Well, training camp is finally about to be here, so it is time for a new projected depth chart. You will notice some changes from the last edition. There will be some promising players placed on the practice squad, and veteran players who will be cut. If the regular season began this weekend, this is what I think the 53-man roster would look like.
On offense, there is a chance Donald Brown does not make the final roster. I believe that specifically hinges on the health of Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot injury. Will the Colts really run the ball enough to give anyone else not named Bradshaw or Ballard many carries? Brown is the kind of player who probably just needs a fresh start elsewhere – much like Darrius Heyward-Bey did getting away from Oakland. As long as he can get and stay healthy, Brown deserves to be seeing 10-15 carries a game in another uniform.
LaVon Brazill and Weslye Saunders also do not make this final roster. As you would guess, their off the field decision-making is what puts the nail in the coffin on their tenure with the Colts. Brazill will be suspended for the first four games, and Saunders the first eight for drug and performance-enhancing drugs, respectively. They were already in jeopardy of being leap-frogged on the roster before their suspensions were announced. Brazill has a bevy of talent behind him at wide receiver. Griff Whalen, Jeremy Kelley and Nathan Palmer all have the ability to shine in his absence. It is a strong possibility that at least one of these three makes Brazill expendable. As far as Saunders goes, it is not that big of a decision to replace a third-string tight end that was rarely used in the passing game, and was mostly used to block in goal line and short yardage situations. The Colts drafted tight end Justice Cunningham and have Dominique Jones already on the roster – two players who share Saunders’ skill set.
On the offensive line, the coaching staff seems eager to see how third-year player Ben Ijalana does following two serious knee injuries. He has the talent to eventually start on the line at guard or tackle, but just has to get healthy. If he makes it through training camp unscathed, I give him a roster spot. The rest of the reserves on the offensive line are also able to play multiple positions on the line – a trait that the Colts have relished for years. Jeff Linkenbach, Joe Reitz and Ijalana can all play guard and tackle, and Khaled Holmes and Mike McGlynn can both play guard and center.
Quarterback – Andrew Luck, (2) Matthew Hasselbeck
Runningback – Vick Ballard, (2) Ahmad Bradshaw, (3) Kerwynn Williams
H-Back – Stanley Havili, (2) Dwayne Allen
Wide Receiver – Reggie Wayne, (2) T.Y. Hilton, (3) Nathan Palmer
Wide Receiver – Darrius Heyward-Bey, (2) Griff Whalen
Tight End – Coby Fleener, (2) Dwayne Allen, (3) Justice Cunningham
Left Tackle – Anthony Castonzo, (2) Jeff Linkenbach
Left Guard – Donald Thomas, (2) Joe Reitz
Center – Samson Satele, (2) Khaled Holmes
Right Guard – Hugh Thornton, (2) Mike McGlynn
Right Tackle – Gosder Cherilus, (2) Ben Ijalana
The tough competition on the defense will lead to some talented, promising players heading to the practice squad or free agency. I feel the Colts will send rookie Montori Hughes to the practice squad, although I am sure he will make appearances on the active roster at some point during the year. He will just be the victim of high competition leading to not enough roster spots to hand out.
There are no changes in the linebacking squad. Erik Walden will likely start Week 1 opposite Robert Mathis, but I guarantee that Bjoern Werner will be the starter on the left side before the season ends.
Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Darius Butler and Cassius Vaughn should remain the top four presumed cornerbacks on the roster. After them, it gets interesting as there is some intriguing talent behind the group and only a limited amount of roster spots available. I see Teddy Williams taking the fifth and final cornerback spot to begin the year. He made appearances last year and should really start to get in the groove of being an NFL cornerback during training camp. At safety, Antoine Bethea and LaRon Landry are the unquestioned starters, but there is also a logjam of talent behind them, as well. Although Joe Lefeged was arrested recently, I believe he will still make the team. He has not been handed any suspension thus far, and was actually a special teams captain in 2012. Another factor leading to the need for Lefeged is that rookie John Boyett may begin the season on the PUP Inactive list to give him more time to heal from his offseason knee surgeries. After Bethea, Landry and Lefeged, I give Sergio Brown and undrafted rookie Daxton Swanson the nod. I think Brown has shown his value enough to keep around, and I have a good feeling about Swanson. I think he will really shine in training camp and the pre-season by making plays all over the field, both on special teams and when he is given the opportunity on defense.
Left Defensive End – Cory Redding, (2) Drake Nevis
Nose Tackle – Josh Chapman, (2) Aubrayo Franklin, (3) Martin Tevaseu
Right Defensive End – Ricky Jean-Francois, (2) Fili Moala
Left Outside Linebacker –Erik Walden, (2) Bjoern Werner, (3) Lawrence Sidbury
Left Inside Linebacker – Pat Angerer, (2) Kelvin Sheppard
Right Inside Linebacker – Jerrell Freeman, (2) Kavell Conner
Right Outside Linebacker – Robert Mathis, (2) Justin Hickman
Left Cornerback – Vontae Davis, (2) Darius Butler
Free Safety – Antoine Bethea, (2) Sergio Brown, (3) Daxton Swanson
Strong Safety – LaRon Landry, (2) Joe Lefeged
Right Cornerback – Greg Toler, (2) Cassius Vaughn, (3) Teddy Williams
No surprises and no changes to the special teams unit. The trio of Matt Overton, Pat McAfee and Adam Vinatieri will remain intact, barring injury. Kerwynn Williams has been rumored to be the main kick returner since he was drafted, and we have all seen what the electric T.Y. Hilton can do while returning punts.
Kick Returner – Kerwynn Williams, (2) Cassius Vaughn
Punt Returner – T.Y. Hilton
Kicker – Adam Vinatieri
Holder – Pat McAfee
Punter – Pat McAfee
Long Snapper – Matt Overton
These players may not make the final 53-man roster to begin the season, but are young and inexperienced enough to be placed on the8-player practice squad. If they do, you may see them bounced back and forth from the practice squad to the active roster based on what positions the team may be short on week-to-week. Just because these players make the practice squad and not the final 53-man roster does not mean they are not talented. The Colts are just lucky enough to have quality depth at several positions. Many of these players should pop into the game-day lineup at some point during the regular season.
Chandler Harnish, Quarterback
Dan Moore, Fullback
Jeremy Kelley, Wide Receiver
Emmett Cleary, Offensive Tackle
Robert Griffin, Offensive Guard
Montori Hughes, Defensive Lineman
Josh McNary, Outside Linebacker
Sheldon Price, Cornerback