With the first wave of roster cuts on the horizon and with three preseason games in the books, there is enough information to give a rough estimation on what the final roster will look like. This is the first of two roster predictions that will be posted until the final whistle blows in the preseason against the Bengals.
QB: Peyton Manning, Curtis Painter
Peyton Manning is obviously the incumbent starter at quarterback. Though there is some speculation that second year man Tom Brandstater might challenge Painter for the backup quarterback position, I believe Painter is firmly entrenched. The Colts prefer players that have experience in the system and have shown a lot of patience with quarterbacks they have drafted (see Jim Sorgi). Even if Brandstater was brought in to compete for Painter’s job, he has not shown anything that would lead fans to believe he is better than Painter.
RB: Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Mike Hart, Devin Moore
Of the Colts top three backs, Joseph Addai has made the most out of bad run blocking and is the best pass blocker of the bunch, which earns him the top slot on the depth chart. Donald Brown looks more comfortable than last year but still has problems with his pass protection, which is why he is still only a “change of pace” back. Mike Hart is a solid player who has been in the system for a while and offers great value on special teams. Devin Moore edges out Brandon James because of his abilities as a returner and as a solid running back.
TE: Dallas Clark, Brody Eldridge, Jacob Tamme
As with Manning, Dallas Clark is the incumbent starter at tight end because of his elite status. Brody Eldridge edges out Jacob Tamme as the second tight end because of his dual threat as a receiver and a blocker, which is crucial to running an effective two tight end set. Tamme gets the nod over Gijon Robinson because he is a faster, more sure-handed player and is an asset in special teams.
WR: Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garçon, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Blair White
The first four players are given since they are proven players. Though I have Gonzo as the fourth receiver for now, I think he will work his way back into the starting lineup opposite of Wayne over Garçon. After watching Thursday night’s game against the Packers, Garçon is still inconsistent when it comes to catching the ball. Unless he works out the kinks, his spot will be open for Gonzalez. I placed Blair White over Taj Smith simply because White is more consistent. While White has not put up have the splashy plays Taj Smith has, he has been the more sure-handed of the two.
LT: Charlie Johnson, Jeff Linkenbach
Despite all the chances Tony Ugoh has had to regain his starting position, he has failed to.make his mark. He is not as terrible as some people claim, but it’s clear that Charlie Johnson does a better job at protecting Manning’s blind side. Jeff Linkenbach gets the backup job because of his versatility and solid preseason performance.
LG: Tony Ugoh, Jacques McClendon
We have not seen Ugoh at guard yet because of the mass number of injuries on the offensive line, but I am going to side with the reports coming from camp that he has looked good at the position. McClendon is still getting his feet wet and will probably need another year before he is ready to take the reins.
C: Jeff Saturday, Jamey Richard
There is no question that Jeff Saturday will get a roster spot. All we need to do now is pray that his injury fully heals in time for the start of the season. Jamey Richard is a serviceable center but I think his talents are more suited to playing guard.
RG: Kyle DeVan, Mike Pollak
Though Pollak is not having a terrible preseason, I think DeVan is still a better player. DeVan did not look good against the Packers Thursday night, but that may be because of him missing a lot of practice and the second preseason game.
RT: Ryan Diem
Ryan Diem has been relatively quiet this preseason, and that is a good thing. No one has criticized him for bad blocking, blown assignments, or false starts. The less you hear about him, the better the news. No one on the roster is fit to backup Diem. Adam Terry has been putrid, giving up pressure on nearly every down.
DE: Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, John Chick, Jerry Hughes, Ervin Baldwin
We have seen what life is like when you lose Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis — and it’s not pretty. The Colts front office recognized the problem and focused this off-season on finding some insurance for them. John Chick has been solid thus far, applying a fair amount of pressure. Though Jerry Hughes has struggled, he is still raw player and will get better with time; as is the case with several defensive linemen. Like Chick, Ervin Baldwin has shown a knack for getting to the passer and has a strong motor.
DT: Antonio Johnson, Daniel Muir, Fili Moala, Eric Foster, Mitch King, Marlon Favorite
Like Freeney and Mathis, Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson have some nice depth behind them. Fili Moala has shown significant improvement from year one to year two. The same can be said for Eric Foster who has developed into a better pass rusher. Mitch King has displayed the ability to constantly penetrate into the backfield and Marlon Favorite has held up well as an anchor.
WILL: Clint Session, Ramon Humber
Clint Session gets the start for obvious reasons. Ramon Humber was selected over Vuna Tuihalamaka because he has been all over the place. Like many of the players on this roster, he has shown massive improvement as he has gained experience.
MIKE: Gary Brackett, Pat Angerer
For Brackett, it is all about staying healthy. Angerer has had a pretty good preseason. He has shown great ability to navigate through traffic to find the ball carrier, is a solid blitzer, and is showing flashes of some good coverage skills. He still gets a little over aggressive and over runs plays at times, but he will work that out with experience.
SAM: Phillip Wheeler, Kavell Conner
Despite being in the system for about three years now, Wheeler finds himself lost at times. When it comes to defending the run, he is pretty solid, but where he struggles most is in pass coverage. I have seen him blow several assignments in these last three preseason games, which have lead to big plays for the opposition. He gets the start here simply because Conner still needs to develop before he can claim the starting position
CB: Jerraud Powers, Kelvin Hayden, Jacob Lacey, Deshea Townsend, Terrail Lambert, Ray Fisher, Kevin Thomas (IR)
I placed Jerraud Powers over Kelvin Hayden due to Hayden’s lackluster performances during the preseason. Jacob Lacey has shown a lot of improvement, even though he had an excellent rookie campaign. Deshea Townsend provides a veteran presence and Terrail Lambert has looked good thus far. Though he may have lost the starting return duties with his muffed punt, Fisher is still a pretty decent cover corner and will provide good depth. Kevin Thomas will be placed on IR because of his injury he suffered in rookie camp.
SS: Bob Sanders, Melvin Bullitt
Melvin Bullitt is a solid player, but he does not bring the dynamic that Sanders brings. Bob looks to be healthy, playing several snaps in the preseason, and is flying around just like we are used to seeing.
FS: Antoine Bethea, Mike Newton
There really is not much behind Antoine Bethea, after Jamie Silva was placed on IR with an ACL tear. The only player who has stood out to back him up is Mike Newton.
LS: Justin Snow
As consistent as it gets.
K: Adam Vinatieri
Finally looks healthy and can make longer field goals than Stover.
P: Pat McAfee
He just booms it.
PS: Taj Smith, Colin Cloherty, Brandon James, Ricardo Mathews, Tom Brandstater, Terrell Skinner, Brandon King, Jamie Thomas
As I stated earlier with Taj, I think his inconsistencies will keep him on the practice squad for another year. Brandon James has shown potential and I would suspect the Colts keep him on the practice squad as well, and give him a shot next year. Thomas is still in need of development so he stays here. Brandstater has the potential to be a solid backup. Skinner and King have shown flashes of being good cover men.