AFC South: Jabin Sambrano

Free-agency series: Wide receivers

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
Here is the third of a 10-part series breaking down the Jaguars’ free-agency needs, position by position:

Wide receivers

Who’s on the roster: Justin Blackmon, Mike Brown, Chad Bumphis, Jeremy Ebert, Stephen Burton, Taylor Price, Denard Robinson, Jabin Sambrano, Ace Sanders, Cecil Shorts, Kerry Taylor, Lamaar Thomas and Stephen Williams.

Analysis: This position group is solid provided Blackmon is on the field. However, nobody knows when, or if, he’ll get back on the field. He is eligible to apply for reinstatement from his indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy just before the 2014 season begins. Even if he’s reinstated, there’s no guarantee he’ll avoid another suspension. He is clearly the Jaguars’ best receiver, catching 29 passes for 415 yards in the four games in which he played in 2013. Shorts has played well the past two seasons (121 catches for 1,756 yards), though he has missed five games because of injuries and missed the final three games of this past season and went on IR with a sports hernia. He’s not a No. 1 receiver, though, and had some trouble when he was thrust into that role when Blackmon was suspended. Taylor came on at the end of the season and is intriguing as a No. 4/5 receiver. Brown and Sanders, who caught 51 passes last season as a rookie, are dependable slot receivers. In addition to Shorts, Burton, Ebert, Price and Williams finished the season on injured reserve. Bumphis and Sambrano are on the practice squad. Price’s contract expires next month and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

NFL free agents of interest: Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker, Riley Cooper, Brandon Tate and Golden Tate.

Need meter: 5. The Jaguars could get by without adding a receiver in free agency, because it’s likely they’ll draft at least one. The position group needs an upgrade at the top end, but to get a big-time player the Jaguars will have to spend big-time money, and it doesn’t seem likely they’ll do that on a receiver. Regardless of whether it’s a free agent or a draft pick, it’s likely to be a bigger, more physical receiver, because that’s one thing the Jaguars lack. Burton (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) fits the description, but has just 15 catches in three seasons and battled a concussion much of last season.

Indianapolis Colts cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
Most significant move: Defensive lineman Fili Moala didn’t play in the preseason because was he was still rehabbing a knee injury from late 2012, but that didn’t stop him from making the roster. Keeping Moala put an end to fellow defensive lineman Drake Nevis’ time with the Colts. Fullback Dominique Jones was cut, leaving the Colts with only one fullback on the roster, Stanley Havili.

A feel-good story: Linebacker Caesar Rayford kept hearing from NFL teams over the years that they liked what they saw out of him on video while he played in the Arena Football League. Rayford, however, never got an invite to a training camp from any of those teams. That changed this year when the Colts, led by general manager Ryan Grigson’s willingness to search anywhere for talent, invited Rayford to camp. Rayford didn’t disappoint, either. He had a team-high five sacks during the preseason. Rayford now has a spot on the 53-man roster. The 27-year-old rookie’s best bet to get on the field will likely be on special teams. He’ll take it after getting looked over for so many years while he played in the Canadian and Arena Football League.

What’s next: Grigson and his staff aren’t going to sit tight. They’ll continue to monitor which players -- especially offensive linemen and possibly fullback -- around the league were released, and don’t be surprised if the roster the Colts take into their season opener against Oakland on Sept. 8 is completely different than the current one. The Colts will likely add quarterback Chandler Harnish and linebacker Daniel Adongo to the practice squad if both players clear waivers. Adongo didn’t play in the preseason, but the Colts are intrigued by the former rugby player. Harnish was on the practice squad last season.

Colts cuts: LB: Daniel Adongo, Josh McNary, Monte Simmons, Shawn Loiseau. DB: Larry Asante, Marshay Green, Sheldon Price, Daxton Swanson. OL: Thomas Austin, Ben Ijalana, Bradley Sowell, Lee Ziemba, Emmett Cleary. DL: Lawrence Guy, Drake Nevis, Martin Tevaseu. QB: Chandler Harnish. FB: Robert Hughes. TE: Dominique Jones. WR: Jeremy Kelley, Jabin Sambrano, Lanear Sampson

What to watch for: Colts-Browns

August, 24, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- The third preseason game is the one to keep an eye on. It’s the game where you can get a better indication of where the team stands because the starting unit usually plays into the third quarter.

That’s the plan Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano has with his starters in Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

Here’s what to watch for:

1. A running attack: I'm like most of you, I'm waiting for the Colts' power-running game, discussed by offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton in training camp, to show up. The Colts haven't even teased us with anything yet. They're averaging 3.1 yards a carry in the preseason. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw won't join Vick Ballard in the backfield Saturday, because the team doesn’t want to rush Bradshaw back on the field after practicing in pads for the first time this week. Not having tight ends Coby Fleener (knee) and Dwayne Allen (foot) to block will make things more difficult for the Colts. So in other words, you likely won't see anything that resembles a power-running game until at least Week 1 against Oakland. Good thing quarterback Andrew Luck (13-of-19 and a 128.8 passer rating) has looked sharp in the preseason.

2. Stopping the run: Is giving up 115.5 yards a game on the ground in two preseason games bad? Yes, but you also have to take into consideration that the starters spent the majority of those games on the sideline watching. What is alarming, though, is that the defense has given up runs of 17, 15 and 21 yards on three of their opponent’s first four runs of the game. The starters will be tested again against Browns running back Trent Richardson. You have every reason to wonder if the defense can improve on being 29th in the league in rushing yards allowed last season if Richardson has a strong game against the starters.

3. Debut time: Speaking of the defense, it will have the starting unit on paper together for the first time in the preseason. Safety LaRon Landry (knee) and linebacker Pat Angerer (foot) are expected to play. Landry will join a secondary -- Antoine Bethea, Vontae Davis and Greg Toler -- that has been solid in the preseason. Toler, a free-agent signing in the offseason, had an interception against the New York Giants on Aug 18. Angerer and Landry are familiar with the defensive scheme, it’s a matter of them getting game reps, especially Landry. Angerer, who spent the first part of training camp on the physically unable to perform list while working his way back from offseason foot surgery, could get between 15 and 20 snaps. Rookie guard Hugh Thornton is also making his preseason debut. Thornton, who injured his ankle right before training camp, will likely back up Jeff Linkenbach at guard.

4. Final audition: Rosters must be trimmed from 90 to 75 players by Tuesday. Keep an eye on the receiver spot. The Colts are still looking for a fourth and fifth receiver. LaVon Brazill, currently the fourth receiver, is suspended the first four games of the season. Jeremy Kelley, Nathan Palmer, Jabin Sambrano, Lanear Sampson and Griff Whalen aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity. There is a reason why general manager Ryan Grigson went out and signed receiver Maurice Williams this week.

5. Special teams: Rookie Kerwynn Williams, Sambrano and Cassius Vaughn have handled kickoff return duties in the first two games. David Reed might get a shot to return kicks Saturday. He was acquired in the trade that sent running Delone Carter to Baltimore this week. Reed led the league by averaging 29.3 yards a kickoff return in 2010.
ANDERSON, Ind. -- What do the numbers seven, 20 and 12 mean for the Indianapolis Colts?

Unfortunately for them, they're not positive numbers.

Those are number of catches -- 12 -- and appearances -- 20 -- by the seven receivers in training camp not named Reggie Wayne, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and T.Y. Hilton.

You can take Heyward-Bey's name out of the mix, which makes those numbers even more alarming, because the former first-round pick is out with a sprained left knee.

An MRI on Heyward-Bey's left knee came back negative, coach Chuck Pagano said Monday. He's day-to-day.

Are the Colts worried? Not yet at least. But there will likely be some uneasiness if Heyward-Bey, who signed with the team in the offseason, is out for an extended period of time, because he's been starting opposite of Wayne during camp.

Pagano looks at Heyward-Bey's absence as an opportunity for others to step up.

"Those guys are taking full advantage of it," the Colts' coach said. "You're talking about guys like Griff Whalen and (Jabin) Sambrano and Nate Palmer. It's a great opporunity for those guys to take advantage of that."

Hilton has slid into the No. 2 spot, and Whalen, who spent last season on the injured reserve list because of a foot injury, will get more reps to build on what has already been a strong training camp for him.

Whalen, a teammate of quarterback Andrew Luck at Stanford, has caught almost every pass that has come his way.

Think Denver's Wes Welker and former Colts receiver Austin Collie, both exceptional slot receivers, when you think about Whalen. He is even wearing No. 17, the same number Collie wore while with the Colts.

"He's reliable," Pagano said. "You can count on him. He knows exactly what to do. He doesn't make mental mistakes. Catches basically everything that is thrown to him."

And the early hype surrounding Whalen's success so far in camp?

"I haven't been paying much attention to it to be honest," he said. "I'm just trying to come out every day and approach it as what I need to do."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts generated some buzz Tuesday afternoon, putting their rookie quarterback on display in front of approximately 7,500 fans in a minicamp practice at Lucas Oil Stadium.

It was the public’s first real look at the new regime in action, and they hope it also served to sell some tickets -- the 3,000 available seats were marked off and fans could sample them before buying.

Standard disclaimer: There is not a ton to glean from a minicamp practice, with no pads, no contact and systems still being installed.

Even so, here are 10 things from this afternoon:

1) I’ve generally expressed surprise that this building came with the giant window and the retractable roof, as it’s so rarely open during football season. But today was a lovely day to have it. I watched from the stands at midfield rather than the corner of the end zone that was the designated press area. And in the shade with a lovely breeze made it was a phenomenal spot.

2) During kick-return work early on as quarterbacks threw to get loose, Reggie Wayne stepped in for the equipment man who was catching Andrew Luck’s throws. (Most non-special teamers just stood around. There was more of that than in similar situations under the previous regime.) Later in a similar situation, Austin Collie did the same. Every little bit helps, and there is no sense having the equipment guy get familiar with Luck’s throws. It’s not a big deal, but it’s hardly insignificant either.

3) Eight guys were in line for field kicks during the kick-return work -- the ones named by the team’s play by play guy who worked as MC were receivers Donnie Avery, LaVon Brazill and Jabin Sambrano, running back Deji Karim and cornerback Cassius Vaughn.

4) Coach Chuck Pagano said as the hybrid 3-4 comes together, ends turned outside linebacker Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will spend some of the positional periods working with linebackers and some with defensive linemen. Freeney was with the linemen today and Mathis with the backers.

5) Luck showed me some arm strength. I’ve not bought into the doubters, but I don’t see how they’d have many questions after a day like today. He threw a solid 55-yard pass to the goal line for Wayne that fell incomplete but not for lack of distance. On another throw to Wayne that required a dart of 20 or 25 yards as the receiver angled in from the left side, Luck fired it right in there with great zip. The arm’s not an issue.

6) In 2:00 drill work, Luck showed nice touch and Collie made a nice adjustment to a fade, catching a short TD pass over cornerback Terrence Johnson.

7) Pagano pumped up the crowd with a thank you over the loudspeaker system when things wrapped, talking about making LOS a place with a big home-field advantage. We’ll see if Luck’s “debut” and the practice session sold many tickets.

8 ) According to Pagano, Colts rookies have two weeks left of the seven offseason weeks they can work at the facility with coaches. Those days can be 10 hours long, so Luck and coordinator Bruce Arians will get some serious time together before things shut down until camp.

9) Seth Olsen is playing at left guard with the starting offensive line, but Pagano said Olsen working ahead of Joe Reitz is a matter of the team monitoring and protecting Reitz’s workload as he’s been nicked, and there isn't any clear depth chart advantage at this point. Pagano didn't specify Reitz's nick.

10) Finally, I know many of you don’t care about debates over access or consider it inside baseball. Still I am compelled to get on the record here. The Colts asked credentialed press not to tweet during practice and as far as I know we abided despite our protests. I don't want to live tweet play-by-play, but when I see news at a public event, I need to be free to share it. So going forward, I ask them to realize it’s impossible to keep any secrets from any public practice.

Nate Dunlevy is a quality reporter and writer, and the Bleacher Report’s AFC South writer was in the stands, without a credential. So if you followed him today (@NateDunlevy) you got info about who was on the first team and what was unfolding. Why should, the Indy Star and others who are spending money to have people “cover” the Colts minicamp be restricted while the 7,500 who walked in the gates to watch practice were free to tweet whatever they liked?

It’s not sensible, and it comes across as a control issue. The post-Bill Polian Colts have loosened up with the media, and we’re all grateful for that. But the franchise has got to rethink this issue. Because at training camp practices with crowds, if a reporter being paid to be there sees news, there is no rationalizing not getting it out there. John Doe will, and he shouldn't be entitled to be first, maybe for hours. He also might not be able to offer the context the reporter can. It doesn’t make sense that relationships between the press and the team could be damaged as a result of a media member breaking with a policy that shouldn't exist.