Indianapolis Colts 53-man roster projection: Will WRs step up for new QB Matt Ryan?

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts open the 2022 NFL regular season at the Houston Texans on Sept. 11.

So much of the Colts’ offseason centered around the changing of the quarterback position, as they traded one-year failure Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders and acquired veteran and former MVP Matt Ryan as its sixth different Week 1 starter in as many seasons.

But quarterback wasn’t the only significant change for the Colts during the offseason.

Gus Bradley replaced Matt Eberflus, who was hired as the Chicago Bears’ head coach, as defensive coordinator. Then the Colts went out and signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore, a former NFL Defensive of Player of the Year, and traded for Yannick Ngakoue to help on the defensive line alongside DeForest Buckner.

The Colts will head into training camp with the lack of experience at receiver as the biggest question.

Here’s a 53-man roster projection heading into the summer break:

QUARTERBACK (2): Matt Ryan, Nick Foles

The Colts have plenty of stability at quarterback, as Ryan has missed only three starts since entering the NFL in 2008. They’re in good hands if Ryan gets injured because Foles has started 56 games in his career. Colts coach Frank Reich was Foles’ offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles.

RUNNING BACK (4): Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Deon Jackson, Phillip Lindsay

Taylor led the NFL in rushing with 1,811 yards last season. Hines spent part of the offseason workouts working with the receivers. Hines started his college career at N.C. State as a receiver before switching to running back. Jackson and Lindsay will fight it out for the third running back position.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, Alec Pierce, Dezmon Patmon, Ashton Dulin, Mike Strachan

This is the first time since 2011 that T.Y. Hilton is not listed on the roster projection. Pittman is the Colts’ No. 1 receiver and had 1,082 yards in 2021. None of the other returning receivers had more than 200 yards receiving last season. The unknown at this position is whether Campbell can stay healthy. He’s played only 15 games in his three seasons because of injury problems. Pierce, the Colts’ second-round pick, will challenge Campbell to be their No. 2 receiver.

TIGHT END (4): Mo Alie-Cox, Jelani Woods, Kylen Granson, Andrew Ogletree

This is one of the Colts’ biggest questions, following the retirement of Jack Doyle in the offseason. Alie-Cox is the projected starter after spending the first part of his career backing up the likes of Doyle and Eric Ebron. The question is who will be the No. 2 tight end between Granson and the rookie Woods.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Ryan Kelly, Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith, Will Fries, Matt Pryor, Danny Pinter, Ryan Van Damark, Bernhard Raimann, Dennis Kelly

After having one of the top offensive lines for several seasons, this unit has questions following the departures of left tackle Eric Fisher and right guard Mark Glowinski. Pryor and Pinter will have opportunities to start at left tackle and right guard, respectively. Nelson, after starting every game his first three seasons, missed four games last season.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Yannick Ngakoue, Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner, Curtis Brooks, Eric Johnson, Tyquan Lewis, Dayo Odeyingbo, Grover Stewart, Chris Williams

Colts general manager Chris Ballard is a big believer in having plenty of depth on the defensive line. The Colts just may have that this season. Ngakoue, who the Colts acquired from Las Vegas during the offseason, gives them another pass-rusher on the outside to go with Paye on the other edge and Buckner in the middle. Odeyingbo could be a key component on the outside rotation after getting off to a slow start during his rookie season because of spending the majority of the offseason working his way back from a torn Achilles suffered while in college at Vanderbilt.

LINEBACKER (5): Darius Leonard, E.J. Speed, Bobby Okereke, Zaire Franklin, JoJo Domann

A major concern with this group is the health of the All-Pro Leonard. He spent the majority of the offseason working his way back from an ankle injury that bothered him during the 2021 season. Then Leonard had back surgery that may cause him to miss time in training camp. Speed worked with Okereke and Franklin as the third starter in the group during offseason workouts.

CORNERBACK (5): Stephon Gilmore, Kenny Moore II, Isaiah Rodgers, Brandon Facyson, Rodney Thomas II, Anthony Chesley

Moore didn’t take part in the Colts’ offseason workouts prior to their mandatory minicamp as a way to show his displeasure with his current contract situation. The Colts will be in a good position if Gilmore looks anything close to the same player who won NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019.

SAFETY (4): Nick Cross, Julian Blackmon, Rodney McLeod, Armani Watts, Brandon King

The Colts lost one of their starters at safety when Khari Willis recently announced he was retiring to focus on ministry. The veteran McCleod will likely get the first crack at starting, with Blackmon at the other safety spot and Cross being the long-term answer at the position.

SPECIALISTS (3): Luke Rhodes, Rigoberto Sanchez, Rodrigo Blankenship

The clock is ticking on Blankenship to hold down the kicking spot. He missed the final 12 games last season after suffering a hip injury while warming up before their Week 5 game at Baltimore. Blankenship has missed a combined five field goals and three extra points in his career.

Source: ESPN

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