INDIANAPOLIS – Over 20 practices, including 2 joint sessions with the Carolina Panthers, have come and gone.
The Colts played three preseason games, too.
Across that time, they’ve been able to evaluate their roster with position battles on both sides of the ball turning pretty competitive.
Who won the Colts position battles?
Running Back Reps
We know the Colts are going to rotate backs to some degree. That’s how Frank Reich rolls.
But no one walked away from Grand Park realizing that Jonathan Taylor is a different talent and should be treated like that with reps.
Taylor needs No. 1 running back touches this fall.
After Taylor, you have the dynamic and versatile Nyheim Hines deserving of a consistent role.
To me, Jordan Wilkins should be above Marlon Mack on the depth chart, if you want a third running back to work into the rotation.
Filling Out The Wide Receiver Group
As expected, we didn’t see really any changes to the top four names on the WR depth chart in camp: T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman, Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell.
But the neck injury to Hilton started to complicate things late in camp.
The Colts found room for both of their young, and intriguing, big wideouts—Mike Strachan and Dezmon Patmon. Now, Patmon will miss at least three games due to a foot injury.
Ashton Dulin still has his spot thanks to his prowess on special teams. And don’t forget about Keke Coutee, who is healthy, on the practice squad, as a more proven option in the slot.
It’s going to be a pick of what Frank Reich wants skillset wise to round out his WR group.
Offensive Line Depth
Despite the Colts making several moves to bolster their offensive line depth this offseason, not much of it turned into actual roster spots.
When healthy, Sam Tevi was woeful and then tore his ACL in the preseason finale.
Will Holden got a chance at left tackle and that didn’t go well. He was cut at the end of the preseason.
In the interior, the Colts didn’t like what they saw from Joey Hunt in his extended duty.
Now, Julie’n Davenport did ‘win’ the left tackle job, after misses from Tevi and Holden.
Newcomer Chris Reed is probably the top interior backup entering the season.
Out at tackle, look for Matt Pryor—who the Colts traded with the Eagles for last week—to be the top guy on the edge.
When Eric Fisher returns, that would bump Davenport back into the depth group, with rookie Will Fries another interior option.
Starting Defensive Ends
Kwity Paye is the Colts starter at right defensive end in 2021.
Opposite Paye though is a little bit more of a question.
Right now, it looks like Al-Quadin Muhammad will get the first look there, ahead of Tyquan Lewis.
At the start of camp, Lewis was the guy there. But the job Lewis occupied for the first few weeks of camp went away due to a shoulder injury. That’s when Muhammad, who missed time early in camp due to being on the COVID-list, began starting for Lewis.
With Lewis back to practice, it appears that Muhammad is still the first guy at that left defensive end spot. Muhammad does have 8 career starts.
When passing downs arise, look for Kemoko Turay to get his chance on the field. Ben Banogu is likely still more of a rotational player series to series.
I’m going with Zaire Franklin in this role.
The Colts felt like when Anthony Walker left that Franklin could handle the departing duties.
Leadership wise, the Colts love Franklin and he has seen action before in some run-heavy situations.
If you want more of a skillset suited to play against pass-happy teams, then E.J. Speed could be the option in base personnel.
Still, depth behind Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke is a question.
Did Rock Ya-Sin win this job by default? Or by availability?
It appears that’s the case.
Xavier Rhodes and Kenny Moore are the team’s top cornerbacks.
The third job had Ya-Sin and T.J. Carrie battling, with Marvell Tell and Isaiah Rodgers hoping to push for playing time.
With Carrie looking to be in the lead, he went down with a knee injury in the preseason opener and just returned a few days ago.
Ya-Sin was up and down in camp, but he looks to be the third cornerback entering the season.
Now, the Colts did make a pair of waiver claims to add longer corners in Thakarius Keyes and Chris Wilcox.
It’s clear Ballard isn’t in love with this position group and its depth. But Ya-Sin is likely the third corner in the important nickel package to start the season.
This was amazing to watch unfold.
With more than 20 kicks each, both Rodrigo Blankenship and Eddy Pineiro banged home every single kick through the uprights. They did not miss a single kick at Grand Park or in preseason action.
Bringing the incumbent status with him to camp, Hot Rod rightfully retained his job as the team’s placekicker.
Major credit to both guys, but especially Blankenship.
The Colts tested him, and the challenger did exactly what he was supposed to do to push Hot Rod.
And Hot Rod answered by giving him no chance to inch towards his job.