make the practice squad and serve as an emergency backup if one of the starters needs to miss meaningful time. This leaves Chaz Green on the outside looking in.

(2) C: Ryan Kelly, Javon Patterson

With Josh Andrews leaving in free agency, the Colts need to have someone as a backup center. The team lists Quenton Nelson as a possible center and will likely train Danny Pinter at the position but Patterson has years of experience and was a 2019 draft pick.

(5) DT: DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Denico Autry, Sheldon Day, Rob Windsor

Kameron Cline and Chris Williams are cuts in this scenario. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Colts make some moves after cuts to add to the practice squad.

(5) DE: Justin Houston, Kemoko Turay, Ben Banogu, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Tyquan Lewis

This scenario assumes the Colts move Tyquan Lewis back outside to his more natural position at defensive end. Gerri Green and Kendall Coleman are likely strong practice squad candidates. Jegs Jegede is the odd man out.

(5) LB: Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker, Bobby Okereke, E.J. Speed, Jordan Glasgow

The biggest surprise cuts in my view will be Matthew Adams and Zaire Franklin. Both are former draft picks and both have had value, Adams as a SAM and Franklin on special teams. The issue for Adams is that he lacks the speed and range the team covets on defense. With Okereke likely to get more snaps in 2020 at MIKE, there is a chance Walker sees more snaps at SAM. E.J. Speed is an athletic freak who can fill in at multiple positions and who the team wants to develop and Glasgow is a rookie who projects to have a role on special teams and to be superior in pass defense than his teammates.

There is a log jam at linebacker and it will be interesting to see how it works itself out. It also likely leaves Skai Moore and Brandon Wellington on the outside.

(6) CB: Kenny Moore, Rock Ya-Sin, Xavier Rhodes, Marvell Tell III, TJ Carrie, Isaiah Rodgers

Rodgers makes the squad primarily for his special teams value to start. He projects as a Kenny Moore backup with some development. TJ Carrie has too much experience in the NFL to cut under the circumstances. Picasso Nelson Jr. Lafayette Pitts, Jackson Porter and Travis Reed are on the outside.

(4) S: Malik Hooker, Khari Willis, George Odum, Rolan Milligan

Julian Blackmon is likely on the PUP to start the season, recovering from an ACL tear that will push his physical conditioning work back to August or September. If he makes a quick recovery he could see some action in the second half of the 2020 season. If not, he could be moved to IR. Donald Rutledge is on the outside looking in.

(1) K — Rodrigo Blankenship

We’ve seen this game before. When the Colts signed undrafted free agent punter Rigoberto Sanchez in 2017 they had also signed veteran Jeff Locke. When it came down to final cuts, Locke was sent packing.

This time around. Chase McLaughlin is a lesser established NFL veteran who kicked for five teams as a rookie in 2019. There is always the chance that the Colts choose to bring back veteran Adam Vinatieri but that seems less likely given the circumstances of a limited off-season workout regimen.

Why Blankenship?

Three things stand out.

  1. He has a huge leg and could take over kickoff responsibilities — saving Rigoberto Sanchez’s leg. Ask Pat McAfee about how much stress his knees took through the shared punting and kicking responsibilities. McLaughlin may be fully capable in this area but Blankenship has a proven leg.
  2. Blankenship was considered by many to be the top place kicking prospect in the draft. He won the Lou Groza award in 2019 as the best kicker in NCAA football.
  3. Blankenship is known as a team leader. Not just on the field with big kicks as Georgia’s all-time scoring leader, but in the locker room as a vocal leader who teammates rallied around. Finding place kickers who earn that level of attention and respect and who actively become locker room leaders is exceedingly rare.

This will create a situation that Colts fans will find all too familiar. Indianapolis will have two NFL starter worthy kickers on the roster through preseason and will lose one before the year starts. Don’t be surprised to see the Colts snag a sixth or seventh round pick if McLaughlin is coveted.

(1) P: Rigoberto Sanchez

The Colts have been blessed with great punters. Sanchez is one of them. He has a strong leg but his directional punting is outstanding.

(1) LS: Luke Rhodes

While Rhodes showed some shakiness with his long snaps in 2019, he is the odds on favorite to keep his role in 2020. One of the more underappreciated things that Rhodes has done in his career is making plays/tackles on returns. To be the snapper and make the stop down the field is valuable.

PUP: S Julian Blackmon

Practice Squad: QB Chad Kelly, WR Daurice Fountain, WR Dezmon Patmon, TE Ian Bunting, OT Carter O’Donnell, G Jake Eldrenkamp, DE Gerri Green, DE Kendall Coleman, LB Matthew Adams, LB Zaire Franklin, CB Picasso Nelson Jr, CB Lafeyette Pitts

Trade Block: Jordan Wilkins, Chase McLaughlin