INDIANAPOLIS – It’s time to settle the battles.
Training camp is here for the 2021 Indianapolis Colts with 19 practices and 3 preseason games to settle some intriguing camp battles
What are the position battles to watch at the Colts 2021 training camp?
Running Back Reps:
There’s not a lot of debate around the names at this position.
The Colts have one of the best/most diverse running back groups in the entire NFL.
But dividing up those carries and involving them in weekly game plans will be a mystery each week.
That’s maddening for fantasy football owners, but a luxury for Frank Reich, as long as he can find the proper balance.
Jonathan Taylor is the bell cow, but what does that mean from a carry standpoint (18-to-20 per game)?
Nyheim Hines has proven that he needs a consistent role every single game. But how his touches play out is not crystal clear (10-to-12 touches per game)?
And then you have former 1,000-yard rusher Marlon Mack returning from a torn Achilles and bringing quite the resume to the backup spot. Is a healthy Mack someone that should be eating into Taylor’s carries (for a series each half? More?)?
Filling Out The Wide Receiver Group:
It was a surprise, to me, to hear Chris Ballard pretty vocal about this position debate.
We know the top four names at wide receiver (in whatever order you want): T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal.
If healthy, those are the top 4 guys.
After them though, you have several paths to go down in completing the 53-man roster at wide receiver.
You’ve got bigger targets in Dezmon Patmon (6-4) and rookie Mike Strachan (6-5).
You have shiftier options in DeMichael Harris and J.J. Nelson (1,475 career receiving yards).
And then Ashton Dulin has been a special teams mainstay for the last two seasons.
How the Colts fill No. 5 and potentially the No. 6 spot at wideout will be something to watch.
Offensive Line Depth
This won’t draw a ton of headlines from it, but we saw last season how important it can be.
If/when healthy, the Colts starting offensive line is locked: LT-Eric Fisher, LG-Quenton Nelson, C-Ryan Kelly, RG-Mark Glowinski, RT-Braden Smith.
The depth spots in 2021 should have more experience though, even if the exact names are a little up in the air.
At tackle, you have Sam Tevi (24 career starts), Julie’n Davenport (28 career starts) and Will Holden (8 career starts).
In the interior, you have Chris Reed (23 career starts) and Danny Pinter (1 career start).
Starting Defensive Ends
We have to head to the defensive side of the ball to find that true ‘open’ starting job up for grabs.
For me, it’s both the defensive end spots.
Exiting the spring, it appeared that the 2 starting positions on the outside of DT-Grover Stewart and DT-DeForest Buckner would come down to 3 names: Tyquan Lewis, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Kwity Paye.
When you go to your sub package, that’s when a guy like Kemoko Turay (if healthy) comes into play.
Some other names that should be mentioned are Isaac Rochell and Ben Banogu.
It might be premature to call the ‘3 for 2’ starting competition at defensive end, but that’s my belief entering camp.
For the first time since 2018, the Colts do not know who will be their third linebacker when using base personnel.
Anthony Walker’s departure has opened up some reps, especially when playing run-heavy teams.
Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke are not coming off the field. We know that.
Using a third linebacker isn’t as abundant as it used to be, but when you have the Titans in your division, it’s something to note.
Internally, the Colts think Zaire Franklin can be a presence in this role. Franklin has much more of a run-down body than the lankier/more athletic E.J. Speed.
This is a pseudo starter.
Any team in the NFL is using at least 3 cornerbacks in more than 70 percent of defensive snaps.
The Colts have two corners who should not come off the field: Xavier Rhodes and Kenny Moore.
But completing that nickel package is a massive part to having proper defensive personnel in today’s NFL.
Heading into Grand Park, veteran T.J. Carrie is ahead of Rock Ya-Sin for that 3rd corner spot (which is really the No. 2 outside cornerback when Kenny Moore slides inside).
It will be interesting to see if a Marvell Tell or Isaiah Rodgers can challenge those two for some reps.