The Indianapolis Colts announced their final 53-man roster on Saturday afternoon, with the following cuts:
"DE Sterling Bailey, OLB Trevor Bates, S Alden Darby, CB Tay Glover-Wright, S Lee Hightower, ILB Nate Irving, S Stefan McClure, WR MeKale McKay, CB Christopher Milton, OG Kitt O’Brien, OLB Earl Okine, DT Kelcy Quarles, OG Adam Redmond, RB Stevan Ridley, WR Tevaun Smith, OT Mitchell Van Dyk, OT Jeremy Vujnovich. As well as three players CB Tevin Mitchel, OLB Ron Thompson, and OG Hugh Thornton being placed on injured reserve."
In the aftermath, the biggest surprise on the list is obviously 6th-year veteran inside linebacker Nate Irving, who was signed just an offseason ago to a 3-year, $9.25M deal and was widely expected to replace departed starter Jerrell Freeman early on in training camp.
However, Irving was ultimately beat out for the starting job by fellow veteran Sio Moore, and it appears the Colts opted to go with three inside linebackers: Antonio Morrison, Josh McNary, and Edwin Jackson instead as backups at the position.
Both McNary and Jackson are expected to be core special teams players, while Morrison can also help in that regard. That may have made the final difference, as with a depleted roster due to injuries, the Colts will need their backups to be able to play special teams at a high level.
That’s not exactly Irving’s strength–having always been highly regarded as a between-the-tackles “run-stopper” rather than “run and chase” player.
The 6’1″, 253 pound Irving had reportedly shed some weight this offseason to help get quicker on the field; however, it’s possible that he’s never fully recovered from a 2014 season-ending torn ACL that he suffered as a member of the Denver Broncos.
It’s worth noting that Irving missed the final 8 games of last season with the Colts, only this time to a season-ending wrist injury.
Otherwise, the Colts surprisingly opted to keep a 3rd quarterback Stephen Morris, despite a roster that is ravaged by injuries. Don’t get me wrong, Morris played well enough to earn a job on the 53-man roster in preseason, but it seems like a bit of a luxury at this time given the overall needs of the roster.
However, after playing 5 quarterbacks last season in the wake of Andrew Luck‘s season-ending injury, perhaps the Colts simply don’t want to go down that road again and rightfully so, given Morris’ ability and potential.
Meanwhile, a trio of unheralded young players: outside linebacker Curt Maggitt, running back Jordan Todman, and cornerback Frankie Williams, simply fought their way on the 53-man roster–earning much-deserved roster spots.
It’s interesting that despite rushing for just 15 total rushing yards on 19 carries (0.79 ypc avg) in preseason–i.e. more carries than rushing yards, the Colts still are interested in Josh Ferguson‘s long-term potential as a rookie running back and ultimately kept him on the 53-man roster.
To his credit, Ferguson has shown a special ability to catch-and-run in the team’s last two preseason games with 8 receptions for 61 receiving yards.
It’s also worth noting that the Colts neither opted to keep an extra defensive lineman such as Kelcy Quarles or Sterling Bailey nor on the offensive line like OG Kitt O’Brien or OT Jeremy Vujnovich. This bodes well for the recovery of key players on both sides of the trenches to come back sooner rather than later.
Please keep in mind though that despite this being the current 53-man roster, that could certainly change in the coming days, as the Colts scour the waiver wire of other team’s releases for potential upgrades.