5 Players Who Might Find Themselves on the Colts' Practice Squad in 2014
The oft-forgotten portion of an NFL team's roster throughout the season is the practice squad. Most fans know that teams are made up of 53 men, but there are eight other members of a club that play an important role. These practice squad members are paid per week and can be released at any point, or picked up by another team, but they are a critical well of depth and developmental talent for teams.
Last season, players like Da'Rick Rogers spent time on the practice squad before rotating in as the season progressed and injuries piled up. They can be as critical, or as under-used, as teams deem fit.
Only players with less than one year of accrued NFL service can be placed on the practice squad. An accrued season means being on the active roster for six games, although one can still be eligible if they were on the 45-man active gameday roster for less than nine games. A player can only be on the practice squad for two seasons.
For this exercise, we'll be looking at players who have a high upside worthy of keeping on the team, but that the odds may be stacked against to actually make the active roster. The Colts have brought in a plethora of developmental talent over the last two years, and 2014 is no exception.
OT Ulrick John
Over the last two seasons, the Colts have sent late-round picks to the practice squad. Chandler Harnish ended up there in 2012. Justice Cunningham and Kerwynn Williams both had stints there in 2013. This year, seventh-round draft pick Ulrick John is a perfect candidate to sit for a year and develop.
At 6'6" and 290 pounds, John has the ideal frame for a tackle, although he could stand to gain some weight. John is comfortable using his length to corral defenders and can slide and kick well for a man his size. There are definitely some technical refinements that could be made, however, and his lack of bulk means he can give up leverage at times.
But the potential is there, and with the Colts having some depth at tackle on the roster already (Xavier Nixon, Joe Reitz, Jack Breckner), it makes sense that Ryan Grigson wants to groom John for a year before releasing him to the hounds:
Grigson on Ulrick John: "To be he's a true LT prospect, a developmental guy." Says he wants to see what John will look like in a year.— Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) May 10, 2014
The prototypical practice squad prospect, John can be groomed there until he's needed due to injury.
LB Henoc Muamba
The same reasons that led to former CFL linebacker Henoc Muamba being labeled "underrated" on Monday are reasons why he could end up on the practice squad in 2014.
Muamba's talents in run defense and his quickness across the field could lead to him getting a roster spot, but there is going to be quite the competition for the backup linebacker positions during the 2014 training camp. There's two, maybe three, spots available, with Josh McNary, rookie Andrew Jackson, Kelvin Sheppard and Andy Studebaker (who also plays outside linebacker) all competing. Then there's Muamba.
Assuming that sixth-round pick Jackson makes the cut, as does McNary (who was surprisingly efficient in limited snaps last year), and Muamba would have to beat out Sheppard at the very least. While Sheppard earned the vile of many Colts fans with his play last season, he does have three years of NFL experience while Muamba has none. Sheppard has started 31 games over the last three seasons, while Muamba has spent that time in Canada.
But the Colts like to keep linebacker talent around, and Muamba very well could be the player that ends up sliding into the practice squad to refine his technique and ease the transition to the NFL.
TE Erik Swoope
If Ulrick John was a prototypical practice squad candidate, former Miami (Fl.) basketball player Erik Swoope is the blueprint from which said prototype was constructed.
A physical specimen, Swoope is 6'5", 220 pounds and can run the 40-yard dash in the 4.65 seconds. While he's never played organized football in his life, he impressed Indianapolis coaches with how quickly he caught on during rookie minicamp and organized team activities (OTAs), according to the official website (h/t NFL.com's Chris Wesseling).
Chuck Pagano has continually praised the tight end, calling him a "natural" and referring to his work ethic and quick mind.
But, that doesn't mean he's the kind of player that would get on the roster right away. Starters Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener already own two of what likely will be three spots, and last year's reserves Jack Doyle and Weslye Saunders should battle it out for the final spot.
While other teams may covet Swoope, it's unlikely that anybody would give him a roster spot at this point in his development. Without the risk of another team signing Swoope to the active roster, he should be able to get through waivers and onto the Colts' practice squad without a hitch.
C Jonotthan Harrison
With the Colts' lack of quality depth at center, Harrison has a pretty good chance of making the final roster. Behind Khaled Holmes, who played a total of 12 offensive snaps last season, the Colts have Harrison and fellow rookie FN Lutz.
Not exactly an all-world cast.
But Harrison may end up on the practice squad regardless. The Colts love flexibility along the offensive line, and rookie Jack Mewhort and Donald Thomas can both play center in a pinch. With Mewhort and Thomas on the final roster, the Colts have three players, potentially, who can play center. This leaves Harrison as a practice squad guy, a player who the Colts can bring up if a multiple-week injury occurs to Holmes.
As far as week-to-week goes, Harrison might not be a necessity, but he'll be an asset the Colts want to keep around, just in case.
DT Zach Kerr
For former Delaware defensive tackle Zach Kerr, the situation to get onto the practice squad is much like Jonotthan Harrison's. Kerr was among the best talents to go undrafted, and he was the Colts' most high-profile UDFA outside of cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy.
Kerr was called "the best value in the draft" at nose tackle by Bolts From the Blue's Kyle Posey prior to the draft, and he should get a real shot at the roster in training camp.
But, like with Harrison, the versatility among the starting rotation may keep him from being a necessity. Josh Chapman will make the roster as the starting nose guard, but he's the only guarantee at the position. However, the Colts did sign Brandon McKinney to compete at the position, and current ends Montori Hughes, Ricky Jean Francois and Arthur Jones can all play nose tackle in a pinch.
Kerr has the talent to hold his own and he's worth keeping around, but he may not be needed on the final roster.