Here are the players who have the best shot of replacing and possibly supplanting Tyjuan Hagler, should he miss considerable time during the 2008 season, rated and scouted most likely to least likely:
3:2 odds: Clint Session:
The University of Pittsburgh prospect, selected in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, saw limited but important action last season when Hagler, Freddy Keiaho, and Rob Morris were out of the lineup with various injuries — Morris was on injured reserve at the time.
After watching from the sidelines in 2007, Session may play a bigger role with Hagler out
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He started only one game, but appeared in 13. He also registered two interceptions in his brief moment in the spotlight — both in a regular-season loss to San Diego — as well as a forced fumble and two passes defended.
Session certainly turned a number of heads with his production given limited opportunities in his rookie season — he also contributed 26 tackles, finishing fifth among players at his position.
Session is not as gifted an athlete as Hagler, but certainly has the drive, ambition, and football intelligence to succeed at the NFL level. The question remains at to whether or not he'll have that opportunity.
With Hagler out for a potentially long period of time, Session will have the opportunity, to a lesser extent, of Lou Gehrig and Tom Brady, a shot to claim a job from an established starter and never look back.
That shot is his to lose, so it is up to him what happens next.
8:1 odds: Philip Wheeler:
Wheeler is ranked this high due primarily to his athleticism and his ability to get to the quarterback.
One of the reasons that the Colts took him in the third round of this year's draft is that he has tremendous upside as an athlete, with excellent short area quickness, top-end speed, and natural ability as a pass rusher — he was considered to be one of the best pass rushing linebackers in the 2008 prospect pool.
Hagler had one sack in 2007 and was brought on blitzes on numerous occasions, so it is not out of the question to think that Indianapolis would be looking for a replacement that can collapse the pocket.
Until he gets a shot to prove what he can do between the whistles in a real-time NFL situation, Wheeler's value will be based mainly on potential. The upside for the Colts, though, is that training camp opens soon, as does the preseason, and they will have a number of opportunities to view him in those situations.
That, of course, is the upside for Wheeler as well. It is up to him to prove that there's more to his game than potential.
15:1 odds: Rob Morris:
The return of Rob Morris is unlikely but possible
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The former Colt failed a physical and was released earlier this offseason. If he is healthy enough to play and if he can pass a team physical, that puts him most of the way towards competing for a roster spot and, by proxy, a starting job.
Given his familiarity with the defense and his history with the team, the former first-round selection would appear to have the inside track to a starting job. But, the two "ifs" mentioned above are very big ifs and also are the two primary contingents for the Colts re-signing Morris.
When you consider that he needs to prove that he is healthy and can pass a team physical and needs to be signed by Indianapolis, then subsequently upset a number of talented players currently on the roster, Morris' road back to the starting lineup becomes that much more of a challenge.
Not as much of a challenge, though, as...
25:1 odds: Victor Worsley:
Worsley was called up from the practice squad last season after Brandon Archer went on injured reserve. With time practicing against the second team and knowledge of the defense, he is the next-most likely player on the current roster to claim the starting role from either Wheeler or Session, should they underperform.
However, he faces long odds to take the head job from either player drafted to fill the position the last two years, given that he is undrafted and does not possess the experience, athleticism, or familiarity with the scheme that the players in front of him do.
However, if Session and Wheeler do not impress the coaching staff during camp and the preseason, Worsley will step into the forefront, so he is worth mentioning.
If those two players squander their chance and Morris is not re-signed, then it is Worsley who will at least open the season as the incumbent.
50:1 odds: Jordan Senn:
Were the odds set to "Who Will Make the Roster," Senn would have excellent odds, as he can certainly contribute to the kicking game, given his exceptional athletic ability.
As mentioned before, Brandon Foster still has the best shot of any undrafted rookie to make the roster. But, should anything happen to the men behind Hagler, his chances would certainly improve. And, since Hagler's injury, the odds of Foster vs. Senn have markedly improved insofar as the "undrafted rookie most likely to make the roster" is concerned.
Senn needs a great deal of luck and a few injuries to claim the starting role, but, as the Colts have shown over the years, both on offense and defense, draft position means very little when it comes time to make roster decisions.
His odds to become the starting strongside linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts in 2008 may not have changed in the past two weeks, but his odds to make the roster at large have improved significantly.
He deserves some serious attention as camp progresses, regardless of how the starting job shakes out.