While Coltzilla is keeping a list of Colts free agent additions, simply watching a highlight video or hearing player names doesn’t tell you that much about who fans will have a chance to watch at training camp. Following the jump is an abbreviated player profile for each signed player — which will be updated over the next few weeks as the season approaches).
We’ll start with the offense.
QB Nate Davis (Ball State – 2009): Davis will attract a lot of interest as Curtis Painter’s potential ‘replacement.’ Davis offers some interesting aspects, specifically a powerful arm, good size, and athleticism, but getting cut from a pair of teams that have struggled at quarterback does not inspire confidence.
Much of the draft info on Davis is dated but it is clear that despite learning difficulties, Davis has shown a drive to absorb himself into complex offenses and has real power behind his throws. Still, something is preventing Davis from moving from draft pick to backup QB.
What did Seattle and San Francisco fail to see in Davis that could be useful in Manning’s backup? With Manning likely to sit the first week — or more– of training camp, fans will have the chance to see Painter and Davis side-by-side.
QB Mike Hartline (Kentucky-2011): Hartline is a project quarterback. He has poor accuracy on the move, lacks awareness of the pocket, and has a tendency of getting lazy on his throws. He tends to throw from his back foot, reducing his power and velocity, as well as releasing high, causing his passes to sail. He also struggles with his decision-making, has a habit of not being on the same page as his receivers, and forces throws into double coverage too often.
Despite his mental lapses, Hartline tended to be very accurate. He is also willing to make throws under intense pressure. He sells his pump fakes well and shows confidence in his throws, especially when he is on his game. He has showed an ability to slip tight passes in to his receivers, has experience, and a quick release.
RB Chad Spann (Northern Illinois-2011): Spann was a standout at Northern Illinois, which is a part of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The MAC does not boast team that are ranked nationally on a regular basis so his production was against lower levels of Division I competition. He is the typical undersized Colts running back, and his 5’8″ frame generally projects negatively on his ability to block. He lacks top end speed and agility, which is reflected in his inability to pull away from defenders and his slow transition from cross-field to down-field rushing.
In many respects, Spann is Mike Hart V2.0. He doesn’t stop at first contact, or second contact, or even third. He powers from the time he gets the ball to the time he gets brought down. He lowers his shoulders, powers through gaps, and turns a quick hit into a 5-yard gain. Spann also has the field awareness to bounce outside if the inside gap closes on him. Spann has the drive and motivation to pass block well, even though he is ‘undersized.’ The only area where Spann is an unknown is in his receiving ability where he simply is untested.
RB Darren Evans (Virginia Tech-2011): Evans is a little bigger version of Spann, with the same problems concerning his speed and agility. Evans is not a strong pass-catcher.
His upside is that Evans is a hard-nosed runner who can overcome poor blocking to move ahead for extra yardage after first contact. He is almost a pure down-hill runner, but has very good ball control and technique to power through gaps. The biggest point of intrigue for Evans is that he is one of the few RBs who have shown the size and skills to be a useful pass-blocker. Evans gives the team a passing down back who can protect Manning in a way that Donald Brown has not been able.
TE Mike McNeill (Nebraska-2011): McNeill is essentially Jacob Tamme light — he is a solid receiver who struggles as a blocker. He has struggled to maintain a consistent weight, and has struggled through numerous injuries. McNeill lacks top end speed and agility — which is why he went undrafted — but has the size to challenge most linebackers. He shows good awareness to shield linebackers from short passes and has the build to go over the top and get high passes. McNeill doesn’t regularly gain separation through his routes though.
With Tamme showing improvement as a pass blocker, and potentially stepping into the Dallas Clark mold, and Gijon Robinson and Tom Santi both cut from the roster, a guy like McNeill has a fair shot at a roster spot.
WR Joe Horn (Ashland-2011): Division-II prospect Joe Horn is a relative unknown. He was very effective at Ashland, but that means little when jumping up so many levels of competition. Had he been able to participate at the NFL Combine this past February, there would have been a number of jokes being made about how Al Davis of the Raiders would be drafting him in the first two days.
Horn is essentially a track star turned receiver. His forty yard shuttle is predicted in the 4.3 range to go with exceptional agility. He is predicted to have a 3.9 second short shuttle, and a 6.5 second 3-cone drill.
Where Horn may ultimately become a significant piece is as a returner. With his rare speed and agility, if he can show any ability to hold onto the ball, he could become one of the premier returners teams dream about who can overcome shoddy blocking and still make teams fear kicking the ball away.
C Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU-2011): Kirkpatrick drew quite a lot of interest from Indy fans after multiple scouting reports compared him to Jeff Saturday. As unlikely as it is to strike gold twice in the undrafted free agency pool, the prevailing theory is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ The thought of signing a Jeff Saturday clone is very appealing, and the Colts front office apparently agrees.
Kirkpatrick is known more as a run blocker with only average ability as a pass blocker. He doesn’t have the greatest anchor point, but is mainly susceptible to bull rushes only by elite DTs, although he does get faked out by swim moves too often. Kirkpatrick is also known for not sustaining blocks through the whole play, and leans into his blocks too much — causing him to lose his balance.
Kirkpatrick does have great explosion off the ball, reacts quickly, and is adept at analyzing defensive lines — issuing commands and assignments to fellow linemen to neutralize the threat. He shows great form and posture. He is a bit undersized, but is the same size as Saturday. Kirkpatrick is praised for his ability to block downfield. Despite struggling against premier bull rushes, Kirkpatrick shows a good instinct for recovery and get himself back into the block quickly. He also has very good agility and lateral quickness allowing him to move between the LG and RG easily to absorb and redirect rushers to the guards, or engage blitzers himself.