Indianapolis Colts Veterans Who Have Been Put on Notice This Offseason
Despite adding a number of players recently, the Colts still have some problems defensively. According to Gregg Rosenthal from NFL.com, Robert Mathis has been suspended for four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Mathis claims that the suspension was due to a drug that was supposed to help with fertility, but regardless, the Colts will need to find someone else to rush the passer.
With Mathis potentially gone for a quarter of the season, the Colts will need other veterans to step up on both sides of the ball. If these veterans don't step up soon, there are backups that could be looking to take their starting spots.
The most obvious veteran on this list, Trent Richardson will have a lot of competition behind him if he doesn't come out right away and show that last year was a fluke.
After sending a first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Richardson, the running back failed to provide a spark on offense. He averaged just 2.9 yards per carry, stalling drives more often than he helped them.
Plain and simple, if Richardson doesn't improve, the Colts will have to look to their other running backs to carry the load.
Fortunately, the Colts have some solid backups to Richardson on the depth chart, even if both are returning from season-ending injuries. Vick Ballard was a promising rookie, while Ahmad Bradshaw has been an established veteran in the league, recording two seasons with over 1,000 rushing yards.
The Colts won't give up on Richardson just yet considering what they gave up for him, but he's on a very short leash.
Colts fans finally got to see Josh Chapman take the field last season, and after not re-signing Aubrayo Franklin, it looks like the team will depend on the former fifth-round pick to take over the starting job.
While Chapman may have not been put on notice right now, he'll be put on notice after this season if he doesn't prove to be the nose tackle he was supposed to be coming out of Alabama.
In limited time on the field last season, Chapman looked very strong against the run. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Chapman had the fourth-highest run defense grade on the team despite playing in just 243 snaps.
There won't be a ton of options behind Chapman this year, however, so he'll need to prove that he can stay on the field for extended periods of time. Right now, he's the clear option to start, but that could change in free agency or the draft after this season, so this is his year to make a splash.
Last offseason, the Colts gave Greg Toler a three-year deal worth $14.25 million, but through the first year of that deal, he has yet to live up to his price tag.
Injuries were a concern for Toler before he came to Indianapolis, and they were an issue yet again last year, as he missed seven games during the regular season. Darius Butler did as much as he could as the team's No. 2 corner in his absence, but Butler is best suited to play as a nickel corner.
With the first year of his contract over with, the Colts can now cut Toler if they really want to. According to Spotrac, the Colts would lose just $666,667 if they cut him this season and $333,334 if they cut him next season.
If Toler can't stay healthy, the Colts will have no choice but to let him go and avoid paying him his hefty contract, as he'll have to stay on the field in 2014.
Since he's no longer a rookie, I'm going to go ahead and consider Hugh Thornton a veteran and put him on this list. Thornton may have been starting at offensive guard after Donald Thomas went down, but he could easily lose his job in training camp.
With their first pick in this year's NFL draft, the Colts brought in versatile offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, who will likely be competing for the starting offensive guard job. Mewhort has nice size at 6'6'' and 309 pounds, and he'll be an asset in the running game in the NFL.
Thornton will need to improve upon a rocky rookie season. Mike McGlynn, Samson Satele and Thornton were major liabilities last season, but some of those struggles for the rookie may have been due to the linemen around him. If he has a solid training camp. Thornton should have the starting job, but he'll have a tough competition against Mewhort ahead of him.
Arguably the most criticized acquisition during the 2013 offseason, Erik Walden didn't have the best first season with the Colts, but he'll need to turn things around fairly quickly if he wants to be the long-term option at outside linebacker in Indianapolis.
Although he was supposed to set the edge for the Colts on defense, there were expectations that he'd at least rack up a fair share of sacks at outside linebacker, but he came up with just three during the regular season. He didn't exactly help set the edge either, as the Colts still ranked 26th in run defense, giving up an average up 125.1 rushing yards per game.
There are other options the Colts may be tempted to turn to if Walden struggles to set the edge this season, including rookie Jonathan Newsome, the team's fifth-round selection out of Ball State. While he played defensive end for the Cardinals, he has the burst and speed to be an intriguing pass-rusher that could find the field in passing situations this year.
Walden will probably keep his job this season, but don't be surprised if the Colts look for someone to replace him down the road.