The final preseason game is in the books and several players made huge strides to convince the team that they are worthy of a roster spot.
Quarterback: Peyton Manning, Tom Brandstater
Peyton Manning is the incumbent starter for the Colts. Tom Brandstater edges out Curtis Painter for the backup position. Though you cannot read too much into preseason stats, it is hard to ignore Brandstater’s four touchdown drives and single turnover. On top of that, it does not seem as if pressure phases him and his vision is exceptional. By contrast, Curtis Painter still tends to stare down receivers and seems restless in the pocket at the slightest hint of pressure. Painter has more potential than Jim Sorgi, but there is still a long way to go before he can earn the confidence of the coaches and the fans.
Running Back: Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Devin Moore, Javarris James, Brandon James
A few changes here from the previous roster prediction. Devin Moore is bumped to third string running back, Javarris James makes the cut, and Mike Hart is no longer on the roster. Though he did not have any outstanding returns yesterday, Moore still displayed shifty moves in open space and hit the seams hard. He consistently gained positive yards, displayed toughness between the tackles, and a burst through the hole. Javarris James will never be as good as his cousin and former Colts great Edgerrin James, but he did make some Edge-like moves, and gained positive yards on every touch. Mike Hart is the odd man. For as tough as he is, and for as much effort as he gives on every play, his lack of speed limits his ability to make an impact. On top of that, Hart’s inconsistent hands were prevalent all preseason. Brandon James makes the roster based on his potential and what he did again the Bengals. Although all of his big plays came as a wide receiver, he still looks more suited as a running back.
Tight End: Dallas Clark, Brody Eldridge, Jacob Tamme
A staple of the Colts offense is the two tight end set, where the Colts have the option to either run or pass effectively. To run this formation, the Colts require two tight ends who are able to both block and receive, with one of those tight ends having the ability to flex out as a wide receiver. They have the flex receiver with Dallas Clark, but since 2007 the Colts were missing the blocking tight end. If the preseason is any indication as to how good a player is, Brody Eldridge is the missing piece the Colts have been looking for to run the two tight end, or “ace,” set. Jacob Tamme is retained because of his special teams value and insurance for Dallas Clark.
Wide Receiver: Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Blair White
Blair White placed an exclamation mark next to his claim the fifth wide receiver spot last night. Unlike Taj Smith and Sam Giguère, White is a terrific route runner, sure-handed, and reliable. He possesses all the traits the Colts look for in a wide receiver. His counterparts do not.
Offensive Tackle: Charlie Johnson, Ryan Diem, Tony Ugoh, Jeff Linkenbach
Charlie Johnson and Ryan Diem are the incumbent starters at left and right tackle respectively. It is unclear how the Colts will utilize Tony Ugoh. During the preseason, Ugoh stepped in for Johnson while he was out with a foot injury, which limited the Colts ability to experiment with him at guard. The Colts should try to slowly work Ugoh in at guard, but as of now Ugoh is relegated to reserve left tackle. Jeff Linkenbach makes the cut due to his versatility and solid preseason play.
Guard: Kyle DeVan, Mike Pollak, Jacques McClendon, Jamey Richard
Until Ugoh slides back inside, Mike Pollak and Kyle DeVan will play at the left and right guard spots respectively. It is apparent that Jacques McClendon still has some growing pains to work out before he can challenge for either position. Jamey Richard is a serviceable guard who can play center as well.
Center: Jeff Saturday
His only job is to get healthy and stay healthy.
Defensive End: Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, John Chick, Jerry Hughes, Ervin Baldwin
There should be a lot more confidence in the group behind Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney this season. At one time or another this preseason, each of the players behind the Pro Bowl tandem have shown that they can rush the passer. It took Jerry Hughes a little longer to display his ability, but that is to be expected from a rookie. John Chick, Hughes, and Ervin Baldwin are all quick and have high motors that will make the Colts pass rush formidable.
Defensive Tackle: Daniel Muir, Antonio Johnson, Fili Moala, Eric Foster, Mitch King, Marlon Favorite
The Colts have a very good stable of defensive tackles to work with this year. Fili Moala and Eric Foster have both made big strides with their pass rushing abilities and line penetration. Mitch King is a high motor player who has a knack for disrupting plays and Marlon Favorite looks to more than capable to be an anchor
Weak-Side Linebacker: Clint Session, Ramon Humber
Ramon Humber gets the nod over Vuna Tuihalamaka because of his familiarity in the system and comfort level in it. He seems to rely much on his instincts, instead of over-thinking plays. Humber has been all over the field this preseason.
Middle Linebacker: Gary Brackett, Pat Angerer
Pat Angerer displays attributes similar to Gary Brackett. He is not at Brackett’s level yet, but looks terrific in run support and displays good awareness on pass plays.
Strong-Side Linebacker: Phillip Wheeler, Kavell Conner
Phillip Wheeler keeps his job but he better get his act together on pass plays. Throughout the preseason, Wheeler ooked lost in space and blew assignments on pass downs. While stopping the run will be emphasized more this year, the objective is still to prevent teams from getting the big play through the air and limit yards after a reception.
Cornerback: Jerraud Powers, Kelvin Hayden, Jacob Lacey, Deshea Townsend, Ray Fisher
As previously stated, Jerraud Powers is the Colts best cornerback at this moment. Unless Kelvin Hayden turns it around, he will be relegated to number two on the roster. Ray Fisher receives the last spot because Terrail Lambert had only one decent game (Buffalo) before he consistently got beat in the final two games. Being a viable return man does not hurt Fisher’s cause either.
Free Safety: Antoine Bethea, Waiver Wire Player
Mike Newton did not make much of a splash this preseason. The Colts will likely sign someone off the waiver wire, consistent with the front office’s history of leaving a few slots open for players they have an eye on.
Strong Safety: Bob Sanders, Melvin Bullitt
Like Jeff Saturday, Bob Sanders’ only objective is to stay healthy, while continuing to perform at an optimum level. Melvin Bullitt provides terrific depth and defensive coordinator Larry Coyer is already looking for ways to get him on the field with Antoine Bethea and Sanders.
Kicker: Adam Vinatieri
So long as he stays healthy, the Colts can breath easy.
Punter: Pat McAfee
Just booms it.
Long Snapper: Justin Snow
No reason to complain.
Practice Squad: Ricardo Mathews, Taj Smith, Jamie Thomas, Brandon King, Collin Cloherty, Terrell Skinner, Mike Newton, Adrian Martinez
Mathews is on the cusp of making the roster, but because he was relatively quiet until the Bengals game, it is apparent he would benefit from more work. Jamie Thomas, Mike Newton, and Adrian Martinez all show some form of potential but likewise require a lot of work, given their propensity for mistakes. Taj Smith is on his last leg and need to find consistency. Brandon King and Terrell Skinner are promising backups that could be activated in case of an emergency.
Authors Note: I intended to post this up earlier, but obligations kept me finishing the article before a few cuts were announced. This is just a perspective of how I thought the final roster may look like.