Tough Cuts in Indy: Defense

When you're the reigning World Champions, your roster is already stacked with talent if you haven't been decimated by injuries or free agency...

... So every new face in the Colts training camp faced an uphill battle to win a roster spot. Let's take a look at the cuts and why they likely made sense to the Colts' decision-makers.

DE Bo Schobel and DE Ryan LaCasse

Both players were part of last year's championship team. So what happened?

With Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis firmly entrenched as the starters, they weren't a factor in the pair getting cut. Neither was Josh Thomas for all that matter, because barring injury, he was a slam-dunk. He's the tallest (6-foot-5) and heaviest (271 pounds) defensive end on the roster. And he has surprising quickness for a man his size. So he's perfect for a situation where a run is likely, but can still get after the quarterback if they go to play-action instead.

The pair that truly dislodged Schobel and LaCasse were first-year defensive end Jeff Charleston -- who at 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds gives the Colts a Thomas prototype at the opposite DE position behind Dwight Freeney -- and seventh-round pick Keyunta Dawson out of Texas Tech who can play on the end or inside. And the Colts love having that kind of versatility on the depth chart.

Neither Schobel or LaCasse were particularly quick or overpowering. They were steady, blue-collar guys that you could fall back on. But the Colts undoubtedly upgraded their depth at the defensive end position with Dawson and Charleston.

DT Ramel Meekins

While the former Rutgers star has the heart and motor to be a contributor at the pro level, his real opportunity to make the squad would have been at Dan Klecko's expense. Those two are the closest in physical stature (both under 6-foot tall), while the other defensive tackles are 6-foot-2 or taller. The one thing the team didn't need in the middle of their defensive line was two small, but feisty players.

LBs Brandon Archer, KaMichael Hall and Victor Worsley

I was honestly surprised that Worsley made it to the final cuts after being released once already this summer. He wasn't a bad player, he just didn't distinguish himself amongst the group of talent that the Colts assembled in Terre Haute.

Hall is quickly becoming one of those players who is slip-sliding out of the NFL. A Scouting Combine invitee, I thought he had a decent shot at being selected as high as the fifth round in this year's draft based on his game performances. He was a smart, versatile linebacker at Georgia Tech, but something clearly wasn't clicking as he turned in a relatively poor Combine performance. That helped drop him out of the draft, but the lackluster performances also continued after he joined the Colts as an undrafted free agent. A player who was able to make some decent plays on special teams, he just never seemed to get into the flow of things on defense in camp as well as his fellow rookies.
Brandon Archer in action.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Brandon Archer is a player who is a top bet for the team's practice squad. A fiery competitor, Archer showed a lot of spunk and good instincts. He's the one player out of the trio that simply lost the numbers game. The Colts kept seven linebackers, which is plenty for the active roster. While Archer would be a reliable backup to Gary Brackett, the truth of the matter is that if Brackett gets injured, Rob Morris will slide over while Tyjuan Hagler or Rocky Boiman backfill his spot at strongside linebacker. So the Colts really don't need a true, dedicated roster spot for a backup middle man. While Archer would normally have had value as a special teams player, he likely got nudged out in the final analysis by Ramon Guzman, who showed just  bit better in that area.

But make no mistake about it. I like this guy and think he has a good future ahead of him.

DBs Duane Coleman, Antonio Perkins and Tanard Davis

Give Coleman a nod of respect for lasting until the final cuts -- especially since he just joined the roster right before camp opened. A true athlete who was a running back before converting to corner during his junior year, Coleman's an intriguing special teams prospect, but was a longshot to stick.

Perkins' only real chance of making the team was as a returns specialist, but the former Brown couldn't beat out second-year corner T.J. Rushing or WR Craphonso Thorpe for all that matter. The former Browns fourth-round draft pick still needs to show more consistency if he's going to make it at the pro level.

Davis finished his second camp with Indy and failed to make the team again, but he should be able to snag one of the practice squad positions. He's showing a better understanding of the pro game rather than just relying on his speed to make plays.

The Colts made the right choices in this area. Behind starters Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden, you'll find T.J. Rushing (who's primary job will be as a returns specialist), last year's second-round pick -- Tim Jennings -- and a pair of draft picks from this year, Dante Hughes and Michael Coe

S Scott Ware

Ware delivered some memorable blows during the preseason that showed he can smack ball-carriers around a bit. But the team is pretty solid at the safety position with Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea as the starters, and third-year player Matt Giordano also showing that he's ready to start.

Giordano is clearly playing with a heightened confidence and his speed has been no less than startling at times.

Rookie Brannon Condren spent the last few weeks of the preseason bouncing back from an injury, but the Colts like what they see in their fourth-round pick. So the choice really came down to Ware or undrafted rookie free agent Melvin Bullitt out of Texas A&M.

In the end, the Colts may have given the edge to Bullitt, because his athleticism and well-rounded skill set gives them a slightly different talent to draw upon versus their other safeties, especially as a special teams player. Bullitt's comfortable at both safety spots which is another asset.

Ware was on the practice squad briefly last year, and could certainly gain consideration this season as well.

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