Three To Watch: Rookies

The Colts selected nine players in 2008 NFL Draft and signed 13 free agents in the days following. That's 22 gentlemen looking to make an impact in this season and beyond. Brad Keller points out three to watch between now and the end of the 2008 season.

Undrafted Rookie Most Likely to Make the Roster:

There are many intriguing candidates, including undrafted defensive tackles Eric Foster of Rutgers and Colin Ferrell of Kent State, since the Colts decision to go with 2007 free agent Ed Johnson paid off extremely well.

Wide receivers Rudy Burgess of Arizona State and Charles Dillon of Washington State bring experience returning punts and kickoffs, as well as being players at a position that is very much in doubt behind the top three.

T.J. Rushing has proven himself to be less than explosive on returns and anyone that shows flashes of potential has a shot of unseating him.

In addition, Boston College's Jamie Silva has excellent special teams potential and was extremely productive in college.  The same can be said — and then some — for Clark Atlanta University's Curtis Johnson, who could be added as a situational pass rusher and general playmaker, given his propensity to end up in the opposing team's back field.  Portland State's Jordan Senn draws comparisons to Cato June.


Brandon Foster could find a spot by contributing on special teams
Al Messerschmidt/Getty

The smart money, though, is on Brandon Foster of Texas.  Indianapolis did not take a defensive back, nonetheless a cornerback, in this year's draft.

Somewhat questionable depth behind starters Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden suggests that the Colts are willing to take a long look at a player with tremendous determination — Foster worked his way up the depth chart to become a starter in Austin — and something of a chip on his shoulder.

Despite the fact that he scored three defensive touchdowns in his only year as a starter, NFL teams passed on Foster due to his lack of size at 5-feet-9, 180 pounds and, given his history, he intends to make them regret that decision.

Aside from Foster's motivation, the best shot a free agent has to make the roster is by contributing in the kicking game, and Foster is ideally suited to become a gunner on punts and kickoffs at the NFL level.

While Rushing may leave a lot to be desired in the return game, he is at least consistent and reliable, which is more than could be said about the Indianapolis kick coverage units in 2007.

Improving that area has become a point of emphasis and Foster's ability to contribute in this area will be too good for the Colts to pass up.

Rookie Most Likely to Make an Impact:

Third-round selection Philip Wheeler will probably contribute in pass rushing situations, but is not yet accomplished enough in coverage to make an immediate impact.

Mike Pollack, like most second-round choices in the Tony Dungy era, will see his impact felt in the future — most likely when Jeff Saturday retires.

Marcus Howard, with all the comparisons to Robert Mathis, will probably see a good deal of action in nickel and dime packages and in known passing situations, but is still too raw to make too much of an impact.


Jacob Tamme could become another target for Peyton Manning
AP Photo/James Crisp

Pierre Garcon faces long odds to make the roster, Mike Hart needs to fight it out for the third spot with Kenton Keith and Clifton Dawson, and the other players taken were linemen with an eye towards the future.

This category could more appropriately be entitled "Rookie Most Likely to Catch 40 Passes," since it goes to Jacob Tamme.

Ben Utecht caught 31 balls in 2007 on a team that was riddled with injuries, and in a season in which Dallas Clark stayed surprisingly healthy.

Out of the men currently in the mix, Tamme has the most talent, potential, and opportunity to step into a two tight end formation and produce.  In order to get the number of looks that a second tight end in the Colts offense receives, he simply needs to beat oft-injured Zac Herold, practice squad stalwart Gijon Robinson and sixth-round pick Tom Santi.

Once he does that, he simply needs his instincts to take over and the 40 receptions will come in this offense.

Rookie Most Likely to be Starting by 2009:


Mike Pollak is a logical choice to replace Jeff Saturday at center for the Colts
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

In a draft that will be looked upon favorably in 2011 as another in a long line of examples of Bill Polian's foresight, there will be a number of future starters or heavy contributors from this class by then.

Howard will embrace the Mathis role and may eventually overtake the man he has often been compared to. Wheeler will eventually work his way into the lineup, being a three-down player that can play in space and rush the quarterback.  Steve Justice and Jamey Richard will probably add valuable depth or replace a departed free agent or deposed veteran.

But, as much as the Colts and ColtPower will hate to see the end of the Jeff Saturday era, it is most likely nigh.

Pollak will claim the starting center position, either outright or, preferably, after Saturday's retirement.  It takes time and guidance to learn the blocking schemes that Indianapolis deploys, as well as a rote familiarity with the improvisations of Peyton Manning and how he will no doubt change those protections at the line.

Whether or not he ends up starting at guard this season, under the expert tutelage of Saturday and given the opportunity to learn, Pollak could eventually step into the role of starting center of the Indianapolis Colts by the start of the 2009 season.


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