The Indianapolis Colts have announced their training camp schedule. Starting on July 25th, and breaks on August 16th.
During the one-month training program in Westfield Indiana, there are going to be a number of position battles by players. Not only vying for a spot on the 53 man roster, but for starting roles as well. Below, I break down just a few of them…
Wide Receiver: This position is scrutinized by nearly every media outlet. T.Y. Hilton has one of the starting roles locked down, but what about the other side, or slot receiver? Devin Funchess, the free agent previously from the Carolina Panthers is expected to lock down the other outside receiver selection. Fan favorite Deon Cain is expected to push for that role after having a standout camp last year, but how much has the ACL injury, and rehab, taken from his play-making ability?
Parris Campbell is expected to lock down the starting slot role. But with his limited knowledge of routes, and the new playbook, will veteran Chester Rogers once again be the go-to man at the start of preseason?
These two camp battles will be watched closely, and I fully expect both of the first named, to take their roles respectively. Funchess is the veteran big man that Indy invested $10 million in, and they will give him every chance to succeed. As for the Parris/Rogers battle, Parris’ speed, size (4.31-40 vs 4.49-40 & 205 lbs vs Roger’s 185), and running back history, seems to give him an upper hand here.
Another position battle closely monitored is the cornerback. Pierre Desir has one starting outside corner position to himself, signing the extension earlier in the offseason. And Kenny Moore II was given a stamp of approval by the Colts with a four-year extension last week. So his position at the slot corner seems as safe as can be.
But the Colts picked Rock Ya-Sin first in this year’s draft for a reason. Does this mean Quincy Wilson’s starting position at the other outside spot is in jeopardy? I wouldn’t put money on it quite yet. Wilson showed great improvement with his on the field play in the second half of the season. It just seemed like he started to ‘get it’ after the previous Colts safety Mike Mitchell reportedly showed him how to break down film on his own. I’m not saying Wilson’s a sure lock at the starting outside corner spot, but Ya-Sin’s unfamiliarity with zone scheme’s, and his tendency to hand check receiver’s well beyond the buffer zone will give Rock a higher ladder to climb to reach Wilson’s level.
I honestly think this all depends on Wilson. If he continues to practice hard on and off the field, he should remain opposite Desir. Ya-Sin is just too green at the position facing higher competition (especially for the NFL), let alone the scheme. But do not be surprised if Ya-sin is able to sneak in a bunch of time relieving starter’s, to keep fresh bodies on the field.
The more intriguing battles that going to happen (at least for me), is at the linebacker positions. Darius Leonard has the WILL position locked up and has the key’s to it hidden away behind his Defensive Rookie of the Year award. But the MIKE and SAM position’s have some interesting things going on.
The Sam position is completely up for grabs and is by far the most blurry position on the Colts depth chart. Last year, Matthew Adams and Zaire Franklin split many of the snaps when the Colts defense was in its base package. Then, Indy spent one of their second-round picks on Ben Banogu and their fifth on E.J. Speed. Banogu seemed like a lock for the SAM position, but then early report’s have had him playing a lot of defensive end earlier in OTAs. What does this mean for the position?
Then the MIKE position has some wrinkles in it as well. Anthony Walker Jr. played solid last year. His knowledge, leadership at the MIKE was outstanding and he had a very good season. However, his one weakness was pass defense. In comes 3rd round pick Bobby Okereke. A linebacker similar in form to Leonard, he has length and speed to cover tight end’s in the passing game (at least in theory).
I believe Banogu will end up with the SAM spot considering he was used at DE due to injuries at the position during OTAs. This should help him however in any blitz packages Matt Eberflus schemes up for him. As for MIKE, I just don’t see Walker losing his spot here. His command of the defense has been nothing short of great, for the majority of the 2018 season. I can, however, see Okereke come in for relief, or in obvious passing downs.
In conclusion, the only two positions I see a possible change at the starting roles are slot receiver, and SAM linebacker (and defensive end, but the competition is not as great against Justin Houston). But with all the talent the Colts acquired this past off-season, the depth behind the starters will be much improved. The drop off in talent will be much less obvious this year, as opposed to past seasons.
P.S. — Stay tuned later in July, I have something special in the works for opening day of Colts training camp. A special article will be issued immediately afterward.