INDIANAPOLIS — As Indianapolis Colts veterans report for training camp at the team facility on Tuesday, several decisions will need to be made in the next few weeks to shave the roster from 80 to 53.
It’s that speculative time of year when we’re all asking the same question: Who stays and who goes?
The Colts have the NFL’s longest streak of 21 years with at least one undrafted rookie making the first regular-season roster. The best bet this year is kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who was given a $20,000 signing bonus to compete against holdover Chase McLaughlin, who received a one-year tender after being a reliable four-game replacement for the injured Adam Vinatieri in 2019.
Other decisions aren’t so simple.
When looking at the roster, inevitable comparisons are made to determine value at certain positions. That means if one player stays as a backup, say rookie quarterback Jacob Eason although the Colts have two seasoned passers in Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett, which player at another position will be gone?
An ongoing “Indianapolis Colts Roster Decisions” series of stories and videos will analyze each position with an eye on eventually trimming the roster to the mandated 53 players.
Several factors should be considered, starting with which young players could be cut but re-signed to the practice squad because the Colts want to keep them but don’t have the roster spot as of at the end of camp?
Another possibility is that an injured player could be placed on the physically unable to perform list or injured reserve with the option to bring him back. Rookie safety Julian Blackmon, a third-round selection, seems like an obvious choice because he’s coming off reconstructive knee surgery and isn’t expected to be back on the field until September or October.
The team announced on Monday that Blackmon was placed on the active/non-football injury list, which means he counts on the roster for now, but the rookie can return at any time.
Questions still persist because there’s so much we don’t know yet. The Colts don’t know for sure, either, until they’ve seen these guys practice for a couple of weeks, which will provide enough tape to make educated decisions.
Does rookie cornerback Isaiah Rodgers stick as a kick returner? He sure seems undersized to be a cornerback, but will his 4.29-second, 40-yard dash speed as a returner make him a keeper? He has to prove that at camp because there won’t be any preseason games.
The defensive line is overloaded with players, which means some hard decisions will be made on whether to keep former second-round pick Tyquan Lewis at defensive end/tackle, rookie sixth-round pick Rob Windsor at defensive tackle, improving defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, or 2019 second-round defensive end Ben Banogu, who was disappointing as a rookie.
Will the Colts keep five wide receivers or six? The initial hunch is six, especially after too many getting hurt last season. But when paring down the roster, does keeping six mean sticking with just four running backs or two quarterbacks? If so, does that mean the Colts have to keep either running back Jordan Wilkins or fullback Roosevelt Nix? Or does that mean the Colts cut Eason, who has the kind of NFL-ready arm strength to land with another team because he wouldn’t make it to the practice squad?
Let the series begin, with room for plenty of debate, and hopefully the projections prove more accurate than not.
(Phillip B. Wilson has covered the Indianapolis Colts for more than two decades and authored the 2013 book 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. He’s on Twitter @pwilson24, on Facebook at @allcoltswithphilb and @100thingscoltsfans, and his email is email@example.com.)