The Indianapolis Colts have welcomed their rookies and now look forward to the process of integrating them into the team for 2013. After a week off this week, organized team activities (OTAs) will begin next week and continue into the first week in June.
Though no positions will be won or lost during OTA’s, this is the time where new players have the chance to make their first impressions, both with their new teammates and more importantly, their coaches. Unlike last season when the Colts were totally overhauling the roster and virtually every position was up for grabs, the key battles will be concentrated in a few spots heading into training camp in July.
Running Back: It’s not safe to assume Vick Ballard will automatically have the number one spot carrying the football. Donald Brown is still the most tenured of the Colts’ backs and he’s heading into a make-or-break contract year. Expect Brown to give Ballard a battle for that top spot during camp.
With Stanley Havill being brought in as a fullback in Pep Hamilton’s offense, that means Delone Carter will have to justify his roster spot. The Colts won’t need him for short yardage with probably two fullbacks on the roster. His main competition will be from sixth round pick Kerwynn Williams who will get a long look as a return man as well.
Wide Receiver: Reggie Wayne is penciled in and Darrius Heyward-Bey’s free agent contract will ensure he gets first dibs playing opposite Wayne. But don’t expect TY Hilton to take the third receiver position quietly. Add in LaVon Brazill, Nathan Palmer and a healthy Griff Whalen, and wide receiver looks to be one of the more closely contested battles in camp.
Offensive line: This is where the real wars will be fought. Ryan Grigson made no bones about the need to keep Andrew Luck safer by signing two free agents and drafting two more players to compete for starting positions.
AQ Shipley is gone to Baltimore, leaving Samson Satele and draftee Khaled Holmes as the only two centers on the roster. Given Satele’s injury problems last season, Holmes could see a lot of snaps, particularly in mini-camp.
Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus are locks at the tackles, but the battle for the two starting guards is wide open. Returning starters Joe Reitz and Mike McGlynn will try to hold off free agent Donald Thomas and draftee Hugh Thornton.
Bradley Sowell and a hopefully healthy Ben Ijalana will have to battle the versatile veteran Jeff Linkenbach and a cast of undrafted free agents for backup roles along the line.
Defensive line: This will also be a battle in the trenches. Josh Chapman looks to take first team snaps at nose tackle after sitting out all last year recovering from knee surgery. Aubrayo Franklin came over as a free agent and Martin Tevaseu and Brandon McKinney will be in the mix as well.
Cory Redding is now the defense’s elder-stateman and should start at one end, while free agent acquisition Ricky Jean-Francois has a leg up at the other end position. Fili Moala and Ricardo Matthews will battle for time while Lawrence Guy and Kellen Heard, who saw some meaningful snaps at the end of the season, will try to stick on the roster.
Linebacker: Robert Mathis will start at one outside rush position. Free agent Erik Walden should have the advantage at the other, but he’ll be looking over his shoulder at first round draft choice Bjeorn Werner. Not much should change on the inside with Kavell Conner and Jerrell Freeman anchoring the middle. Pat Angerer, Scott Lutrus, Mario Harvey and newly acquired Kelvin Sheppard will battle behind them.
Secondary: Barring injury, the starters should be set. Vontae Davis and and free agent Greg Toler have the jobs to lose. Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler have plenty of game experience, however.
Safety is set as well with Antoine Bethea and LaRon Landry having the leg up. Joe Lefeged and Sergio Brown will be pushed by draftee John Boyett for a roster spot.
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