Indianapolis Colts: Da'Rick Rogers
RUNNING BACKS (4)
The Colts will have a solid running combination if -- and we’re saying if until proven wrong -- Richardson can bounce back from a poor first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw and Ballard can stay injury-free. Havili, a fullback, gets the edge over Mario Harvey, who switched from linebacker to fullback during offseason workouts.
The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.
TIGHT ENDS (4)
Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
- Khaled Holmes
- Hugh Thornton
- Jack Mewhort
- Anthony Castonzo
- Gosder Cherilus
- Donald Thomas
- Joe Reitz
- Lance Louis
- Xavier Nixon
There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)
Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field.
- Robert Mathis
- Erik Walden
- D'Qwell Jackson
- Jerrell Freeman
- Bjoern Werner
- Andrew Jackson
- Jonathan Newsome
- Daniel Adongo
- Henoc Muamba
- Josh McNary
All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)
- Greg Toler
- Vontae Davis
- Darius Butler
- LaRon Landry
- Delano Howell
- Mike Adams
- Sergio Brown
- Josh Gordy
- Colt Anderson
- Loucheiz Purifoy
It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.
This only changes if an injury occurs.
The only way Brazill had a chance of sticking with the Colts at the conclusion of his suspension, which will be at least a year, was if team officials were compassionate -- the same way they are with owner Jim Irsay -- and realized the receiver has a problem with substance abuse.
That evidently is not the case.
It’s easy to question the whole double-standard thing when talking about Brazill and Irsay because both parties have significant issues they need to address.
The difference between the two, though, is that Irsay is a businessman who helps the franchise. Brazill is a replaceable receiver. The Colts proved that when they signed a receiver -- Aaron Burks -- to take his spot on the roster Friday.
Don’t worry -- Irsay will get his punishment, too, once commissioner Roger Goodell figures out the best discipline for the owner.
As far as Brazill goes, he put himself in the position of not only losing out on the $570,000 he was scheduled to make during the 2014 season, but also being without a team to play on.
He knew that he could be randomly tested up to 10 times a month because he was in Stage 2 of the program following his first suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
He still failed to avoid the temptation.
Now Brazill’s money and roster spot, which wasn’t guaranteed anyway, are gone.
I talked to Da’Rick Rogers on the final day of the Colts’ mandatory minicamp last month and he said he was looking forward to the competition for one of the final receiver spots on the roster.
“I embrace the challenge,” Rogers told me.
You know what?
Rogers and Griff Whalen no longer have to worry about Brazill pushing them in the competition.
Mike Wells: Donte Moncrief does have to fight for a roster spot, but the challenge to make the team is steeper for Griff Whalen and Da'Rick Rogers.
The Indianapolis Colts wouldn’t have wasted a third-round pick, especially since they only had five total in the draft, on Moncrief if they didn’t have high hopes for him. I’d say Moncrief has exceeded expectations so far during the offseason workouts. Of course, none of those workouts were done in pads or with the defense playing aggressive.
Whalen and Rogers both saw their odds of making the final roster -- depending on how many receivers the Colts keep -- increase when LaVon Brazill was suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy last week.
Nothing is guaranteed, but it's pretty safe to assume Moncrief will be on the roster competing for the fourth receiver spot behind T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks this sesaon. The Colts could end up keeping five or six receivers on the roster this season.
INDIANAPOLIS -- So money over marijuana, LaVon Brazill?
That is what Brazill told reporters in training camp in July 2013 after he revealed he was suspended for the first four games of last season for smoking marijuana.
It turns out that was just talk by the Brazill. Now he won’t be making any of the $570,000 he was scheduled to make in 2014 because taking substances not allowed by the NFL is more important.
Brazill’s suspension does make things easier for the Colts coaching staff when it comes to picking the final receiver spots on the roster.
He was expected to be one of the primary options with Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen to compete for possibly up to two receiving spots on the roster depending on how many the Colts decide to keep.
Now Rogers and Whalen have the inside track if the Colts go with six receivers on the roster. The Colts are set with the first four receivers: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief.
The Colts have three receivers but only two spots at best.
Here's Day 2 of the five-day series looking at the five most competitive position battles.
Primary candidates: Da'Rick Rogers, Griff Whalen, LaVon Brazill.
Rogers: 14 receptions, 192 yards, 2 TD
Pro: Rogers has the size -- 6-foot-3 -- the Colts like at that position and the coaching staff and general manager Ryan Grigson are high on his talent. Grigson tried to sign Rogers as an undrafted free agent right after the 2013 draft, but he signed with Buffalo first. He has the big-play potential. Rogers had six catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns against Cincinnati on Dec. 8 and he made a key 46-yard catch where he went up to haul in the pass during the Colts' 28-point comeback against Kansas City in the wild-card playoff game.
Con: Rogers started his collegiate career at the University of Tennessee before a poor attitude and off-the-field problems cut short his time there. The talent is there, but there are concerns if Rogers can avoid trouble.
Whalen: 24 receptions, 259 yards, 2 TD
Pro: Whalen has excellent continuity with quarterback Andrew Luck since the two were not only teammates at Stanford but also college roommates. Whalen bounced back and forth between being on the active roster, the practice squad and even being released. He still managed to be sixth on the team in receptions.
Con: It's not hard to find a player like Whalen.
Brazill: 12 receptions, 161 yards, 2 TD
Pro: Brazill has the most playing experience of the three guys competing for the spot. He finished last season by having two catches -- both for touchdowns -- and 73 yards in their playoff loss to New England.
Con: Like Rogers, you have to worry about Brazill off the field. He was suspended for the first four games of last season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Wells' prediction: The Colts keep six receivers with Whalen being the odd man out.
- Mike Chappell of the Indy Star caught up with former Colts running back Edgerrin James, who is enjoying retirement while being a tourist traveling around the country. James set the Colts' franchise record for rushing yards in a career, in a season and in a game during his career with the team from 1999-2005.
- Kevin Bowen of Colts.com talked to running back Vick Ballard to get an update on his recovery from a torn ACL, which happened after Week 1 last season. "Once you get out there running around, moving your feet, catching the ball and stuff like that, you get to feeling like a football player," Ballard said. "For a long time, I felt like I was just a rehab warrior -- coming in, not really touching the field, running on the treadmill and stuff like that. So to actually put cleats on and go out there and start making cuts, it's different now."
- Craig Kelley, also of Colts.com, writes about receiver Griff Whalen and the battle he faces in the roster next season. Whalen, who worked his way up the depth chart at Stanford, is competing with LaVon Brazill and Da'Rick Rogers for what could be the fifth and final receiver spot on the roster next season. "I feel stronger, faster, better overall. I can feel the difference on the field," said Whalen. "During the offseason, I've been working on that. During the workouts, I think it's showing up. The weight room is really important. There are different aspects that are important. It changes as you go along from building your base strength, and there's a lot of stability work to help prevent injury."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Not that there was really any suspense behind it, but the Indianapolis Colts have signed all five of their draft picks.
The Colts officially took care of their business when they reached a deal their last unsigned draft pick, third-round receiver Donte Moncrief, on Friday.
Moncrief started 37 games at Ole Miss and finished third in school history in receptions (156), receiving yards (2,371) and receiving touchdowns (20).
He missed time during the team's organized team activities (OTAs) this week to attend the NFLPA's Rookie Premiere event in Los Angeles.
They had do-everything quarterback Andrew Luck, but they insisted on a being a run-first team. The only sign of that working happened in their Week 3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Injuries and lack of running game from Trent Richardson and Donald Brown forced the Colts to basically become a no-huddle offensive team by the end of the season.
They started the season mixing in some two-back sets. They ended it basically using one-back, one-tight-end, three-receiver sets.
"We’re going to be a score-first team," Hamilton said. "We’re going to do whatever we need to do to score one more point than our opponent."
Don’t kid yourself; Hamilton won't allow Luck to drop back in the pocket and fling the ball downfield -- even if he does have plenty of weapons at his disposal -- 50 times per game. The Colts will still run the ball, which is why they have three backs they think will carry the load.
But as Hamilton said, it’s all about scoring more points than the opponent, and that likely will end up being with Luck doing what he does best: using his arm.
The Colts threw the ball 582 times and ran it 409 times last season.
"Our mentality has not changed; we have to be physical at the point of attack. We have to try and knock people off the ball and wear them down physically," Hamilton said. "We have to have a sense of balance and still have a physical mentality, make up going into games so we can wear our opponents down how we see fit."
Hamilton had an opportunity to leave the NFL to become the head coach at Vanderbilt, but he decided to return to the Colts because he believes in the product they have in the organization. He’s back for Year 2 as an NFL offensive coordinator, and instead of being forced to dig deep into the playbook to find plays to suit their offensive personnel, Hamilton should have a cupboard full of healthy players next season barring any setbacks with their return from injuries.
By Week 7 last season, the Colts were without tight end Dwayne Allen, guard Donald Thomas, running backs Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw and receiver Reggie Wayne for the season. Those players were replaced by Jack Doyle, Weslye Saunders, Hugh Thornton, Brown, Richardson, Da’Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen.
No offense to those players, but that’s a drop-off for Hamilton, who at times made some questionable play calls to work with.
Things should be different this season for him and the Colts.
"Not only do we have some guys that are proven playmakers in the National Football League, but we have an opportunity to build on what we accomplished last year and hopefully take that next step," Hamilton said. "It’ll be great to have Reggie, Dwayne and all those guys available to see if we can go out and accomplish our ultimate goal.
"The toughest part [of last season] was making sure that we had the packages available to accommodate the personnel changes that were made from week to week. When I say personnel changes, I’m talking about the attrition, the attrition that we had to deal with. Other than that, it wasn’t tough. When you have Andrew Luck, that really gives you an ability to adapt to whatever the circumstances are and have a chance to be successful."
That was one of the first questions that popped up when the Indianapolis Colts selected receiver Donte Moncrief in the third round of the draft over the weekend.
One of those players, possibly two, won’t be on the roster when the regular season starts.
The Colts are set at the top three receiver spots with (in no particular order) Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks. The team obviously thinks high enough of Moncrief to take him in the third round.
That’s four receivers for you. Cutting one or two between Rogers, Whalen and Brazill will depend on if the Colts want to keep five or six receivers next season.
Rogers, Brazill and Whalen all had their moments last season.
Rogers had six catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns against Cincinnati last December. Brazill had two catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts’ loss to New England in the playoffs. Whalen bounced around from the practice squad to the active roster last season, but his relationship with quarterback Andrew Luck from their days at Stanford helped him. Whalen had seven catches for 80 yards against Kansas City in December.
“Iron sharpens iron like man sharpens man,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “I hope those guys were watching the draft when we took (Moncrief). Maybe they went out and did a little extra work at LA Fitness or something, I don’t know. But that’s just how it is around here. We’re going to keep bringing in great players. The great players that we have at that position and the players that we have in that locker room, they want to win a world championship, and the only way that Ryan (Grigson) and I, Mr. Irsay and the rest of the people in this building know how to win one is you’ve got to have great players, and you’ve got to keep acquiring great players, and that’s all part of the process. So that will bring the best out of all of them.”
Rogers plans to build off what happened last season -- the good and bad -- as he works to try to move up the depth chart.
"Just being able to get into games and start a few games later in the season and get a few playoff games under my belt was good for me just coming into this season so I can have a head start, I feel like, and get in with the playbook and get in with the offense," he said.
The top three receiver spots are set with Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks. It's a toss up after that. Rogers is competing against LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen to be the fourth receiver.
Rogers finished with 14 receptions for 192 yards and two touchdowns last season.
He has spent significant time in Indianapolis working out at the Colts' complex and constantly talking to his veteran teammates.
“I’m picking their brains every day," Rogers said. "This locker room is full of a lot of guys that won a lot of games and play the game the right way. Every day I’m picking their brain, whether it’s workouts or running beside them, I’m trying to find some type of knowledge, something to make my game better for this team.”
Things could be different for one of the three next season. The return of Wayne and the addition of Hakeem Nicks means Rogers, Brazill or Whalen could be on the outside looking in when the roster is finalized, depending on how many receivers the Colts keep.
“The competition is not getting any weaker at the receiver position,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said.
The Colts had as many as six receivers on the active roster for one week -- at Arizona -- last season. There is always the possibility they could go that route again next season, but I don’t really see that happening.
Rogers has the most promise of the three receivers. The Colts were close to signing him after the draft last year, and then tried to trade for him during the preseason before eventually signing him after he was released by the Buffalo Bills.
Rogers’ breakout game came when he had six catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns against the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 8. But ask Rogers about his play and he’ll talk about two bad drops. One that would have given the Colts a first down against the Bengals, and another against the New England Patriots in the AFC playoffs. That is how Rogers' operates.
“Da'Rick knows what he has to do to take his game to another level in terms of preparation, in terms of being coachable, in terms of carrying himself like a pro,” Grigson said. “He has the habitat and people around him to make those strides. It’s up to him.”
Brazill was suspended the first four games of last season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He had two catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots.
Whalen has history with quarterback Andrew Luck, as they were teammates and roommates at Stanford. Whalen spent the first part of the season going between the practice squad and active roster. He had seven catches for 80 yards in the regular-season meeting against Kansas City.
“If the coaches didn’t do a great job developing those guys, we don’t go to the playoffs without those guys,” Grigson said. “We don’t.”
@MikeWellsNFL are there enough balls to make pass catching core happy? Fleener, Allen, Richardson, Hilton, Bradshaw, Wayne, Rogers, &Brazil— James (@jgrafik) March 14, 2014
I've been asked a lot of questions for this weekend's Twitter Mailbag. So I'll go ahead and get it started by answering this question, then putting the rest of the Mailbag out Saturday.
I don't think the Colts can have too many players for quarterback Andrew Luck to choose to throw the ball to. Last season, you were left wondering who he was going to throw it to at times because of the Colts' depth concerns and inexperience at receiver with Griff Whalen, LaVon Brazill and Da'Rick Rogers.
Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton enjoys having a number of running backs to use. He constantly reminded the media that they would use all three running backs at the start of last season.
There's always a chance of injuries. That's why there's nothing wrong with having a full cupboard to choose from. Too many is always better than not enough. The good thing about the Colts is that they lack selfish players. It's all about the team. So look at this as a good problem for them to have.
Not a bad one.