Opinion: Colts Deepest Positional Groups

By Sam Sinclair |
Opinion: Colts Deepest Positional Groups

Ever since Colts general manager Chris Ballard stepped foot into the Colts complex, he has preached competition at all positions.

After three off-seasons that included adding starters Eric Ebron, Quenton Nelson, Mark Glowinski, Darius Leonard and many more, this 2019 Colts team looks to be incredibly deep at some positions on the roster.

Factoring in the talent of each possible player who could make the official 53-man roster, here are some of the deeper positional groups on the team.

Tight End

The most productive pass-catching group from last season, the Colts' tight end position makes this list.

Quarterback Andrew Luck threw 21 of his 39 touchdown passes to tight ends last regular season. Thirteen of them went to Ebron, who dominated in the red zone for the Colts. His 13 touchdowns last season were more than his first four years in Detroit combined.

While Ebron was catching touchdowns, the Colts missed arguably their most important tight end in the whole group in Jack Doyle, who missed 10 games last year dealing with a hip and kidney injury. He is expected to be back full healthy this upcoming season. While he did miss 10 games, Doyle was able to add 26 catches and two touchdowns for the Colts.

The third tight end, the one who stepped up in the absence of Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox was third on the depth chart last season, but still saw major playing time. With head coach Frank Reich mentioning Alie-Cox's growth in developing a route tree, watch for the young tight end out of Virginia Commonwealth to get more time with the starting unit. 

While it is unclear is who the Colts will keep at their fourth tight end spot. Ff they keep four, Ross Travis could be the guy for that final spot. Travis played the final four games in 2017 with the Colts, was put on injured reserve at the start of the 2018 season and he is back to grab a roster spot. The former Penn State basketball player could surprise people with his athletic ability at his size. 

Fast forward to 2020 and this positional group could be flipped on its head. Ebron, Doyle, Alie-Cox, and Travis are all in contract years, so all, some, or none could be back in 2020. If we see another solid season from Doyle and Ebron, they should be back in 2020. But outside of those two, who knows. One thing that Colts fans do know is that Reich and Luck love to use the tight ends and for good reason. It's one of the deepest positions on the Colts' offense. 

Offensive Line

The offensive line took the biggest jump from 2017 to 2018, allowing 56 sacks down to 18 last year.

They also took major strides in the run game, last year pumping the yards from 103 yards per game in 2017, to 107 in 2018. The 107 yards per game was only good for 20th in the NFL, but over the final three games, the Colts averaged 148 yards per game. 

The rush offense and pass protection really took off when the Colts got back left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Once they got the starting five of Castonzo, Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Glowinski, and Braden Smith, the Colts offense really took off.

Of course, drafting arguably the best guard prospect to ever come out of college (Nelson) with their first round pick in 2018 was huge, but also drafting Smith, a college guard turned NFL tackle, in the second round was a real gem for the Colts. Last season, the Colts signed Glowinski off waivers and once starter Matt Slauson went down, Glowinski stepped in and never stepped off the field again for the Colts. 

While both guys were hurt, Kelly and Castonzo were vital in rejuvenating the rushing offense. The Colts spent a first round pick on both Castonzo and Kelly (2011 and 2016, respectively). When healthy, they have proven their worth on arguably a top-five offensive line in the NFL.

Don't forget about the backups. To be a solid unit in the NFL, the backups are as important as the starters. If they keep four backups, it would probably be Evan Boehm, Joe Haeg, Le'Raven Clark, and Jackson Barton.

Boehm, Haeg and Clark all have played meaningful snaps for the Colts and all three have started at some point. What makes this group deep is its versatility, with Haeg having starting experience at three offensive line positions and Boehm spending time at two. 

Over the first couple of seasons, the Colts have lacked a good offensive line in front of Luck. Ballard wanted to build the team in the trenches, from the inside out, and he has done that. While the offensive line is arguably a top-five group, they have really good depth and versatility that makes them one of the deepest positional groups on the Colts.

Cornerback

Young, talented, and somewhat proven. Three words you could use to describe the Colts' cornerback group.

A position that in 2017 was looking bleak that needed a big improvement in 2018 and Colts fans saw that improvement with the young, talented players.

Guys like Pierre Desir, Kenny Moore, and Quincy Wilson all were vital in how good the cornerback group played last year against the best of the best offenses in the NFL.

Desir and Moore were both waiver claims by Ballard in 2017, but they really didn't get to shine until the Colts switched their defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and brought in Matt Eberflus to run the defense.

Wilson, whose play has been inconsistent thus far in his NFL career, was a second round pick of the Colts in 2017. His play really improved at the end of the season thanks to Mike Mitchell, who took Wilson under his wing

Having three good cornerbacks wasn't enough for Ballard. He spent an early second round pick on one, which was effectively the Colts' 2019 first rounder, drafting Rock Ya-Sin out of Temple.

Ya-Sin has size like Wilson and Desir and with his ability to play press-man coverage, he can give the Colts a different looking cornerback when out there.

Don't forget about Nate Hairston, a fifth round pick in the 2017 draft who's played a lot of games for the Colts over the past two seasons. He was the starting slot cornerback in 2017 until Moore took over the job in 2018.

The Colts could be cutting some talented cornerbacks in late August, guys like fifth round draft pick Marvell Tell, undrafted free agent Shak Taylor, or Jalen Collins.

Tell is an athletic, big cornerback from USC who's played both corner and safety for the Trojans. Taylor comes from a college with a history of producing NFL talent at cornerback in Kansas. Lastly, Collins started for the Falcons in the Super Bowl three years ago, and was a second round pick by them in 2015.

Desir and Moore were both re-signed this offseason by the Colts. Moore signed the biggest contract by a slot cornerback in NFL history, a four-year deal that can earn him up to $36 million if incentives are reached. Desir also was brought back on a three-year deal worth up to 25 million dollars.

Now, if Wilson can build off of the latter part of last year and Ya-Sin can come in a contribute right away for the Colts, they now have four really good cornerbacks, a far cry from what they had in 2017.

Conclusion

Give Ballard praise for adding talent at positions that the Colts lacked, not just in 2017, but basically since the beginning of the Luck era.

First, by spending a first round pick and second round pick in the same draft on the offensive line. Plus, adding starters from early September waiver claims like Desir, Glowinski, and Moore, and landing a good free agency pick up in Ebron, Ballard was able to make this team deeper.

While many fans will say this is the deepest team, and probably best team that Luck has had in his professional career, the offensive line, tight ends, and cornerbacks are arguably the deepest positional groups on the team right now.


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