Indianapolis Colts Cuts: Tracking Players Dropped from 2011 Roster
The Colts trimmed eight guys yesterday, with more cuts coming soon. In a somewhat surprising move, hometown product Devin Moore was released. Many folks thought he'd stick as a kick returner. What other surprising moves are in store for us as the final 53 man roster takes shape?
Now that we're nearing the final game of the preseason, it's time to project who needs to go and who should be kept. This slide show will take a look at the young guys who won't make it, the surprising veteran cuts and the borderline guys who should end up on the team or the practice squad.
Rookies and Young Guys Who Won't Make It
While the Colts have been better than almost any other team in the league at finding undrafted free agent gems, there are also a fair number of these fellows who show up in camp for a little while, but then fade away.
Other guys on this list are younger players who have bounced around on practice squads and are trying to make a go of it with the Colts. Let's take a look at some of the likely cuts from the rookies and young guys.
Jake Kirkpatrick- Rookie Center out of TCU
Casey Bender- Second year Tackle from South Dakota State
Mike Tepper- Second year Tackle from California
Vuna Tuihalamaka- Second year LB from Arizona
Nate Triplett- Third year LB out of Minnesota
Kerry Neal- Rookie LB from Notre Dame
Taj Smith- Fourth year WR from Syracuse
Larrone Moore- Rookie WR from Delaware State
Michael Matthews- Rookie TE from Georgia Tech
Tyson DeVree- Second year TE from Colorado
Reasons why these guys will be cut, grouped by position
O-line: Bender and Tepper haven't shown enough to unseat backup-quality offensive linemen like Jeff Linkenbach, Joe Reitz and Kyle DeVan. Kirkpatrick has potential, but I don't think the Colts are ready to give up on Mike Pollack. Pollack has not done well at any position other than center. He has shown, however, that he can play fairly well there. If Jeff Saturday gets hurt, having Pollack around as a back-up will be helpful.
Linebackers: While it would be fun to say Tuihalamaka's name throughout the season, his performance on the field hasn't warranted a roster spot. Triplett has been around awhile, and you can tell why he hasn't gained much traction during that time. Kerry Neal is serviceable, but he's not very athletic and doesn't have a big upside.
Wide Receivers: Smith is a solid special teams player, but his hands are atrocious. Wide receivers (of all people) need great hands. His drops in preseason were inexcusable, and I won't be surprised if he's cut for his crimes against passes. Moore hasn't distinguished himself as a consistent pass-catcher like fellow undrafted free agent David Gilreath. He'll fall by the wayside soon.
Tight Ends: I like Mike McNeill, a rookie out of Nebraska who has played his heart out in preseason. With his nice hands and mistake-free play, McNeill should get a roster spot. Brody Eldridge is likely to hang on to a job due to his blocking ability. Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme are firmly entrenched as the one and two pass-catching tight ends. That leaves Matthews and DeVree on the outside looking in.
Surprising Cuts from the Ranks of the Veterans
It's time to cut bait with dead weight. Some of the guys on this list have injury problems, others are just mediocre football players who need to make room for promising youngsters or free agents who will be lurking out there after cuts. Here are the underachieving three in no particular order.
Donald Brown- Oh Donald, our hopes were so high for you when you were drafted in the first round. But how you've disappointed us time and time again.
As a runner, Brown doesn't have great vision. He isn't effective in short yardage situations. Worst of all, he is a deplorable pass-blocker. The Colts need running backs who can block effectively. Brown hasn't shown that he can do that, and while he is good at catching passes out of the backfield and can occasionally rip off longer runs, there are other guys on the roster with his skill set who can actually block.
Rookie Delone Carter is a hard runner who can pick up tough yards. He already looks better than Brown. The third running back should be Javarris James. I didn't think he'd turn it around this year, but he's a good special teams player and has gotten better as a receiver and as a blocker. He showed up to make the team this preseason and he looks like he belongs.
It's time to end the Brown experiment.
Curtis Painter- With proven commodity Kerry Collins in the stable, the plague to Colts fans known as Painter should be banished from the team. While he did play better against the Packers, Painter is still a sub-par QB. Reggie Wayne may like him, but my eyes tell me that his body of work is rotten and he doesn't belong on the team.
Dan Orlovsky is a better option than Painter. Although he's still only a mediocre player, Orlovsky has a better pocket presence and throws with more accuracy than Painter. If the Colts keep three QBs, it should be Peyton Manning, Collins and Orlovsky.
Anthony Gonzalez- I really feel sorry for Gonzo. He's had bad breaks in his career and has been dogged by injuries for the past three years. That tired trope of "you can't make the club from the tub" has to apply to Gonzalez, though.
He's injured again, and keeping him around just to loaf around and take a roster spot from a promising young guy doesn't make much sense.
An underachiever who deserves another chance is Jerry Hughes- Some commentators have been calling for his head. I can't really blame them. Hughes was mostly invisible last year, and when he was spotted, he was blowing coverage on special teams. Although he's performed well in practice, he hasn't gotten consistent pressure on the QB in games.
Despite this mediocre start to his pro career, I think Hughes still has promise for the Colts. He's only a second year player, and his athleticism and moves are solid. He's competing for a roster spot with Tyler Brayton and John Chick. Either of those guys would be unlikely to be snapped up by other teams if they're cut.
Hughes has the talent and pedigree to make hay in NFL. I think it makes sense to hold on to him to see what he can do in 2011.
Borderline Guys Who Should Make the Team or Practice Squad
These are the gentlemen who came in to Anderson and worked hard in camp and then showed well this preseason. Let's look at who should make the final roster of 53 and who should be on the practice squad.
Borderline guys who should be on final roster of 53
Kevin Thomas- Thomas was a third round pick out of USC last year. He was injured early in camp and never saw the field. This year, not only has he avoided injury, but he's also gotten steadily better throughout camp and preseason. He will be buried on the depth chart at cornerback, but he's shown enough to merit keeping him around so he can develop alongside rookie Chris Rucker.
David Gilreath- Blair White showed last year that if you were a smart player with good hands, you could play a role in the Colts offense. Undrafted rookie Gilreath is a similar player, and he should make the team instead of Anthony Gonzalez.
Joe Lefeged- This Rutgers undrafted free agent looks like another solid pick-up by the Colts from that estimable New Jersey school. Like Eric Foster and Gary Brackett before him, Lefeged seems to be on the inside track to make the team. He plays fast and hits with confidence. He'll be a good special teamer and can fill in at safety in case of injury.
David Caldwell- William and Mary undrafted free agent Caldwell has looked good all preseason. He had a nice interception late in the preseason game against the Packers that should have iced that contest. He is good in coverage as a safety and can develop his play-reading and tackling ability. Until he develops more, he'll be a stand-by on special teams, however.
John Chick- I like how the second year defensive end out of Utah State has played in preseason. He is strong at the point of attack, and doesn't find himself out of position very often. While not an overwhelming pass rusher, he still has a good motor. He's a good back-up guy who should help to push Jerry Hughes to be a better player.
Borderline guys who should be on the practice squad
Chad Spann- Despite having two muffed kick returns in games, Spann is a nice running back with good vision. I'd like to see him develop on the practice squad and then make another run for a roster spot next year.
Mike McNeill- As noted on a previous slide, McNeill has worked hard and showed off his good pass-catching ability at tight end. He deserves to land here after the roster is trimmed.
Chris Brooks- Brooks has not been as impressive as Gilreath throughout preseason, but the second-year Nebraska wide receiver has made some nice plays and has shown that he deserves the chance to stick around.
Ollie Ogbu- Penn State undrafted rookie Ogbu has been a happy find for the Colts this preseason. He has good mobility for his size and has seemed to adapt well to the speed of the NFL. I like his potential.
Tyler Brayton- A veteran defensive end, Brayton has been good, but not good enough to warrant a roster spot. If Jerry Hughes doesn't live up to his potential, it might be nice to have Brayton around as a fill-in for him.
All told, the Colts roster seems to be shaping up nicely. Rookies Anthony Castonzo and Drake Nevis are going to have an immediate impact.
Free agent acquisitions Ernie Sims, Tommie Harris and Jamaal Anderson should make the team and will be solid in the rotation at their positions.
I haven't mentioned undrafted free agent rookie Adrian Moten at linebacker, but he's already beaten out Cody Glenn for a job and Phillip Wheeler is in his sights.
It's not only the recent news that Manning may be ready for the opener that should get us excited about 2011...these new roster additions hold the promise that this year will be better than 2010 for the Colts.