INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – They’ll convene in a conference room at the team’s West 56th Street complex this weekend and wrestle with personnel decisions that will impact players’ careers and the immediate readiness of the Indianapolis Colts.
Good luck with that, Ryan Grigson, Chuck Pagano, Jimmy Raye III and so many others.
Reducing a roster from 75 to 53 is difficult enough in normal circumstances, and as we know, the circumstances facing the Colts are anything but normal. Short-term injuries to prominent players have muddied the evaluation process.
We can name at least 10 players – many projected starters – whose availability for the Sept. 11 opener against Detroit is in question: cornerbacks Vontae Davis (ankle), Patrick Robinson (groin), Darius Butler (ankle) and D’Joun Smith (ankle); defensive linemen Henry Anderson (knee) and Kendall Langford (knee); safety Clayton Geathers (foot); offensive linemen Jack Mewhort (knee), Joe Haeg (ankle), Joe Reitz (back) and Hugh Thornton (foot); and linebacker Sio Moore (hamstring).
Did I say 10? That’s a dozen, and not even the most optimistic outlook has Davis, Geathers, Mewhort and Thornton being ready for the Lions. Shoot, Thornton’s lingering injury might result in his release or being placed on the injured reserve list.
“It makes it tricky,” Pagano conceded.
That in mind, we’ll offer our suggestions on how best to move forward in preparation for Detroit. Final cuts must be done by 4 p.m. Saturday. Also, keep in mind everything is subject to change. After settling on their 53, the Colts undoubtedly will find a player or two on the waiver wire they deem an upgrade.
As it turns out, we’ve got 10 rookies making the roster, at least initially.
Should the franchise heed any of our advice, owner Jim Irsay can expect a consultant’s bill in the mail.
(* – denotes rookie)
Quarterback (2): Andrew Luck, Scott Tolzien
Comment: Stephen Morris has had a solid preseason and maybe a strong outing in Cincinnati could change the pecking order behind Luck, but Pagano seemed to clear things up last week. “Scott Tolzien is our backup quarterback and Stephen is the number three right now,” he said.
Running back (3): Frank Gore, Robert Turbin, Jordan Todman
Comment: We’re not totally dismissing Stevan Ridley, but Todman has been a major contributor on special teams. That’s a huge bargaining chip.
Wide receiver (5): T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Quan Bray, Chester Rogers*
Comment: We won’t argue too strongly if you prefer Tevaun Smith over Rogers. But we’re sold on Bray because of his return skills.
Tight end (3): Dwayne Allen, Jack Doyle, Erik Swoope
Comment: Swoope is such a feel-good story. He’s no longer a basketball player trying to play football. He’s a tight end. Also, let’s keep an eye on the hip soreness that has kept Allen out of the last couple of practices.
Offensive line (10): OT Anthony Castonzo, OT Joe Reitz, G Jack Mewhort, C Ryan Kelly*, Denzelle Good, Jon Harrison, Joe Haeg*, Austin Blythe*, Le’Raven Clark*, Kitt O’Brien
Comment: Here’s where it starts to get dicey. Mewhort is expected to miss a couple of games, Haeg’s timeline for return is fuzzy and Clark doesn’t appear ready to play at this level. And as you undoubtedly noticed, we see no way the Colts can wait for Thornton to heal. That means they’ll be zero players from the 2013 draft still around.
Defensive line (7): Kendall Langford, Henry Anderson, David Parry, Zach Kerr, T.Y. McGill, Hassan Ridgeway*, Earl Okine
Comment: An expected area of strength remains iffy until Langford and Anderson return. Even if each is ready for the opener, he’ll probably be on a pitch count. It will help when Art Jones returns from his four-game suspension. Even though Okine is listed as an outside linebacker, we’re him putting in this group. Just because.
Linebackers (10): Robert Mathis, Trent Cole, Erik Walden, D’Qwell Jackson, Nate Irving, Sio Moore, Antonio Morrison*, Josh McNary, Edwin Jackson, Curt Maggitt*
Comment: We’re not sold on Maggitt, or McNary for that matter. However, Pagano seemed semi-optimistic Maggitt could develop into a legitimate pass-rush threat – he called him a lump of clay – and McNary might be a core special teams player.
Cornerback (6): Vontae Davis, Antonio Cromartie, Darius Butler, Patrick Robinson, D’Joun Smith, Tevin Mitchel
Comment: Threw a dart at the roster and it hit Mitchel’s name. Could have just as easily nailed Frankie Williams. The team likes Mitchel’s potential, but he’s got to stay healthy. This position is going to have to tread water until Davis returns. Good luck with that.
Safety (4): Mike Adams, T.J. Green*, Winston Guy, Stefan McClure*
Comment: The Colts don’t want Clayton Geathers to open the season on the non-football injury list. That means he would miss the first six weeks. But do they have a choice? This needs to be a position that’s addressed when sorting through other teams’ castoffs. Failing that, Butler might see more time at safety than corner.
Specialists (3): Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee, Matt Overton
Comment: None needed.