INDIANAPOLIS – Things are about to get very real.
NFL teams must cut their current rosters (around 80 players) down to 53 by this Saturday at 4:00 PM.
Beginning this Sunday, once players clear waivers, teams can assemble 16-person practice squads (with COVID rules increasing that number this season). During game weeks this season, the active roster will grow to 55 players, and 48 dressing on game day, with the promotion of two practice squad players.
With that, here is my final 53-man roster projection (first number listed the number kept at each position, second number listed the number kept at that spot last year):
Quarterbacks (3/2): Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason*, Chad Kelly, Philip Rivers
Bowen’s Analysis: Eason ‘beats’ out Kelly for the 3rd QB spot. I’m not risking a talented prospect like Eason on waivers. He might not play a snap in 2020, but his long-term potential is enough to occupy a 53-man roster spot. If things work out, I’d look into getting Chad Kelly on the practice squad.
Running Backs (4/4): Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor*, Jordan Wilkins
Bowen’s Analysis: Honestly, if the running back group is healthy, then Wilkins will have a minuscule role on game day (if one at all), outside of some special teams reps. But just one injury to a Mack or Taylor, and the need for Wilkins skyrockets. A 4th running back is a luxury, but it seems like the Colts will want to carry that number, and not risk Wilkins to the waiver wire/practice squad.
Wide Receivers (5/6): Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin, Reece Fountain, DeMichael Harris*, T.Y. Hilton, Marcus Johnson, Zach Pascal, Dezmon Patmon*, Michael Pittman*
Bowen’s Analysis: If/when Colts start placing some guys on injured reserve (to return) this weekend, that could open up the door for a wideout to climb onto the 53-man roster. This is tough for me—Johnson has proven the most, Patmon probably has the most upside, Fountain again showed a few flashes this camp and Dulin can help you out the most in Week 1. I still believe Dulin is making the team for special teams. Now, the Colts might view Dulin as an easy guy to initially sneak through waivers, and don’t want to risk a Patmon, Johnson or Fountain on the waiver wire. In an ideal health world, the Colts would have a spot for Johnson, with Patmon and Fountain developing on the practice squad. Similar to a 4th running back, the need for a No. 5 wideout on game day is really non-existent.
Tight Ends (4/3): Mo Alie-Cox, Trey Burton, Dominique Dafney, Jack Doyle, Farrod Green*, Xavier Grimble, Andrew Vollert
Bowen’s Analysis: A week ago, this position had just 3 guys making the 53-man roster. But the injury to Trey Burton means another tight end is needed on the 53-man roster. I’ve got Grimble beating out Green. Is it Green or bust to continue the undrafted free agent streak to 22 straight years? Let’s place Burton in the ‘IR candidate’ group, meaning he must first make the 53-man roster, before going on injured reserve, with the belief that he can return later this season. Players must be on IR for at least three weeks in 2020, and if Burton’s calf injury is going to sideline him for a month, this would be a wise move for the Colts.
Offensive Line (8/8): Anthony Castonzo, Le’Raven Clark, Jake Eldrenkamp, Mark Glowinski, Chaz Green, Brandon Hitner, Joey Hunt, Ryan Kelly, Carter O’Donnell*, Quenton Nelson, Javon Patterson, Danny Pinter*, Braden Smith
Bowen’s Analysis: I hate keeping just 8 offensive linemen, but I look at the depth of this group and think is there really a 9th guy that I desperately need to keep? Probably not. Green (tackle), Hunt (center) and O’Donnell (tackle) are the three that I thought about, but I can put a couple of them on the practice squad, while scouring the waiver wire for another tackle. Again, the need on game day for an 8th or 9th offensive lineman is not needed.
Defensive Line (10/10): Denico Autry, Ben Banogu, DeForest Buckner, Kameron Cline, Sheldon Day, Gerri Green, Justin Houston, Tyquan Lewis, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Taylor Stallworth, Grover Stewart, Kemoko Turay, Chris Williams*, Rob Windsor*
Bowen’s Analysis: The two names to watch on this list are Day (knee injury) and Turay (ankle injury). Day has yet to practice in full pads after needing surgery on his knee earlier this summer. If healthy, Day figures to have a notable rotational role in the interior. But he could be that injured reserve (to return) candidate, once initially making the 53-man roster. Turay has also yet to practice, and remains on the physically unable to perform list. He doesn’t look far off, but his roster spot is something that could be played with. Although his absence doesn’t appear to be extending that far into the regular season, so I’m bringing him off PUP. Keeping 10 defensive linemen is a lot, but something Chris Ballard did last year. This is the deepest position group on the team, so I’m acknowledging that, along with realizing they have some injury situations to sift through. And it’s worth repeating, no one should be surprised if a guy like Burton or Day ends up on injured reserve (to return) this Sunday, thus opening up two roster spots very quickly in the season.
Linebackers (6/6): Matthew Adams, Zaire Franklin, Jordan Glasgow*, Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke, EJ Speed, Anthony Walker
Bowen’s Analysis: I would not be stunned if this group kept all 7 linebackers on the 53-man roster. But I have to carry some ‘injured’ guys initially and need to take away a spot or two for that. So, the linebacker position is where I’ll take away a number, and hope to get Adams onto the practice squad. Initially, I thought I would go with Adams over Glasgow, but I think it’s easier to get a three-year vet (Adams) through waivers than a 6th round pick (Glasgow). The Colts really, really like the special teams value for guys Franklin.
Cornerbacks (5/6): T.J. Carrie, Andre Chachere, Kenny Moore, Lafayette Pitts, Jackson Porter, Travis Reed*, Xavier Rhodes, Isaiah Rodgers*, Tremon Smith, Rock Ya-Sin
Bowen’s Analysis: You might be a number short here, but I just don’t see a 6th cornerback (hello, Marvell Tell) warranting a roster spot. The versatility of Carrie to play inside and out is coming in handy. Chachere, Pitts and Smith have all had their moments in camp. And Reed, an undrafted rookie, is an impressive looking corner physically.
Safeties (5/4): Julian Blackmon*, Malik Hooker, George Odum, Donald Rutledge*, Khari Willis, Tavon Wilson
Bowen’s Analysis: Initially, the thought was Julian Blackmon would start the season on the physically unable to perform list. But his call-up this week has Blackmon earning a 53-man roster spot. The Colts really like their safety depth, so I’m keeping 5 names here, with help coming in sub packages and special teams.
Specialists (3/3): K-Rodrigo Blankenship*, K-Chase McLaughlin, LS-Luke Rhodes, P-Rigoberto Sanchez
Bowen’s Analysis: It’s been a pretty good race, but a close battle to me has the incumbent in McLaughlin winning the job.