We’ve finally made it through the offseason as all NFL training camps will be underway this week.
For the Indianapolis Colts, they have convened at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind. as they begin work for the 2021 season.
General manager Chris Ballard has always stressed competition in his team-building philosophy, believing that more competition brings out the best in the players and the team as a whole.
While there are some spots on the team that are all but certain, there is competition for various roles all over the roster.
Here are my top five battles to watch throughout training camp and the preseason.
While there is no debate that Kenny Moore II and Xavier Rhodes will be two of the starters at cornerback for the Colts, there is certainly competition for the final starting spot.
The incumbent Rock Ya-Sin has been a starter since he was drafted in 2019 and has shown flashes that he can be a long-term starter in this league. However, penalties and inconsistent play have held him back and even caused him to be benched at times last year, making this spot up for grabs.
His biggest competition may come from another 2019 draftee in Marvel Tell III. Tell opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, but spent the season away working on his game and staying in shape. The former safety-turned-cornerback showed some promise towards the end of 2019 and has the height and length the Colts like from their corners.
Some other names that could push for playing time are T.J. Carrie and Isaiah Rodgers. Carrie was brought in for depth reasons but replaced Ya-Sin at times when he struggled, and Carrie played admirably. Rodgers did not get many opportunities last year as a rookie and was relegated to special teams work, but showed potential as a playmaker when he got the chance.
Ya-Sin should be the favorite to hold on and be the starter come Week 1. However, if he begins to struggle this preseason, don’t be surprised if the Colts coaches give others a chance to earn the spot.
The Colts’ starter at left tackle this year will be Eric Fisher after longtime starter Anthony Castonzo announced his retirement this offseason. Fisher comes to Indy after spending the first eight seasons of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, going to two Pro Bowls. It will be some time before Fisher joins the starting lineup, however, with the Colts placing him on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list as he recovers from a torn Achilles.
So, who will start at left tackle until Fisher returns? Three guys will battle it out throughout camp.
The early favorite for this spot was Sam Tevi, but it was Will Holden who got the first shot on the first day of practice. Holden saw one game of action last year with the Colts against the Pittsburgh Steelers and was solid until he went down with an ankle injury.
Tevi was signed by the Colts to a one-year deal after four years with the Los Angeles Chargers. He brings plenty of starting experience with him after starting 44 games combined at both tackle positions with the Chargers.
The other in the competition is Julién Davenport, who comes to the Colts after previous stints with the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins, primarily as a backup.
Tevi looks to have the upper hand heading into camp because of his starting experience, but don’t count out Holden making the competition interesting.
The Colts are set at wide receiver in terms of those at the top of the roster. With T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, and Zach Pascal all in the fold, new quarterback Carson Wentz will have plenty of weapons to throw to on the outside. The competition is for the final spots in the wide receiver group.
The Colts typically keep six wide receivers on the active roster. With four spots already accounted for, the final two spots will likely come down to three names.
Let’s start with Ashton Dulin, who has been used mostly as a gadget receiver and a gunner on special teams in his two years with the Colts. He has fantastic speed and has shown to be one of the best special teamers for the Colts, which certainly carries weight when deciding who gets the final roster spots.
The other two names are a couple of big-bodied wide receivers with big-play capability. Dezmon Patmon only played in one game last year as a rookie, but the Colts like his potential and think he can be used in both the short and deep passing game. Michael Strachan is a rookie out of Division II Charleston who possesses great speed, length, and playmaking ability with a massive 6’5” frame.
At this point, Dulin probably makes the roster due to his impact on special teams. Patmon and Strachan is a toss-up heading into camp as both have flaws in their game, but the Colts love their potential. The nod may go to whoever performs the best in camp and the preseason.
No, there is not a competition for the starting quarterback position. Wentz is the starter and the Colts are thrilled to have him as he tries to revive his career. This battle is for the backup quarterback spot.
Right now, the backup job belongs to Jacob Eason. Eason was a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft who was hidden as a third-stringer on the depth chart. He has impressed the Colts coaches with his work ethic mastering the playbook and has worked with renowned quarterback trainer Adam Dedeaux all offseason on his mechanics.
The Colts also drafted Sam Ehlinger out of Texas in this year’s draft. Ehlinger is a proven winner and the team loves his competitiveness and leadership ability. He also possesses a mobile aspect to his game which Eason does not.
Training camp and preseason will be the first time we get to see these guys live against NFL defenses. The job is Eason’s to lose, but the Colts will give Ehlinger his fair share of opportunities as well.
The 2020 season marked the first time since 2005 where Adam Vinatieri was not the kicker for the Colts. Instead, it was the rookie from Georgia repping the specs who was kicking balls for the Horseshoe.
Rodrigo Blankenship won the kicking competition last year, beating out Chase McLaughlin for the job. “Hot Rod” had a very respectable rookie year, going 32-of-37 for 86.5% on field goals and 43-of-45 on extra points.
Blankenship did have some struggles, though, as he only went 1-of-3 on kicks longer than 50 yards and missed a crucial 33-yard attempt in the Colts’ playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills. Those are things that must be cleaned up if the Colts are to rely on him to be their long-term kicker.
This summer the Colts have brought in former Chicago Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro for some competition at kicker. He was the kicker for Chicago in 2019, going 23-of-28 for 82.1%.
Expect Blankenship to win the competition, but also show his improvement to make sure he secures his spot for the foreseeable future.
Which position battles excite you the most in Colts Camp? Drop a line in the comments section below!
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