INDIANAPOLIS — At the end of three days of continual Zoom video conference calls, the adrenaline still pumping from making deals for more NFL draft picks, Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard took stock in how the roster had changed.
“Look, did we get everything accomplished that we wanted to?” he said, in the earliest Sunday morning hour. “No, every team in this league has holes and it’s not perfect. That’s why you work through the season.
“But we think we’ve done good work. Now, we’ve got to prove it. It’s like anything else. I mean all right – so now we’ve got the team and y’all know us well enough, we’re still going to have some tinkering as we go along and even going into the season. But now we have to work and come together and earn it each and every day. That’s what makes this so unpredictable and also special for those reasons. I mean good moves, bad moves on paper – it doesn’t matter. You have to go earn it and prove it each and every day.”
The Colts’ nine-player draft class addressed wide receiver with the second-round selection of USC’s Michael Pittman Jr. and sixth-round pick of Washington State’s Dezmon Pittman. Ballard traded up in the second round to select Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor for another offensive weapon.
Quarterback Jacob Eason fell to the Colts in the fourth round and will be competing for the No. 3 spot at that position with Chad Kelly. Ball State offensive lineman Danny Pinter could be a key depth addition in switching from college tackle to NFL offensive guard/center.
Utah safety Julian Blackmon (third round), Penn State defensive tackle Robert Windsor (sixth), Massachusetts cornerback/kick returner Isaiah Rodgers (sixth) and Michigan linebacker Jordan Glasgow (sixth) can contribute to defense and special teams.
Ballard also mentioned the pre-draft additions of All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, starting quarterback Philip Rivers as well as cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie.
“Buckner speaks for himself. Buckner is a star player,” the GM said. “You know, Philip speaks for himself. He’s a future Hall-of-Famer.”
Looking at the two-deep depth chart as the Colts finalized their list of undrafted free-agent signings, what are areas of need moving forward? The Colts didn’t draft a defensive end to replace Jabaal Sheard, who was allowed to become a free agent and is still unsigned. But Ballard didn’t sound concerned.
“Look, Denico (Autry), (Al-Quadin) Muhammad – I mean I love Denico and I love Muhammad. We’ve still got (Kemoko) Turay. We’ve still got (Ben) Banogu,” Ballard said. “It’s a good group. We’ve still got Tyquan (Lewis). I like our front.
“We’ve got young players and they’ve got to come on. We drafted them for a reason. Let’s see them play and come on. All of them have played pretty good football in spurts. Now we’ve got to get them to do it a little more consistently. We like their talent and we like our defensive line. We think we’ve got a good group.”
Expect the Colts to move different defensive linemen around at end and nose tackle with Buckner playing the under tackle and top 2019 pass rusher Justin Houston at the other defensive end. The players Ballard mentioned, with exception to Turay, have position flexibility to play inside and out.
What other positions could use some tinkering?
Offensive line depth seems thin at tackle. The only seasoned backup is Le’Raven Clark, a 2016 third-round selection who re-signed for just 2020. He has 35 career games played, including 12 starts.
The Colts have the NFL’s longest-active streak of an undrafted free agent making the roster at 21 years.
In addition to O-line, defensive secondary depth would appear to be positions of opportunity. Rhodes and Carrie were signed for only one year and former second-round cornerback Quincy Wilson was traded to the N.Y. Jets to acquire a sixth-round pick in the draft. Blackmon is coming off ACL surgery, so he might not be on the field until October, which means a rookie safety could earn a spot.
Here’s a look at the unofficial projected two-deep depth chart.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
WR T.Y. Hilton // Zach Pascal
WR Michael Pittman Jr. // Marcus Johnson
WR Parris Campbell // Daurice Fountain
LT Anthony Castonzo // Chaz Green
LG Quenton Nelson // Jake Eldrenkamp
C Ryan Kelly // Javon Patterson
RG Mark Glowinski// Danny Pinter
RT Braden Smith // Le’Raven Clark
TE Jack Doyle // Trey Burton
QB Philip Rivers // Jacoby Brissett
RB Marlon Mack // Jonathan Taylor
DE Al-Quadin Muhammad // Kemoko Turay
UT DeForest Buckner // Tyquan Lewis
NT Denico Autry // Grover Stewart
DE Justin Houston // Ben Banogu
SLB Bobby Okereke // Matthew Adams
MLB Anthony Walker // Zaire Franklin
WLB Darius Leonard // EJ Speed
CB Rock Ya-Sin // T.J. Carrie
CB Xavier Rhodes // Kenny Moore
FS Malik Hooker // George Odum
SS Khari Willis // Rolan Milligan
K Chase McLaughlin
P Rigoberto Sanchez
KR Nyheim Hines
PR Nyheim Hines