3 likely changes to the Colts depth chart

With one preseason game complete, here are three likely changes to the depth chart for the Indianapolis Colts.
Aug 12, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Indianapolis Colts offensive tackle Dan Skipper (74) and
Aug 12, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Indianapolis Colts offensive tackle Dan Skipper (74) and / Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the team’s first preseason game, the Indianapolis Colts released a depth chart. Indy has now played that game, losing to the Buffalo Bills. Based on that game, training camp performances, and a projection of what’s to come, there will likely be several changes to the depth chart.

Let’s take a look at three likely changes to the Colts depth chart.

1. Colts backup offensive line

Gardner Minshew
Indianapolis Colts v Buffalo Bills / Timothy T Ludwig/GettyImages

It was very evident in Saturday's preseason opener against the Bills that the Colts OL depth remains a concern from last year and may need outside help sooner rather than later.

Rookie tackle Blake Freeland, who is set to be the team's swing tackle behind starters Bernhard Raimann and Braden Smith, had an okay showing. He started for the injured Braden Smith and was rather volatile with some promising plays as well as some uninspiring efforts.

Backup center Wesley French had a solid day with the second team OL but the rest of group struggled immensely, especially that of UDFA guard and hometown kid Emil Ekiyor Jr. If the Colts plan to roll with this second unit for the season, they better pray none of the starters get hurt.

2. Josh Downs overtakes Colts starting slot role

Aug 12, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Josh Downs (1) returns a
Aug 12, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Josh Downs (1) returns a / Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

From the draft cycle to offseason festivities, one thing's remained a constant that's Josh Downs' ability to stay open. He flashed against the Bills' backup defensive backs as a reliable target that is seemingly always open. Downs has built a rapport with QB Gardner Minshew the most throughout camp, however, he is someone where it truly doesn't matter who's at the helm because he's a security blanket for any QB.

Veteran slot-receiver Isaiah McKenzie has remained the starter all throughout training camp, but Downs may essentially force head coach Shane Steichen and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooters' hands into getting him on the field. McKenzie has historically thrived in the redzone, so perhaps instead of a full-blown elevation, Downs becomes the field-strecher and McKenzie is the RZ guy. Nonetheless, I can see Downs taking the starting gig by Week 6 if he continues his consistent reliability.

3. Darius Rush either starts or forces a cornerback rotation

This isn't a mere overreaction to his electric pick-six in Saturday's game; Darius Rush has had the best overall offseason among the three rookie cornerbacks drafted this year (JuJu Brents, Rush, and Jaylon Jones). When you consider rookie minicamp, OTAs, training camp, and now the preseason opener, Rush has been the steadiest of the group.

That's not to say JuJu Brents and Jaylon Jones have been bad by any means, they've both had solid camps as well. Brents hadn't been cleared to practice in training camp until semi-recently but has fared well since. Jones has had a great training camp and okay sessions in OTAs and rookie minicamp.

As it stands, the likely starters will end up being second-year UDFA Darrell Baker Jr. and JuJu Brents or Dallis Flowers. However, if Rush continues his dominance, DC Gus Bradley may be forced to at least incorporate some sort of rotation between the group, if not elevating him as the starter altogether. Rush has proved too much to not see any playing time at this point and he's too valuable defensively to solely be used on special teams.