Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

July 24, 2018 at 1:10 am.


QUARTERBACKS: Starter – Andrew Luck. Backups – Jacoby Brissett, Brad Kaaya, Phillip Walker.

If all goes well, Luck will be the starting quarterback for Indianapolis in 2018. The goal right now is to get the former No. 1 overall draft pick prepared after missing the 2017 season with a right shoulder injury. If he’s not ready to go early in the season, Brissett showed last year that he could handle the job over the long haul. He completed 276 of 469 passes for 3,098 yards and 13 touchdowns. Brissett did a pretty good job of protecting the ball as well with just seven interceptions. Luck and Brissett share size and a physical style of play, so the offense won’t have to be changed much if the backup has to play. Kaaya was an offseason roster addition and could end up on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter – Marlon Mack. Backups – Josh Ferguson, Nyheim Hines, Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Jordan Wilkins.

Turbin will miss the first four games of the regular season as he serves a league mandated PED suspension. That will give Mack an opportunity to show what he can do with an increased workload. He played well as a rookie in limited opportunities. Rookies Hines and Wilkins are also expected to be given a long look in the preseason. Hines is a former collegiate receiver and those skills will be put to the test early. Wilkins has drawn running style comparisons to Matt Forte. Michael missed all of last season with a leg injury. Ferguson is still trying to find his way into the rotation.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter – Jack Doyle. Backups – Mo Alie-Cox, Darrell Daniels, Eric Ebron, Erik Swoope, Ross Travis.

Doyle continues to impress as a starter. A former undrafted signee by the Titans, the Indianapolis native has returned home and become a fixture at the position. Doyle hauled in 80 passes for 690 yards and four touchdowns last season. The addition of Ebron as a veteran free-agent signing from Detroit should give the Colts offense some much needed flexibility. He will line up at tight end, H-Back and sometimes as a receiver. Travis played well in limited duty last year. Swoope is coming off a season-ending knee injury after playing well in 2016.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters – T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers. Backups – Dres Anderson, K.J. Brent, Deon Cain, Reece Fountain, Ryan Grant, Krishawn Hogan, Steve Ishmael, Seantavius Jones, Zach Pascal, Kasen Williams, James Wright.

Hilton remains as one of the league’s best big-play receivers. He caught 57 passes for 966 yards and four touchdowns in 2017. Rogers and Grant will fight it out for the No. 2 receiver position. Rogers has flashed in limited playing time after struggling with injuries last season. Grant is a veteran free-agent addition from Washington. Rookies Cain and Fountain are expected to push the veterans for playing time. Anderson, Brent and several other street free agents added to the roster during the offseason could surprise.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters – LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Quenton Nelson, C Ryan Kelly, RG Matt Slauson, RT Joe Haeg. Backups — C Deyshawn Bond, G Tyreek Burwell. G/T Le’Raven Clark, G Mark Glowinski, T/G Denzelle Good, T Austin Howard, T Jared Machorro, T/G Jack Mewhort, G Braden Smith, G Jeremy Vujnovich.

On paper, the Colts could have their best offensive line group since the Jeff Saturday-led group from the mid-2000s. Castonzo, Nelson, and Kelly were all first-round draft choices. Slauson was a veteran free-agent addition from the Chargers. Haeg can play all three offensive line positions although he is a natural guard. Goode, Clark, and Vujnovich have played well in backup roles. Mewhort could be a starter but injuries have slowed his career path. Bond started at center as an undrafted rookie last season when Kelly was injured before being sidelined for the season with a knee injury.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters – DE John Simon, DT Al Woods, DT Denico Autry, DE Jabaal Sheard. Backups – E Tarell Basham, T Johanthan Calvin, T/E Margus Hunt, E Anthony Johnson, T Tomasi Laulile, E/T Tyquan Lewis, E Chris McCain, T Rakeem Nunez-Roches, T Caraun Reid, T Hassan Ridgeway, T Grover Stewart.

Simon and Sheard were both outside linebackers in the previous defensive scheme, but will make the move to defensive end in the new 4-3 scheme. Woods, Autry, Hunt, Ridgeway and Johnson all have experience on their side. Basham is getting new life as a defensive end and will join rookie Lewis as part of a youth movement up front.

LINEBACKERS: Starters – OLB Anthony Walker, MLB Najee Goode, OLB Antonio Morrison. Backups – OLB Matthew Adams, OLB Tyrell Adams, OLB Zaire Franklin, ILB Jeremiah George, ILB Darius Leonard, OLB Skai Moore, OLB William Ossai.

There will be a good battle to figure out who will end up starting at linebacker in the Colts’ new 4-3 scheme. Walker, Goode and Morrison figure to have the edge going into training camp, but no starting jobs have been won just yet. Several rookies are going to make a strong push for playing time if OTA and minicamp practices were any indication. Matthew Adams, Franklin, Leonard and Moore all have an opportunity to earn starting roles this season. Moore was an undrafted free agent who caught the eye of Colts scouts and coaches. George will also get a good opportunity to work his way into the lineup.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters – CB Pierre Desir, S Malik Hooker, S Clayton Geathers, CB Quincy Wilson. Backups – CB Juante Baldwin, CB Lashard Durr, S Matthias Farley, CB Nate Hairston, CB Robert Jackson, S Ronald Martin, CB Chris Milton, CB Kenny Moore II, S George Odum, CB Henre Toliver, CB D.J. White.

Desir is the lone returning starter in the Colts secondary. Hooker and Geathers both battled injury issues last year. And Wilson had rookie consistency issues before finally working his way into the starting lineup late last season. He will get a chance to prove himself this year. The Colts have experienced depth in the secondary with Farley, Hairston, Milton, and Moore. Hairston got playing time at nickel cornerback early last season as a rookie. Farley filled in as a starter at safety with both Hooker and Geathers sidelined.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Adam Vinatieri, P Rigoberto Sanchez, LS Luke Rhodes, KOR Marlon Mack, PR Chester Rogers.

Vinatieri remains as one of most prolific placekickers in league history. He connected on 29-of-34 field-goal attempts last season, including going 5-of-6 from 50 yards. Not bad for one of the oldest players (45) in the NFL. Sanchez had a strong rookie season as the Colts punter, averaging 44.8 yards on 84 punts. He also handled Indianapolis’ kickoff duties. Rogers figures to get first dibs to be the Colts’ primary punt returner in 2018. He averaged 8.0 yards per return in 2017 (10 returns). Mack only had three kickoff returns as a rookie, but could see more work there this year. Josh Ferguson is also a candidate along with rookies Nyheim Hines and Deon Cain.




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