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Colts’ training camp battles to watch

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Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Mike Strachan vs. Dezmon Patmon

The wide receiver room is probably the biggest unknown in the Colts roster right now. The only receiver with over 20 catches in a single season is Michael Pittman Jr., other than him I would argue that every single spot is wide open. Last season there was a reasonable amount of hype both around Dezmon Patmon and Mike Strachan. Both are extremely athletic, tall receivers, and the two were considerably raw. Patmon managed to make an impact last year, catching a beautiful touchdown pass against the Cardinals in what was a must win game, while Strachan caught just two passes and was inactive for most of the season. This year, with the departures of Zach Pascal and T.Y. Hilton, there are plenty of targets right there for the taking, Strachan and Patmon will probably be fighting for the same role and a chance to show that they can be a playmaker in the NFL. Worth noting that Strachan is a 50-50 to suit for camp because of a knee procedure in the offseason, so preseason will be even more important for him.

Dayo Odeyingbo vs. Tyquan Lewis

Since Denico Autry left for the Titans the Colts have struggled to find that versatile defensive lineman that can replace what he could do all along the defensive front. This year, it looks like that spot will be filled by either Tyquan Lewis or Dayo Odeyingbo. Lewis was putting together a solid overall season, before a freak injury returning an interception forced him out for the year. Dayo started the year on the PuP list after an Achilles tear, but looked promising on limited reps when he got the chance to play. Hopefully both players are ready at 100%, as one can never have enough versatile players on the defensive line, but the way the rotations worked last season, and with Ngakoue now in the mix, there are only so many reps to go around.

JoJo Domann vs. Sterling Weatherford

This is the one I am the most excited about. JoJo was among my favourite sleeper players this draft, and I was over the moon when the Colts snagged him as a UDFA. Domann can play either safety, linebacker, or nickel cornerback, so his versatility is out of the question here. Weatherford is not as versatile as Domann, but he can play both at safety or as a linebacker, and has a much cleaner bill of health then JoJo, who suffered several season ending injuries while at college, and is rarely old for a rookie at 25-years old. While there is a possibility that both end up making the roster, Weatherford more as a backup linebacker and Domann as a jack of all trades, this will be a fun battle to watch all along training camp and preseason.

Marvell Tell vs. Brandon Facyson

Tell was among my candidates for a breakout 2020 season before he opted out of it due to COVID. After that, he was waived and then placed on the practice squad, where he spent the entirety of the 2021 season. Now back in the mix, Tell could challenge for a spot in the cornerback rotation, and has a chance to learn from one of the greatest cornerbacks in Stephon Gilmore. Facyson is a Gus Bradley favourite who started 9 games for the Raiders last season, so it will definitely be an uphill climb for Tell to get consistent, meaningful snaps.

Matt Pryor vs. Bernard Raimann

Acquired via trade with the Eagles at the start of last year, Pryor was really good when stepping in for both Eric Fisher and Braden Smith at times. His play was rewarded with a one-year contract with the Colts, and first shot at the left tackle position this upcoming year. Challenging him will be rookie tackle Bernard Raimann, drafted in the third round by the Colts. Many analysts had Raimann as a first-round caliber player, and his tape, especially taking into account how little football experience he has, is impressive. Whatever player starts, I will be much more comfortable than with Fisher/Davenport.

Parris Campbell vs. Nyheim Hines

From the footage I have watched from training camp so far, and what I have gathered from interviews, the Colts offense will look to give the electric Nyheim Hines more touches, and I would not be surprised to see him as the starting slot receiver. Parris Campbell, the more conventional choice, has had some terrible luck with injuries in his young career, but has been having a promising training camp, and looks to have developed a nice connection with new quarterback Matt Ryan.

Rodrigo Blankenship vs. Jake Verity

Blankenship had his ups and downs since establishing himself as the Colts’ starting kicker, but last season definitely was a bad one for him, as he struggled with injuries and his long chronicled struggles kicking from over 50 yards. Jake Verity spent a lot of time with the Ravens kicking coaches, the ones who developed Justin Tucker, and one of the greatest kickers of all time had some high praise for the young leg (if you want to read more on him, I highly recommend reading Joel Erickson’s article on him for IndyStar). I never understood the Colts’ loyalty to Blankenship, so Verity will need to have an outstanding training camp to beat him out, either that or Blankenship really struggles. So far it has been toe-to-toe between the kickers.