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INDIANAPOLIS – When Training Camp opened up three weeks ago, several position battles had questions left:
-Who would be the linebackers?
-How would the cornerback situation play itself out?
-Was the offensive line truly fixed?
Inevitably, new position battles always arise in camp and that’s certainly happened for the Colts in 2018.
What starting reps and playing time remain up in the air?
-Right Tackle: At the end of the offseason program, Jim Irsay said the Colts were hoping Denzelle Good would supplant Austin Howard as the team’s starting right tackle. Those June wishes have not come to fruition at Grand Park. Instead, with Good sidelined for two weeks due to a hamstring injury, and Howard seemingly demoted for poor play, the Colts have turned to other names in the competition at right tackle. Rookie Braden Smith has been the starter at right tackle following Week One of the preseason, when the Colts used J’Marcus Webb with the first-team offense. Even the versatile Joe Haeg has seen some starting reps out on the perimeter. When Good gets back to health (supposedly soon), he probably is the slight ‘favorite’ but this is a battle that is truly wide open at the midway point of August.
-Defensive End: Coming into camp, Tarell Basham was the definite favorite to start opposite Jabaal Sheard. Basham was the starter in each of the 6 open media sessions during the spring. But it didn’t take long for the Colts to shuffle some things at the other end spot. Lately, Margus Hunt (moving over from defensive tackle) and John Simon have been the two most popular starters. Rookie Kemoko Turay has been injured for the past week and a half, so his role as a rookie remains murky. No matter who starts at defensive end, expect this position to see some rotating when passing downs arise.
-MIKE Linebacker: Like defensive end, the MIKE linebacker position saw a consistent starter throughout the offseason program. Anthony Walker’s starting job took a hit when he tweaked his groin back on July 29. He’s been sidelined since, so the Colts have tried rookies Skai Moore and Zaire Franklin in place of Walker. Experience is almost a non-factor when predicting this trio of young linebackers competing. Once Walker does return, he still should be viewed as the favorite.
–Cornerback: The depth chart says Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore are the starters. In last Thursday’s preseason opener, it was Quincy Wilson over Desir in the starting lineup. Honestly, Moore has probably been the most consistent starter at corner. He offers needed versatility as a slot corner, too. The Colts are still rotating plenty of bodies at corner, but 2 of these 3 names will likely start Week One, with Moore probably the leader of the pack.
-Running Back Reps: This is a position group that has changed a lot with the suspension of Robert Turbin for 4 games and then Marlon Mack going down in the preseason opener. Mack’s injury has opened up the door for reps in the preseason going to guys like Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines and Christine Michael. If Mack can return by the end of the month, he should still be good to start Week One. Wilkins has emerged as a possible backup, with the ability to play on multiple downs. Still, Hines and Michael have received plenty of starting run as well with the Colts adhering to their ‘running back by committee’ approach.