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INDIANAPOLIS – When Thursday’s sun rises, the back half of August will have arrived.
Days are ticking until the 2018 regular season openers around the NFL.
The Colts have just three days left of Training Camp at Grand Park, before they embark on a 3-game preseason slate over the course of 11 days.
With the vast majority of camp behind the Colts, let’s take a look at who has seen their stock go up, and those that have had their stock go down, in Westfield:
DE-John Simon: Slow hand raise if you thought Simon’s roster spot was in jeopardy back in the spring (okay, my hand is moving slowly). But seriously, Simon wasn’t even sniffing starting reps in the spring. He was running with the third team on an adjacent practice field at times. But with pads coming on at camp, some off the field issues surfacing and injuries playing a role, Simon has seen his stock ascend majorly at Grand Park. “The more intense things get, the better he gets,” is how Frank Reich describes Simon. The starting defensive end job opposite Jabaal Sheard isn’t settled just yet, but Simon being the guy on early downs (aka ‘starting’) looks to be very possible.
OL-Braden Smith: What a difference a week makes. All of a sudden, Braden Smith is in the thick of competing for the starting right tackle position, a spot he has had in each of the last three practices. In the spring, Smith seemed locked into being a backup right guard in 2018. The rookie was not playing right tackle at all. The staff was adamant that Smith was a guard. But injuries and poor play out at right tackle have opened things up. Smith could very well get some game reps at tackle on Monday night to prove his ability. Could Smith be going from a likely redshirt rookie campaign to a starter?
WR-K.J. Brent: Before Deon Cain’s season-ending injury, Brent was showing off his consistency and climbing into occasional first-team reps. At 6-3, Brent has a nice frame that could complement the smaller wideouts atop the depth chart. The Colts need to find No. 4 and No. 5 wide receivers to fill out that skill group. If you were picking Brent to be one of those now, you wouldn’t find too many objections from those that have watched things at Grand Park.
RB-Jordan Wilkins: Suspensions and injuries have opened the door for Wilkins. But credit the rookie, too, for making sure he was walking through it with authority. Wilkins has been a very nice Day 3 surprise for the Colts and his presence is going to be needed big time early in the season. The Colts trust Wilkins and that’s not a word you typically use with much confidence for a rookie. When everything was seeming to unravel for the offense last Thursday night in the 4th quarter, Wilkins was making something out of nothing. That left a strong impression on the staff.
CB-Kenny Moore: Chris Ballard warned us before the start of camp that Moore was a player. Well, Moore might just be the Colts’ most important corner. The 5-9 second-year player has been lining up as a starting cornerback on the outside, or in the nickel, seemingly every day at Grand Park. Moore has been the most constant body out there at corner, with the Colts rotating plenty of guys. Frank Reich is a fan of Moore: “Kenny is a prototype player of what we are looking for in toughness, smart, just his approach, the attitude and how he works every day. He’s shown a level of consistency, whether he’s outside or inside.”
OT-Austin Howard: It’s been quite a fall for the 330-pound Howard, who signed a 1-year $4 milliion deal. This guy was the favorite to start at right tackle entering camp. That looked even more likely when Denzelle Good injured his hamstring early on. But Howard has lost his starting spot and seems to have slid even further down the depth chart. Right now, the Colts are turning to Braden Smith, Joe Haeg and J’Marcus Webb ahead of Howard. And that’s with Good still sidelined. Could Howard go from a possible 2018 starter to missing the team entirely?
LB-Antonio Morrison: Morrison might make the team, but only as a special teams player. I’m not sure if we’ve seen more than a handful of starting reps for Morrison this camp. In order, I would probably rank these linebackers as the most frequent starters: Darius Leonard, Najee Goode, Skai Moore, Anthony Walker, Tyrell Adams and Zaire Franklin. When you start penciling out a 53-man roster, it’s tough for me to find a spot for Morrison, but this staff hasn’t totally written him off just yet.
DE-Tarell Basham: Amongst the jumble at defensive end, Basham has fallen out of consistent starting reps. Lately, the Colts have turned to John Simon or Margus Hunt at defensive end, opposite Jabaal Sheard. Now, Basham could still factor into a third-down role if he can flash on passing downs in the preseason. In the spring, Basham was an every down starter at defensive end. That hasn’t been the case at all in the past couple of weeks.
DE-Kemoko Turay/Tyquan Lewis: While fellow second-round picks in Darius Leonard and Braden Smith are in the mix for starting jobs (Leonard has his), the other Round 2 selections have been observing much more lately. Even when healthy, Turay wasn’t factoring into too many starting reps, despite the first depth chart indicating he was a starter. Lewis was flashing in 1-on-1 drills, before he went down with an injury. Playmaking from the defensive front is a major question for the Colts, so it would benefit these two (and the team) if they could get back to health and find a role in 2018.
LB-Anthony Walker: You hate putting injured guys on this list, but we can’t ignore availability. Walker was definitely the starting MIKE throughout the spring and early in camp. But a groin injury has sidelined him since the first night practice of camp (back on July 29). The good news for Walker is two rookies, in Skai Moore and Zaire Franklin, are behind him, so the competition isn’t experienced at all. Still, for Walker to secure that starting role, he needs to get healthy quick.
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