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Predicting Indianapolis Colts' 53-Man Roster

Matt MadsenCorrespondent IIMay 14, 2012

Predicting Indianapolis Colts' 53-Man Roster

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    The deadline for NFL roster cuts isn't for months, but now that rookie minicamps are in our rear-view mirror, we can start taking a stab at who will make the Indianapolis Colts final roster.

    With almost 30 rookies currently signed, many of them are bound to be cut in the coming days. And as each deadline passes, teams will have an opportunity to sign the fat cut by other teams, creating the need to cut even more players from their own.

    Exploring what options a team has on their roster is one of the best part of the offseason, so let's get to it.

Quarterbacks

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    Projected Players

    1. Andrew Luck
    2. Drew Stanton
    3. Chandler Harnish

     

    Diagnosis

    Everybody knows about Andrew Luck, but his two backups are relative unknowns. Stanton started some games with the Detroit Lions with mixed results. Harnish was selected by the Colts as this year's Mr. Irrelevant. He would have to beat out Trevor Vittatoe to make the squad, and I believe what he offers as a runner will allow him to do just that.

    Luck is a special player, but if he goes down with injury it's going to be tough sledding for the offense.

    Grade: B-

Running Backs

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    Projected Players

    1. Donald Brown
    2. Delone Carter
    3. Deji Karim
    4. Vick Ballard

     

    Diagnosis

    Though he had been mostly disappointing prior to the 2011 season, Donald Brown flashed enough last season for the Colts to feel comfortable cutting ties with Joseph Addai. While Brown figures to be the primary back, he has been somewhat prone to injury in the past, which justifies the signing of Deji Karim.

    Carter and Ballard will battle for the short-yardage carries. While one would suspect Carter has the advantage as a returning player, he was extremely ineffective last season and will need to win the job in earnest.

    The Colts have tailbacks that can do it all, they just don't do it very well.

    Grade: C-

Wide Receivers

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    Projected Players

    1. Reggie Wayne
    2. Donnie Avery
    3. Austin Collie
    4. T.Y. Hilton
    5. LaVon Brazill
    6. Quan Cosby

     

    Diagnosis

    Reggie Wayne has been one of the best and most consistent players in the entire NFL over the last decade. But he's going to turn 34 years old this season, which isn't historically a good age for wide receivers.

    And the rest of the players listed caught a combined two touchdowns last season. Outside of Wayne, they only have 25 career touchdown receptions. Nine quarterbacks last season threw more touchdowns than that.

    The good news is that the rookies they brought in through the draft are fast and faster, something the Colts haven't had much of in recent years. Both Hilton and Brazill have excellent potential in the slot and in the return game, and I could see either of them emerging and grabbing a starting role at some point this season. Cosby is a talented returner that serves as decent depth.

    Considering what this list would've looked like a couple months ago, it looks pretty nice.

    Grade: C+

Tight Ends

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    Projected Players

    1. Coby Fleener
    2. Dwayne Allen
    3. Brody Eldridge

     

    Diagnosis

    With two rookies figuring to be the starters, it's hard to say how this will go. If Fleener and Allen live up to the billing, Andrew Luck could have himself a very nice transition into the NFL. If either or both of them flops, tight end could be a position of serious weakness this season for the Colts.

    Ryan Grigson has publicly stated the Colts intend to use a fullback this season, but I believe that to be a somewhat misleading statement. I doubt the Colts will actually keep a fullback on the roster. Instead, I imagine Brody Eldridge transitioning into a tight end/fullback role, which could maximize his blocking talents.

    Grade: D+ to B+

Offensive Line

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    Projected Players

    1. Anthony Castonzo
    2. Ben Ijalana
    3. Winston Justice
    4. Jeff Linkenbach
    5. Samson Satele
    6. Mike McGlynn
    7. Mike Tepper
    8. Seth Olsen
    9. Justin Anderson

     

    Diagnosis

    While offensive line play was not a strength for the Colts in 2011, it was far from their weakest link. Jeff Saturday left the Colts this offseason, but he is well past his prime, in any case.

    The additions of Samson Satele and Winston Justice should offset any losses the Colts suffered. Add another year of experience for younger player like Castonzo and Ijalana, as well as the addition of Mike McGlynn, and the Colts O-line should actually be surprisingly effective this season.

    Grade: B

Defensive Line

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    Projected Players

    1. Brandon McKinney
    2. Drake Nevis
    3. Fili Moala
    4. Antonio Johnson
    5. Josh Chapman
    6. Cory Redding
    7. Ricardo Mathews
    8. James Alonzo

     

    Diagnosis

    This unit is not going to scare anybody. Of course, it will also include veteran superstars Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis when the defense appears in a 4-3 look.

    The Colts want to make the transition to a primarily 3-4 defensive scheme, but simply do not have the personnel to do so this season. Hopefully, the coaching staff realizes as much and just takes it slow on the transition. Forcing players into positions they can't play isn't good for anybody.

    Grade: D

Linebackers

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    Projected Players

    1. Pat Angerer
    2. Kavell Conner
    3. Dwight Freeney
    4. Robert Mathis
    5. Chris Galippo
    6. Jerry Hughes
    7. Tim Fugger

     

    Diagnosis

    Both Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner showed value for the Colts last season, standing out as two of the better players on defense. While that isn't saying a ton, they certainly didn't embarrass themselves and have earned starting spots on the 2012 opening roster.

    Freeney and Mathis figure to be employed almost exclusively as pass-rushers, and we all know that will be just fine. After that, it's anybody's guess.

    Galippo lacks athleticism, but makes up for it in smarts. He could be a solid contributor. I'd love to see Jerry Hughes find his calling as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but I think this is his final season with the Colts.

    Grade: C+

Cornerbacks

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    Projected Players

    1. Jerraud Powers
    2. Kevin Thomas
    3. Chris Rucker
    4. Joe Lefeged
    5. Brandon King
    6. Terrence Johnson

     

    Diagnosis

    The good news is that the NFL's worst secondary from a season ago didn't get any worse. The bad news is that they really couldn't have.

    After giving up a league-worst 71.2 percent completions to opposing quarterbacks, as well as the second-worst opposing quarterback passer rating, the Colts opted to stick with their guns, adding nobody through the draft. While they did bring in a few undrafted free agents, it's unlikely they will find a gem in the mud.

    Grade: F

Safeties

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    Projected Players

    1. Antoine Bethea
    2. Tom Zbikowski
    3. David Caldwell
    4. Matt Merletti

     

    Diagnosis

    Antoine Bethea has been among the most consistent performers on the Colts squad since he was drafted in 2006. His emergence as a legitimate presence in the secondary helped soften the loss of Bob Sanders, and he has been a leader on the defense for the past few seasons.

    With the help of former Baltimore Raven Tom Zbikowski, the Colts have a solid starting pair of safeties. While I think Zbikowski is a downgrade from Melvin Bullitt, he is nonetheless an adequate starter who can help improve a truly wretched secondary.

    Grade: C+

Special Teams

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    Projected Players

    1. Adam Vinatieri
    2. Pat McAfee
    3. Justin Snow (LS)

     

    Diagnosis

    Adam Vinatieri is a great player who has long since passed his prime. His range has been diminished with age, and his accuracy is no longer that of an elite kicker.

    Pat McAfee is an above-average punter, but the Colts' special teams coverage unit is so awful that his net punting average is much lower than his base punting average. In 88 punts last season, he booted only three into the end zone, while downing 21 inside the 20-yard line.

    With Peyton Manning's departure, Justin Snow became by far the longest-tenured player on the Colts. He's appeared in 160 consecutive regular-season games and over 200 consecutive games as Colt. His position on the team is virtually guaranteed.

    Grade: C+

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