With the NFL Draft now in the rearview mirror, the Indianapolis Colts have focused ahead on the 2022 season.
Many players have already descended upon Indianapolis as the offseason program is well underway.
The Colts are trying desperately to put the collapse of 2021 behind them and focus on being a true contender next season. A lot of change has happened over at W 56th Street since that embarrassing afternoon in Jacksonville, with new coaches and players joining the team.
Nothing is set in stone now, as we are only approaching the middle of May, but it is always fun to look at the roster and predict who will be seeing the most playing time when the season arrives. So, here is a way-too-early look at how I see the Colts’ depth chart playing out once we get to Week 1.
Note: * denotes rookie
Starter: Matt Ryan
Backup: Sam Ehlinger
Others: James Morgan, Jack Coan*
The Colts are hoping they have finally found a solution at the quarterback position, for the next few years anyway, in Ryan. The veteran comes to the Colts motivated to show he is still an elite quarterback who can use his cerebral play and pinpoint accuracy to get the Colts over the top. The organization from owner Jim Irsay on down is thrilled to have Ryan and is putting a lot of faith in the former NFL MVP.
Ehlinger has the ‘it’ factor the Colts love and is a very smart, young player. While the Colts like Ehlinger, it will be interesting to see if the Colts look to sign a veteran backup throughout the summer. Expect Morgan and Coan to battle it out for a place on the practice squad.
Starter: Jonathan Taylor
Backups: Nyheim Hines, Deon Jackson
Others: Max Borghi*, D’Vonte Price*, C.J. Verdell*
Taylor burst into a superstar in 2021, leading the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns on his way to being a league-MVP candidate. Taylor is set to be the bell cow back, once again, and continue his dominance on the ground.
The Colts have talked about getting Hines more involved all offseason. Whether on the ground or through the air, good things happen when the ball is in Hines’ hands. Do not be surprised to see Hines placed all over the offense – whether in the backfield, in the slot, or even out wide – to get him more touches and become a bigger part of the offense.
Jackson served as the third-string running back last season and looks to make the team again because of his impact on special teams. It will be interesting to see who can capture the final spot in camp between UDFAs Borghi, Price, and Verdell.
Starters: Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce*, Parris Campbell
Backups: Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon, Mike Strachan
Others: Keke Coutee, DeMichael Harris, Jackson Anthrop*, Kekoa Crawford*, Samson Nacua*, Michael Young Jr.*
Outside of Pittman’s 1,000-yard season in 2021, no other Colts receiver surpassed 400 yards. The Colts are hoping that changes with a new quarterback and some new pieces. Pierce, the Colts’ second-round pick in this year’s draft, looks to have a big role early as the Colts pair him opposite Pittman. Campbell will man the slot if he can stay healthy, and that is a huge if considering he has only played in 15 games during his three-year career. Now in a contract year, Campbell desperately needs a big season.
The Colts have a lot of faith in their young receivers and are hoping Dulin, Patmon, and Strachan can all take the next step. Dulin is a core special teams player and showed he can contribute on offense in 2021. It will be interesting to see if Strachan, who generated a lot of buzz in camp last year, can put it together and have a bigger role in 2022.
Starters: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson
Backups: Jelani Woods*, Drew Ogletree*
Others: Michael Jacobson, Nikola Kalinic
The retirement of Jack Doyle certainly hurts this group, but the Colts made sure to get reinforcements. Alie-Cox re-signed in the offseason on a three-year deal and will step in as TE1. Granson looks to have a much more productive sophomore season and be a bigger threat in the passing game.
However, Granson will have competition for the TE2 role. Woods, the 6’7” athletic freak, will push Granson for playing time. The Colts think he can be a mismatch weapon down the field with his size and speed, as well as serve as an inline blocker. The Colts are very excited about what Woods brings to the team, and he could blossom into a major contributor as the season goes along.
Starters: Matt Pryor, Braden Smith
Backups: Bernhard Raimann*, Dennis Kelly
Others: Brandon Kemp, Jordan Murray, Carter O’Donnell, Ryan Van Demark*
Indy is set at right tackle with Smith holding down the fort. The battle will be at the left tackle position, where Pryor will get the first crack at the job. Pryor played well last year when called upon at both tackles spots and will get a chance to lock down the left tackle spot this season.
But it is not guaranteed that Pryor will man the left tackle spot in 2021. Raimann, a third-round pick of the Colts this year, shows great athletic ability in pass protection and will benefit greatly from NFL coaching. The Colts are high on Raimann’s upside, and if Pryor’s play begins to falter, the rookie could get a chance at left tackle.
Interior Offensive Line
Starters: Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Danny Pinter
Backup: Will Fries
Others: Wesley French*, Alex Mollette*, Josh Seltzner*
Left guard and center are all but certain with Pro Bowlers Nelson and Kelly, who are looking to bounce back in 2022 after a down year to their standards. A new starter emerges at right guard, with Pinter getting his shot after Mark Glowinski departed in free agency. Pinter has been a solid backup his first two years, and the Colts believe he has earned the opportunity to start.
However, do not count out Fries as a possible starter if Pinter does not play well. Fries, a rookie in 2021, has displayed great progress in his development and will push Pinter for the spot. If Raimann beats out Pryor for the left tackle spot, Pryor will also be in the mix at right guard.
Starters: Yannick Ngakoue, Kwity Paye
Backups: Dayo Odeyingbo, Tyquan Lewis, Ben Banogu
Others: Kameron Cline, Isaiah Chambers*, Scott Patchan*, Forrest Rhyne*, Cullen Wick*
The Colts got a huge boost to their pass rush this offseason when they acquired Ngakoue from the Las Vegas Raiders for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin. Ngakoue has never had a season with less than eight sacks in his six-year career, and he looks to continue that in 2022. He will man the LEO role in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s scheme.
Opposite of Ngakoue will be Paye, who is looking to build off a stellar rookie campaign. Paye has been working diligently on his game all offseason, including spending time with former Colts great Robert Mathis. Paye is hoping to take a huge step this year and form a formidable duo with Ngakoue.
Odeyingbo and Lewis both have something to prove coming off of major injuries. Odeyingbo came back from a torn Achilles last season but was brought on slowly by the Colts. Lewis was having a strong season before he injured his knee. Both will be looking to show they can still play at a high level.
Starters: DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart
Backups: Curtis Brooks*, Eric Johnson*, Chris Williams
Others: R.J. McIntosh, Caeveon Patton*, McKinley Williams*
Buckner and Stewart return as the starters for the third consecutive season. Buckner is coming off of another Pro Bowl season and should see more opportunities this season as Ngakoue and Paye take attention away from him. Stewart is as steady as they come at nose tackle and a massive presence in the middle of the defensive line.
Behind Buckner and Stewart, a pair of rookies are hoping to have an impact early. Johnson, the Colts’ fifth-round pick, can play either spot along the interior and has a nice pass-rushing prowess. Brooks, the Colts’ sixth-round pick, will slot in as a backup three-technique behind Buckner. However, expect Odeyingbo and Lewis to see the most action inside on passing downs in Stewart’s spot.
Starters: Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke
Backups: Zaire Franklin, E.J. Speed, Jordan Glasgow
Others: Brandon King, Trevor Denbow*, JoJo Domann*, James Skalski*
Linebacker is another group that is pretty set in stone at the top. Leonard continued his All-Pro play in 2021 even with an ankle injury that hopes to be healed for 2022. Okereke will play out 2022 in a contract year as he tries to lock down the starting MIKE role with the Colts for years to come.
Franklin and Speed will handle the backup duties, with Franklin starting at SAM when three linebackers are needed. Both will continue to be core special teams players for the Colts.
The final couple of linebacker spots could come down to who can contribute on defense and special teams. While Glasgow and King are listed as linebackers, both are almost strictly special teams players. A name to watch is Domann, who could shake things up and grab the last linebacker spot.
Starters: Stephon Gilmore, Kenny Moore II, Brandon Facyson
Backups: Isaiah Rodgers, Tony Brown, Anthony Chesley
Others: Marvel Tell III, Will Redmond, Alexander Myres, Chris Wilcox, Rodney Thomas II*, Dallis Flowers*
One of the groups that experienced the most change this offseason was the cornerback room. With Ya-Sin headed to the Raiders, the Colts brought on Gilmore, giving the Colts their first Pro Bowl outside corner since Vontae Davis. The former defensive player of the year pairs with Pro Bowler and best slot cornerback in the game, Moore II.
The other outside corner position is still up for grabs and will surely be a battle throughout camp. Facyson comes over from the Raiders, where he started nine games last season and is the early favorite to be the starter. However, Rodgers showed his playmaking abilities in 2021 and will push Facyson for playing time. A rotation could develop amongst these two.
Depth at cornerback is always needed as it is one of the most injury-prone positions in the NFL. Brown and Chesley look to be the favorites to round out the group early, but Tell III will be in the fight for a roster spot as well. It will be interesting to see what Thomas II, the Colts’ seventh-round pick out of Yale, can do in camp.
Starters: Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis
Backups: Rodney McLeod, Nick Cross*, Armani Watts
Others: Marcel Dabo*, Sterling Weatherford*
The Colts struggled with depth issues at safety in 2021 and made moves to help this in 2022. Blackmon has star potential but is coming off of a torn Achilles and will probably take some time to round into form. Willis will look to bounce back from a rough 2021 in a contract year.
Bradley loves to play three safeties throughout his defense, which sets up an interesting battle between McLeod and Cross for the third safety spot. McLeod is an experienced veteran who provides solid play at both safety positions. The Colts traded up in the 2022 NFL Draft to select Cross and feel like he could become a difference-maker on this defense. Both are expected to see plenty of playing time.
The final safety spot will be between Watts, Dabo, and Weatherford. Dabo comes to the Colts as a part of the NFL’s International Pathway Program and can be kept on the Colts practice squad as he develops his game.
Starters: Rodrigo Blankenship, Rigoberto Sanchez, Luke Rhodes
Others: Jake Verity
Special Teams has always been a strong unit for the Colts, especially with Sanchez at punter and Rhodes, a Pro Bowler in 2021, at ling snapper. Blankenship was having a very nice 2021 at kicker until he was injured against the Baltimore Ravens. Blankenship did not see the field again as the Colts rode the hot leg of Michael Bagley. With Bagley gone, Blankenship will look to take over the kicking job once again.
Have thoughts on what the 2022 Colts depth chart looks like? Drop a line in the comments below and let us know what you think!
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