Many around the NFL believed the Indianapolis Colts’ wide receiver corps was not amongst their strongest positions. However, it’s been proven wrong with emphasis throughout training camp and preseason action.
Colts GM Chris Ballard bet big on his young core of wideouts further developing, passing on free agent options outside of re-signing veteran T.Y. Hilton. Bringing Hilton back to the mix was a necessity when you see how young Indy’s WRs are, but there’s a ton of upside littered within the group.
Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell are poised for strong 2021-22 campaigns, while the ever-reliable Zach Pascal continues to be a mainstay within the rotation.
Outside of the top four featuring Hilton, Pittman Jr., Campbell and Pascal, the final two roster spots were going to be an intense battle between multiple players. Right now, it’s become a three-man race for two spots on the 53-man roster between 2020 sixth-round pick Dezmon Patmon, special teams ace Ashton Dulin, and 2021 7th-round pick Michael Strachan.
With one week of training camp remaining up at Grand Park, plus the preseason finale in Detroit against the Lions, we’re beginning to crystalize a better picture of what to expect for roster cut-downs. And on Saturday in Minnesota, the WR 5/6 roles may have officially been cemented in ink.
Strachan has been one of the biggest storylines throughout the offseason for Indianapolis. Standing at 6-foot-5 and nearly 230 pounds, the big-bodied wideout continuously making plays in camp and preseason has helped him leapfrog above Patmon and Dulin as the fifth wideout on the depth chart. Recently, Strachan has even seen some run with the starting unit. It’s easy to envision a role for Strachan where he’s exclusively used in the red zone during his rookie season.
For the final spot at wide receiver, where Indianapolis has tended to keep six on their main roster, it’s between Patmon and Dulin. During their two preseason games against Carolina and Minnesota, Patmon has continuously flashed as a receiver who can win on multiple levels of the field. Patmon has reeled in nine of his 11 targets totaling 109 yards, becoming one of the most consistent pass catchers for Indianapolis in the month of August.
The one big moment for Patmon was when he was on special teams, though. Late in the fourth quarter against Minnesota, Patmon helped down a punt inside the five-yard line with 12 seconds remaining. Recently, Patmon and Strachan have been taking reps at gunner to give Dulin competition there. Patmon aced his in-game test on special teams, which solidified a very solid outing for the second-year pro from Washington State.
Comparing all three of Strachan, Patmon and Dulin, you have to play the betting game on who has the better chance of clearing waivers making it back onto Indianapolis’ practice squad. At this moment, there’s no way either of Strachan or Patmon make it through waivers. They would be claimed somewhere around the NFL with the flashes they’ve shown in training camp and preseason.
Although losing Dulin is a risky proposition for the Colts, proving to be one of their most consistent special teams players over the last few seasons, it’s what needs to be done to keep two promising young wideouts on their roster.
Outside of the locked in top four wide receivers for the Colts, Strachan and Patmon are creating much-needed separation from Dulin for the final spots on the 53-man roster. The Colts are finding late-round gems fitting the big-bodied mold Ballard and head coach Frank Reich seem to covet nowadays.
Now, after a strong last few weeks from the both of them, they feel like safe bets to become official keepers on Indianapolis’ roster loaded with depth across the board.