Skip to main content

The Indianapolis Colts finished their preseason slate with a hard-fought game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles. The two teams engaged in heated joint practices prior to the game, with one ending early due to a fight. Luckily for both sides, the hostility did not bleed over into the contest.

The NFL Preseason Is In The Books… Now What?


Instead, the Colts were able to get one more look at a majority of the expected starters. Anthony Richardson opened the game behind center with his star wideouts flanking him. The offensive line saw Quenton Nelson suit up, while the running back room featured a steady dose of Evan Hull and Deon Jackson.

On the other side of the ball, DeForest Buckner even logged a few snaps vs. Philly. It was nice seeing the starters get some run, but most fans were geared toward the positional battles further down the depth chart — the ones competing for a full-time roster spot.

Who solidified their place on the final 53-man roster? We won’t have a legitimate answer until the roster cutdown takes place next Tuesday (Aug. 29). However, that doesn’t stop us from speculating and making some predictions!

These 53 names are the guys I see earning a roster spot for the regular season. Granted, injuries and potential trades or signings cloud the projections a bit. But for the most part, this is how things should shake out for general manager Chris Ballard.

Predicting The Indianapolis Colts 53-Man Roster


QB (3)

Anthony Richardson
Gardner Minshew
Sam Ehlinger

Full disclosure: I am not confident that the Colts will keep a third quarterback. But I am sure they like Sam Ehlinger enough to seriously consider it. Anthony Richardson will start every game so long as he stays healthy, and the veteran presence of Gardner Minshew is a lock at QB2.

Perhaps Ehlinger is moved down to the practice squad, but I’m not sure Indy wants to take the chance of another team claiming him. We’ll play it safe and assume all three signal-callers open the season with a roster spot.

RB (4)

Jonathan Taylor
Deon Jackson
Zack Moss
Evan Hull

Running back is a bit trickier with the uncertainty surrounding Jonathan Taylor. Whether he gets traded by the Tuesday deadline is the most pressing question on the roster. As of now, we must include JT in the final 53-man projection. But what about the rest of the group?

Deon Jackson filled in for Taylor in a few key games last season, but his 3.5 yards per carry calls into question his viability as a lead back. Zack Moss, a running back acquired in a trade with Buffalo, was trending toward earning a decent amount of reps before breaking his arm. It’ll be at least a few more weeks before he is ready.

Evan Hull is the most recent addition to the group via the NFL Draft, and I expect him to seize a spot in the backfield. The Northwestern alum is a versatile weapon who caught 55 passes out of the backfield in his final season with the Wildcats. He could be the perfect change-of-pace back.

Will Indy Keep A Sixth Wide Receiver?


WR (5)

Michael Pittman Jr.
Alec Pierce
Josh Downs
Isaiah McKenzie
Michael Strachan

Michael Pittman Jr. is the unquestioned leader in the wide receiver room, while second-year player Alec Pierce is on the rise. Veteran Isaiah McKenzie came over in free agency and provides a boost in the slot and on special teams while rookie Josh Downs acclimates to the NFL. Downs has looked phenomenal since arriving in Indianapolis and should be a fixture in the offense early in the season.

The Colts could decide to keep six receivers, but with the injury of Ashton Dulin, that likelihood has decreased. It will come down to Michael Strachan, Breshad Perriman, Amari Rodgers, Juwann Winfree, and the recently signed James Washington. Perhaps two of those names earn a spot when all is said and done, but I’ll stick with just Strachan for my prediction.

TE (4)

Mo Alie-Cox
Jelani Woods
Kylen Granson
Will Mallory

If the Colts elect to keep five wideouts, that will mean a fourth tight end is rostered instead. Mo Alie-Cox has been unavailable most of the offseason while recovering from injury, but he returned for limited action in the preseason finale. Jelani Woods hasn’t been able to log a full offseason of reps either due to the injury bug. Still, I expect both to make the roster, even if I personally would move on from Alie-Cox and keep a sixth receiver.

Nonetheless, Ballard is making these decisions — not me. Kylen Granson is the most consistent of the group — in terms of availability and production. And Will Mallory, a 2023 rookie, flexes similar traits as Granson. The duo may be deemed redundant, but we must remember how much head coach Shane Steichen uses the tight end position. There is enough room for them both.

Can The Colts O-Line Rebound In 2023?


OL (9)

Bernhard Raimann
Braden Smith
Blake Freeland
Quenton Nelson
Will Fries
Arlington Hambright
Danny Pinter —> Carter O’Donnell
Ryan Kelly
Emil Ekiyor Jr.

Indy once boasted one of the best offensive lines in the league. There are still a few quality players on the unit, including All-Pro Quenton Nelson, but the group as a whole left much to be desired last season. Veterans Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith return to the starting lineup after a disappointing 2022 campaign. The success of the line begins and ends with these three pillars.

At left tackle, the Colts might have a gem in Bernhard Raimann. The former third-rounder got off to a shaky start early in 2022 but posted above-average grades in the final month. He looks stronger and ready to take a second-year leap. As optimistic as fans are for 4/5 positions, right guard presents a major headache.

Will Fries, Emil Ekiyor Jr., Danny Pinter, and even Blake Freeland have tried and failed to take the starting role. All of them showed enough to make the roster, though that could change on NFL cutdown day when more players become available around the league. Throw in Arlington Hambright as a depth piece, and that’s the likely group for the Colts.

*Editor’s Note: Danny Pinter was carted off the field in the preseason finale, so Carter O’Donnell will take his place in this projection*

DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart Set The Tone Upfront


DL (9)

DeForest Buckner
Grover Stewart
Tyquan Lewis
Kwity Paye
Samson Ebukam
Dayo Odeyingbo
Al-Quadin Muhammad
Adetomiwa Adebawore
Eric Johnson II

Arguably the biggest strength of the Colts roster is in the defensive trenches. DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart are amongst the best tackles in the NFL. They set the tone for that side of the ball and should continue spearheading the charge for the Shoe.

Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo have shown development as both registered several pressures in training camp and the preseason. Samson Ebukam is a front-runner to play the snaps opposite Paye in the starting lineup after spending his first six seasons on the West Coast with the Rams and Niners.

Tyquan Lewis and Al-Quadin Muhammad are two personal favorites of mine, and both have qualities Indy needs upfront. Lewis recently got activated from the PUP list, and Muhammad has flashed in his limited action this preseason. Plus, you can’t overstate their familiarity with the franchise.

Adetomiwa Adebawore is a virtual lock for the roster after the Colts used an early Day 3 pick on him. I had Adebawore graded as a strong Round 2 grade, so it goes without saying how much potential the youngster possesses. Eric Johnson II must beat out Taven Bryan and McTelvin Agim to grab the ninth spot — I believe he will, but Bryan and Agim have performed admirably. It’s close.

Shaquille Leonard’s Health Is Vital For The Linebacker Corps


LB (6)

Shaquille Leonard
Zaire Franklin
E.J. Speed
JoJo DoMann
Grant Stuard
Segun Olubi

The health of Shaquille Leonard is paramount to the Gus Bradley defense. If he regains his All-Pro form, the Colts should once again be a respectable unit (at worst) or an elite one (at best). Zaire Franklin, armed with a new contract, assumes the starting role vacated by Bobby Okereke. Indy shouldn’t miss a beat with Franklin.

E.J. Speed has stamped his spot as the third linebacker on the depth chart with an impressive training camp. He always plays at 100 mph, fitting for his name, and gives the Colts some added juice for the middle of the defense. Segun Olubi is another shot in the dark for me, but his potential is off the charts. At only 23 years old, the team should bet on his talent.

Grant Stuard and JoJo DoMann complete the linebacker corps, although most of their contributions will likely come as special teamers. However, Stuard’s intensity and stellar showing as a linebacker in the preseason might force Bradley into giving him some run on defense. All 32 teams wish they had a Grant Stuard.

How Much Youth Is Too Much Youth? The Cornerback Room May Test The Limit


CB (6)

Kenny Moore II
JuJu Brents
Darius Rush
Jaylon Jones
Dallis Flowers
Darrell Baker Jr.
Chris Lammons* (suspended and does not count toward the 53-man total)

The leader of the cornerback room is Kenny Moore II. He is the longest-tenured Colt of the group and is hoping for a bounce-back year in the slot. Dallis Flowers made the initial 53-man roster last offseason as an undrafted rookie, and this season, he should do the same.

The suspended Chris Lammons doesn’t count toward the total number of players, so he is likely a guy the Colts plan on using once he returns. Otherwise, he would have already been gone. Darrell Baker Jr. is the surprise out of camp so far. The Georgia Southern alum looks like he belongs and deserves starter reps to open the year.

Then there is the trio of cornerbacks that the Colts drafted at this year’s event. JuJu Brents is the most highly-regarded one, with otherworldly size and the ideal skillset to thrive in Bradley’s zone-heavy scheme. Darius Rush possesses some of the best instincts I’ve ever evaluated at cornerback, and his 4.3 speed doesn’t hurt either. Jaylon Jones held a fringe top 100 grade on my big board; Indy got a potential starter in Round 7.

A Three-Man Show Rules The Safety Position


SAF (4)

Julian Blackmon
Rodney Thomas II
Nick Cross
Trevor Denbow

The safety position is a three-man show heading into the 2023 NFL season. Julian Blackmon and Rodney Thomas II are expected to be the starting safeties, while Nick Cross serves as the third fiddle. Blackmon must remain healthy to capitalize on his immense talent, and Thomas II must prove last season was more than a blip on the radar. Cross has taken strides all offseason and will be ready to pounce if either guy falters.

Trevor Denbow will only be used as a safety in the event of injury or emergency, but he is a valuable member of the special teams unit. As is often the case, the players with a special teams background have a leg up in these positional battles. Denbow should get good news next Tuesday.

Special Teams Might Be Boring For Some, But The Colts Boast An Elite Unit


ST (3)

Matt Gay
Rigoberto Sanchez
Luke Rhodes

The Colts paid a hefty price to secure Matt Gay for the next couple of seasons. Even with a somewhat shaky preseason, Gay is locked into the starting kicker role. Rigoberto Sanchez returns for his seventh season in Indianapolis and shows no signs of slowing down. Luke Rhodes, a two-time All-Pro long snapper, is one of the best in the business in his own right.

If nothing else, the Colts have a reliable special teams unit to lean on.


More From The Blue Stable:

3 Positions The Colts Could Address In The 2024 Draft

Colts Fantasy Football: Draft Or Pass

Leave a Reply