New Faces Join Practice Squad

Josh Betts' long run on the practice squad has come to an end. The David Greene era begins and he'll be working on the taxi squad with wide receiver Taj Smith. What kind of an impact can these two players make on the practice squad, or, down the road, on the active roster? Brad Keller has the analysis of the two new additions.

The Colts made a few moves on the practice squad this week, signing quarterback David Greene and wide receiver Taj Smith.  To make room on the eight man squad, they released practice squad greybeard Josh Betts.

Greene played collegiate ball at Georgia, where he broke Peyton Manning's career wins record, tallying 42 victories during his time with the Bulldogs and left college as the winningest quarterback in NCAA history, and also set the all-time SEC yards gained record with 11,270.


Greene with Seattle in 2006
Otto Greule Jr/Getty

Greene was drafted in the third round in 2005 by the Seattle Seahawks, where he spent 2005 and 2006 as the third quarterback behind Seneca Wallace and Matt Hasselbeck.

He spent some time on the Patriots practice squad during the 2007 season after the Seahawks waived him in September of last year.  He signed a 2008 contract with Kansas City following their 2007 campaign, went through mini-camps and OTAs, but was released before the start of training camp on July 18.

He certainly has experience with being the emergency quarterback, having filled that role for two seasons with the Seahawks.

According to Doug Farrar of Seahawks.NET, if a quarterback guru the likes of Mike Holmgren was not able to turn a third-round choice into at least a viable backup, Greene's opportunity to be a contributing factor in this league may be behind him.

"Greene was a very productive, try-hard player in college, which appealed to Seahawks General Manager Tim Ruskell," Farrar said. "When he got to the pros, his inability to remain calm and make plays against pro-level pressure came to the fore.  When it came to his arm, it wasn't just the 15-yard out, it was the off-line seven yard slant, the intercepted 10-yard seam route, and the 12-yard curl route that he completely missed.  Basically, he's a body in the NFL as long as any organization wants to take a chance on any of that college productivity coming through."

While Farrar's opinion of Greene is very clear, there are obviously attributes of Greene that the Colts saw in order to pick him up at low cost and low risk in the hopes that Jim Caldwell has more success in developing than did Holmgren.

At this point, Greene is under far less pressure, since his draft position and the expectations that go with that are in his past.  He is not on the 53-man roster, not under the gun to produce or lose his spot, and now has a fresh start with a new team, as well as plenty of time to learn the offense and hone his skills.

He has more time to learn and grow in the system than does Betts and he has a strong coaching staff to hopefully help him remember the success he had in college.  The worst-case scenario is that he is a body in the NFL to be used only in emergencies, whereas the best case is that he becomes the heir apparent to Jim Sorgi, since Manning's replacement will come long after Greene's practice squad eligibility has expired.

Betts needed to go, whether to find an opportunity on another team's roster, or to pursue a life after football, since he had either already reached his ceiling with the Colts, or would reach it by the end of the 2008 season.

Smith was a junior college transfer to Syracuse and spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons on the Orange's roster before declaring as a junior — he was actually five years removed from high school and chose to forego his sixth year of eligibility — for the draft.

He was invited to the Combine, but his disappointing 40 time of 4.63 seconds, the fact that he turns 25 at the end of the month, and his lack of experience at the Division I level — only 56 receptions for 1,049 yards — led to him going undrafted.  He was subsequently signed by the Green Bay Packers as a free agent, but was released on August 30.


Taj Smith at Syracuse
Matthew Stockman/Getty

Even with the factors working against him, Smith is still a very intriguing prospect for the Colts after closer inspection.  Tom Marino saw on film that his 40 time was misleading, saying, "He is faster than his timed speed.  He's smart, runs good routes, and has good speed.  He's going to make it as a 4th or 5th receiver on someone's roster, but will be held back by the fact that he doesn't have a lot of special teams potential."

At a shade over 6 feet tall and weighing in at 187 pounds, he's the right size to play the receiver position for Indianapolis.  The Colts tend to gravitate towards smart players who run crisp routes and achieve results, not just in terms of receptions and yards, but in big plays and touchdowns.

He averaged 18.7 yards per reception and, of his 56 receptions, eight of them — one for every seven times he touched the ball — went for touchdowns.

However, he has not played against a high level of competition, has not experienced an offensive system as sophisticated as the one the Colts deploy, and has shown inconsistency as far as his concentration and hands are concerned.  That's why he is on the practice squad and not on the Packers roster.

With time and tutelage, he can learn and improve.  And, since he has plenty of time — barring injury — he and the Colts staff can work together to make the most of the foundation of relevant skills that he possesses.


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