The season is just around the corner, which means it’s time to unveil my 53 man roster prediction.
Quarterbacks (3): Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason
All three of these quarterbacks are locks. Rivers is the current starter, Brissett is the reliable backup and Eason is the future. No debate here.
Running Backs (4): Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins
Mack, Taylor and Hines are all locks for the roster, so the main question is Jordan Wilkins; will he make the final 53? I believe he does. He has proven himself to be a good rotational running back in the past, he plays well on special teams and he’s the best of the rest compared to the other running backs on the roster. His job status during the season, however, may be less secure than we realize.
Wide Receivers (6): TY Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr, Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Dezmon Patmon
Hilton, Pittman, Campbell and Pascal are all locks for the roster. Johnson is most likely going to make the roster due to his experience in the system and the fact that he’s proven the most out of any receiver besides the four listed. Patmon has a lot of talent and potential and that should earn him a spot over Fountain (who’s had his moments) and Dulin, who have been final cut hoverers for the last couple of seasons.
Tight Ends (4): Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, Mo Alie-Cox, Xavier Grimble
With Trey Burton expected to miss a few weeks, the Colts should roll with Doyle, Alie-Cox and Grimble to start the season. Doyle and Alie-Cox are locks to make the roster either way and Grimble is more than capable of playing 20-25% of snaps if needed.
Offensive Linemen (9): Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, Braden Smith, Le’Raven Clark, Danny Pinter, Jake Eldrenkamp, Carter O’Donnell
The first five names listed are going to be the starters with Le’Raven Clark as a primary, active roster backup. The final three is where it gets tricky. The Colts are thin along the offensive line, especially at offensive tackle which means guys like O’Donnell who probably don’t make it many other years have a good chance at cracking the final 53 this year. Eldrenkamp has been a player that Coach Frank Reich has mentioned as someone who can become a quality depth player and someone they expect to take a step forward this season. Pinter was a 5th round pick and his versatility should be valuable for a thin offensive line.
Defensive Linemen (9): Justin Houston, DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Ben Banogu, Al-Quadin Muhammed, Denico Autry, Sheldon Day, Tyquan Lewis, Robert Windsor
Houston, Buckner, Stewart, Banogu, Autry, Day, Muhammed are all locks for the active roster. Tyquan Lewis is most likely going to make the roster after having a strong training camp. Kemoko Turay, I believe, will start the season on the PUP list, which means he won’t count against the active roster until he’s activated. That leaves Robert Windsor, who’s size and versatility is what Eberflus seems to like on his defense.
Linebackers (5): Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker, Bobby Okereke, EJ Speed, Zaire Franklin
Leonard, Walker and Okereke are locks to make the roster. In today’s NFL of nickel defenses essentially being the base defense, teams mostly play with two linebackers so the need for having more than 5 linebackers on a roster is less and less important. Furthermore, Tavon Wilson, who makes the roster as a safety can play linebacker if needed. After the three listed, Speed and Franklin should make the roster for their special teams abilities.
Cornerbacks (5): Xavier Rhodes, Rock Ya-Sin, Kenny Moore III, TJ Carrie, Isaiah Rodgers
Rhodes, Ya-Sin, Moore and Carrie are locks to make the roster. After that, it’s scary how thin they are. Rodgers makes the roster as he’s had a good camp and finished the final scrimmage with a strong performance. Travis Reed and Lafayette Pitts both have a decent chance of making the roster, but with Blackmon’s versatility as a corner or safety, the Colts don’t need to keep a 6th cornerback.
Safeties (5): Malik Hooker, Khari Willis, George Odum, Julian Blackmon, Tavon Wilson
Honestly, all five of these players are locks or near locks to make the roster. They are either experienced starters, high draft picks or great special teams players. I’d be very surprised if these five players are not on the roster.
Special Teams (3)
Kicker (1): Chase McLaughlin
Punter (1): Rigoberto Sanchez
Long Snapper (1): Luke Rhodes
Sanchez and Rhodes are locks, so the only question was the kicker battle. While McLaughlin missed a couple of longer kicks in the final scrimmage, he’s been the better kicker for most of camp and he has NFL playing experience, whereas Blankenship does not.
To Start Season on PUP (1): Kemoko Turay
This Colts team has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but the big theme seems to be a lack of depth at certain key positions. The offensive line, cornerback and receiver positions lack a lot of depth, especially the offensive line and outside cornerback spots. Some positions like defensive line, running back and quarterback are very deep. In terms of starters, most of the group have good impact starters, but health will be a key issue at the receiver spot, specifically with TY Hilton and in the secondary with players like Kenny Moore and Malik Hooker.
While the secondary has a lot of question marks, there’s no question that the front 7 is significantly stronger with the addition of DeForest Buckner. On offense, the addition of Philip Rivers as well as two promising rookies in Michael Pittman Jr and Jonathan Taylor should give the offense a nice boost. The Colts should be able to improve on their 7-9 record from last season (barring any unforeseen injuries to key players) with this current roster.