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INDIANAPOLIS – The preseason schedule is now halfway complete for the Indianapolis Colts, with just one more preseason game coming for the vast majority of starters.
After Saturday’s contest with the 49ers, the definite starters for the Colts will not see the field again until Sept. 9, when the Bengals come to Lucas Oil Stadium for the start of the regular season.
Following 18 practices in Westfield and half the preseason, here’s a look at the current depth for the Colts (*injury note):
- With Mack out since the preseason opener, and Robert Turbin missing the first 4 games of the season, the Colts have been a bit confusing with how they’ve handled the lead running back reps in practice versus the game. We will keep Mack on this list for now, assuming he can be good to go for Week One. But hamstring injuries can be nagging, and with Mack’s game so predicated on speed, guys like Jordan Wilkins and Christine Michael will be needed early in the season. Michael started on Monday night, after Wilkins had been seeing more of those ‘starting’ reps as of late. No matter, the Colts will be relying on those two a good amount early in the year, especially if Mack is limited, with fellow rookie Nyheim Hines still in the mix in this running back by committee approach.
- There’s no longer a question of the top two wideouts. It’s all about behind Hilton and Grant. The No. 3 spot should go to Chester Rogers. Grant’s consistency and reliability separates him from Rogers, although both dropped catchable balls on Monday night. After that, the Colts have some decisions to make on the likes of Reece Fountain, K.J. Brent, Krishawn Hogan, Kasen Williams, etc.
- The top two tight ends are also obvious. But the Colts are going to part ways with some talented tight end (or two) come roster cuts. Darrell Daniels was used as the rare fullback during Training Camp.
- When Anthony Castonzo returns, he’s the definite left tackle. Without Castonzo, the Colts have lately turned to Le’Raven Clark and J’Marcus Webb to try and find a backup. With Castonzo likely out of practice until September, Clark becomes very important as an insurance policy on the blindside. The interior three spots are set. Right tackle is anyone’s guess. So many questions remain. Are Austin Howard’s starting days done after he was a starter for 16 games in Baltimore last season? When will Denzelle Good return to practice after injuring his hamstring during camp? Is rookie Braden Smith ready to be a starting NFL tackle? Did the Colts find something in J’Marcus Webb returning to football this season? It’s never good to have this many names involved in a starting offensive lineman spot just a few weeks before the start of the regular season. No one can be viewed as a clear favorite at right tackle. Smith did do a decent job out there on Monday night. It sounds like Good will be returning to practice this week. Smith and Good should probably viewed as the slight ‘favorites’ right now.
LB (WILL)-Darius Leonard
LB (MIKE)-Anthony Walker*
LB (SAM)-Najee Goode
- The likes of Sheard, Autry and Woods have been starters since the spring. But Hunt is the surprise. Just how much of a surprise has Hunt been as a starter? The Colts’ official depth chart has him as a third-team defensive end right now. But Hunt had a great camp and has been the starter opposite Sheard for more than a week now. John Simon should still be looked at as a guy very much in the mix, particularly on early downs. Simon continued to make plays on Monday night. Will the Colts turn to a Tarell Basham, who has fallen majorly on the depth chart, when third downs arrive? Is, a now healthy, rookie Kemoko Turay going to push for passing down time? Right now, those answers are no.
- Leonard and Goode are locks to start. But Walker’s grip on the starting job has loosened quite a bit due to a lingering groin injury. With Walker missing a bunch of time at Grand Park, rookies Skai Moore and Zaire Franklin entered the starting mix. Walker’s return to health is needed soon or else the Colts might be turning to a rookie, with Moore showing some 3-down ability. Frank Reich said on Monday that Walker’s return might not come until September. Tyrell Adams is another name we’ve occasionally seen out there, as more of a SAM linebacker option.
- Just last week, the Colts were rotating 6 different cornerbacks in the starting base and nickel defenses. That’s a crazy amount at this point of August. Moore should probably be viewed as the most important corner given his ability to slide inside to play nickel. On Monday, it was Nate Hairston sliding into the starting base defense, with Desir actually the 3rd corner. Quincy Wilson is still definitely in the mix to be a starter, as well, after a nice Monday performance. Frank Reich has said this starting job and defensive end will both play out through the 49ers game on Saturday.
- The safeties are healthy and should be in the lineup Week 1 against the Bengals. After Geathers returned to game action against Baltimore, the Colts are targeting Saturday’s matchup with the 49ers for Hooker’s return.
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