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INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts were wrapping up their spring offseason program last month and Frank Reich didn’t have an answer.
He knows an answer to the question will eventually come, but it won’t be easy.
Reich was scouring his roster thinking about a decision that did not need to come for another 2 and a half months.
“I’m looking at all of our defensive linemen thinking, ‘Every one of those guys needs to make the team, but not everybody can,’” Reich thought.
“So I don’t know what we are going to do.”
The Colts will let 16 defensive line bodies battle it out come Training Camp at Grand Park.
Ideally, the Colts would like to play around 7 or 8 defensive linemen on game day, rotating guys so snap counts don’t rise above 60-65 percent for anyone up front.
Trying to cut this group down to less than 10 guys right now is very difficult.
In last year’s season opener, the Colts had 9 defensive linemen on their 53-man roster.
If they kept the same amount of D-line guys in 2019, that means 2 of the following names wouldn’t make the team: Grover Stewart, Jihad Ward, Al Quadin-Muhammad, Kemoko Turay and 2019 draft pick Gerri Green.
Outside of Green, all 4 of those guys offer different traits and provided some production, to varying degrees, last season.
The abundance in numbers, and quality, along the defensive line wasn’t there when Chris Ballard arrived in 2017.
Two of his earliest free agents signings were Jabaal Sheard and Margus Hunt. In 2018, Denico Autry followed. Then it was Justin Houston last year.
Draft pick resources up front include a trio of second rounders (2018: Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis, 2019: Ben Banogu).
Injuries, or trying Banogu again at linebacker, could certainly impact how this d-line group looks come September 1.
For now though, it has the head coach perplexed, and that’s exactly how Ballard wants it.
“When I first took the job,” Ballard says, ‘I told y’all that I know we’re getting it right when we are cutting players and they’re going and playing for other teams. When you’ve got a roster of – I mean you’re getting to 53 (guys). I always make the count when we get our roster to about 60-65 guys and that 54-65 is all of a sudden popping up (on other teams) – and that number might be a little high – that’s when you know you’re getting it right.
“I don’t know if we are there yet, but we are a lot closer than we were.”
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Trackside with Curt Cavin & Kevin Lee