Colts Players In Danger of Being Cut

By RosterGuy |
Colts Players In Danger of Being Cut

In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected 10 players. Not all of them will make the final roster, but some will and that means those who were drafted will take spots on the 53-man roster away from players on last year's team.

Some players who are familiar names with Colts fans over the past few seasons are likely going to be gone come August and September.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard has shown that he will do what's best for the team and, if he can help it, the player as well, which is a rare business practice in the NFL these days.

Ballard drafted offensive lineman Zach Banner in the fourth round in Ballard's first draft with the Colts in 2017. That was when the Colts' offensive line was likely at its worst and Banner was waived before the 2017 season even started.

Ballard has shown that he'll do what's best for the player if he can help it, but he won't hesitate to cut you, even if he drafted you just four months ago.

Below, two of our contributors, Sam Sinclair and Eric Seaman, will break down four positional groups and each will discuss a player who's in danger of not being on the team anymore.

For clarification, these are players who Sam and Eric believe won't be put on the practice squad, but cut from the team.

 

Wide receivers

Marcus Johnson (Sam's pick)

The wide receiver room was crowded BEFORE the draft when the Colts signed Devin Funchess. Now, the Colts are getting back Deon Cain from an ACL injury and drafted Parris Campbell out of Ohio State in the second round. One of the many wide receivers has to go.

My guess would be the Colts only keep six receivers on the active roster and put one or two on the practice squad. T.Y. Hilton, Funchess, Campbell, Cain, Chester Rogers, and Zach Pascal are my picks to make the active roster, while I think Daurice Fountain and Penny Hart will be put on the practice squad. 

So who is the odd man out? Marcus Johnson. At the beginning of the season when the Colts were ravished with injuries, Johnson was forced into playing time.

Johnson was only active for four games, all of which he didn't have more than three targets. While he did have a touchdown vs. the Jets, he was much of nothing most of the year. I believe he will be cut by the Colts.

Zach Pascal (Eric's pick)

With Campbell getting drafted in the late second round, coupled with Funchess coming in via free agency, a receiver is going to get squeezed out.

In the entire 2018 season, Pascal recorded the second-fewest amount of snaps for the regular rotation of receivers. Only Dontrelle Inman recorded fewer snaps and he was signed by the team in mid-October.

While Pascal played in all 16 games last regular season, he only caught 27 passes on 46 targets for 268 receiving yards and two scores. In an incredibly crowded receiver room that also features Hilton, Rogers, Johnson, Cain, Fountain, Penny Hart, Ashton Dulin and Steve Ishmael.

Pascal has more production on the field than a lot of these guys.  He’s a solid blocking receiver and it helps that Ryan Grant has signed with Oakland and Inman hasn’t been re-signed.  But, realistically, how much higher is Pascal’s ceiling?

 

Defensive backs

George Odum (Sam's pick)

In the midst of the Colts' seven defensive draft picks with their 10 selections, the Colts took three secondary players (two corners and one safety). While it's undetermined if Marvell Tell III will play safety or corner back, his versatility should give him a roster spot.

Drafting Khari Willis in the fourth round gives the hint he will backup Clayton Geathers at the strong safety position. Mathias Farley is returning from injury this year too and should back up Malik Hooker. With Tell possibly taking snaps at safety, that leaves one guy out.

Like I previously mentioned, Tell can serve as a corner or safety, Farley is a special teams leader, and I can see Willis and Geathers playing on the field at the same time. That leaves George Odum out of the mix.

Odum was a spot starter for the Colts when Geathers was out with injuries, and while Odum did have 21 tackles last year and an interception, he wasn't great in pass coverage. He could also be victim of Ballard just liking Willis and Geathers more in the scheme and not having another spot for Odum somewhere else on the defense. 

Odum, Willis, and Geathers are all big, tough, physical safeties that like to hit and I just don't see the Colts keeping three of those safeties. Odum's lack of versatility and not playing on special teams will have him looking for a job in September.

Nate Hairston (Eric's pick)

As a fifth round pick in 2017 out of Temple, Nate Hairston was one of the surprise contributors in terms of production for the Colts’ defense in 2017. He was a solid presence in his primary role of slot corner, recording 35 tackles, five pass deflections, two sacks, three quarterback hits, a safety and an interception in 14 games.

In 2018, though, while he started in more games in his sophomore season, his production dipped a bit, earning 30 tackles and a pass deflection in one fewer game played and more than 100 fewer defensive snaps. A large part of it also could have been the emergence of corner back Kenny Moore II, who stepped into a leadership and play-making role in his first real season as a premier player with the Colts.

For those fans who watch the team regularly, you just didn’t see the same production from Hairston in 2018 compared to 2017. Cornerback Pierre Desir was re-signed this off-season and Moore and Quincy Wilson are still on the roster and holding down their respective roles on defense.

If that was it, Hairston could breathe easier, but the Colts spent some draft capital on defensive backs, notably Rock Ya-Sin and Tell, who’s likely going to convert to more of a cornerback role with the Colts.

 

Defensive line

Carroll Phillips (Sam's pick)

The defensive line, especially EDGE group, is deep. I don't expect the Colts to carry more than nine roster spots on the defensive line group. 

My guess would be they keep the obvious guys in Justin Houston and Jabaal Sheard. Plus, they'll have Margus Hunt, who they just re-signed, and Denico Autry to round out the starting front four. But the backups gets dicey. 

Guys like Tyquan Lewis, Al-Quadin Muhammad, and Kemoko Turay all made good contributions last season, so you have to believe they will be rotational guys. The Colts also drafted Gerri Green, who will be in the mix to play on the line. So that leaves Grover Stewart, Anthony Wimbush and Carroll Phillips left on the line.

My guess would be Phillips is the guy to go. Phillips only appeared in six games last season and only had five total tackles. He will be the odd man out on the now-loaded Colts defensive line. 

Grover Stewart (Eric's pick)

Stewart, just like Hairston, is another member of Ballard’s first draft in Indianapolis. And, just like Hairston, he saw fewer snaps on the field in 2018 compared to 2017.

Stewart saw the same number of games (15) in each of his first two seasons and even started a game in 2018, but his production dipped with fewer tackles and no quarterback hits, compared to five of them in his rookie campaign.

Hunt, Lewis, Jihad Ward, Muhammad and Autry are all solid in multiple roles on the defensive line. Former teammate Hassan Ridgeway, who also plays in the interior of the defensive line, was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a draft pick on the third day of the 2019 draft, so that helps Stewart’s efforts to stay with Indianapolis, along with Al Woods not being re-signed yet.

Stewart’s name wasn’t announced a lot last season. His tackles for loss increased from one to two in his first two seasons. If Stewart feels the pressure and looks good at camp, he’ll find a spot on the 53-man roster.

But every Colts fan knows that one of the things that Ballard does best is bring in competition to get the best out of players. Is Stewart’s best enough?

 

Linebackers

Matthew Adams (Sam's pick)

It cannot go unnoticed that the Colts went out and drafted three linebackers in this year's draft. They also took two linebackers pretty early in the draft as well.

Taking Ben Banogu in the second round and Bobby Okereke in the third round showed an obvious sign that Ballard wanted to improve the linebacker depth. The Colts also took E.J. Speed in the fifth round.  All things considered, there should be significant competition for the SAM linebacker role this season.

Matthew Adams was a seventh round pick last year by the Colts. He played in all 16 games for the Colts, but only had 33 total tackles on the season.

His inability to play on passing downs as a coverage linebacker along with his inability to play multiple positions might have him looking for a new team to play for in 2019. 

Zaire Franklin (Eric's pick)

Ballard brought in a lot of linebackers in the 2019 draft, which doesn’t bode well for Zaire Franklin, who was the Colts’ final draft pick in 2018.

Last season, Franklin got a decent amount of time on defense, more than Skai Moore and Najee Goode. Franklin recorded more snaps as a special teams contributor, but still found a way to help the defense in certain sub packages, largely in the run game.

But the Colts clearly wanted to update the linebacking corps. with the addition of Banogu, Okereke and Speed, all 2019 draftees who are likely going to find niche roles in the defense in certain situations.

What’s going to be nice for Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is that he’s going to have a lot of pieces on his defense that can play multiple speed roles to not only get after the quarterback, but also cover skills position players.

Essentially, on any given play on defense, Eberflus will be able to trot out 11 players on the field who are, collectively, ideal to defend a certain down and distance and on the next play substitute out six players and be good to go with that unique situation too.

Can Franklin make a case for Eberflus and head coach Frank Reich to keep him on the team and carve out a niche?

 

Conclusion

Every year after the draft players come into question if they will make the active roster or practice squad. NFL teams are always looking to improve and sometimes some players are victim to a team drafting or signing a player at their position to take their spot.

With the Colts going heavy on linebackers with speed, athleticism, and versatility, there will be a couple of Colts players from last year's team who won't be with the Colts in 2019.

Fans might not agree with everything Ballard does for the Colts, but everyone should be reminded that everything he does is in the best interest of this team.


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