Before you take a look at the players on this list and dismiss the players as "training camp fodder" remember that the Colts have a long history of finding diamonds in the rough.
These players are all long shots to make the team, to be sure, but plenty of obscure undrafted free agents have made it onto the roster (for example, Curtis Johnson, Jordan in 2008), into the starting lineup (Ed Johnson, Gary Brackett) and even to the Pro Bowl (Jeff Saturday). Will any of these players follow suit?
Only time will tell. But let's at least get to know them better.
1. Chris Crane:
Crane was buried in the Boston College depth chart behind Matt Ryan until he got his shot at the starting job last season. He ended up with 169 completions in 307 attempts for 1,721 yards, ten touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, for a quarterback rating of 64.5.
Crane at Franklin College Saturday
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
He also rushed 82 times for 219 yards and seven touchdowns, though, so not all of his production came through the air. His 11 starts in 2008 represent almost all of his college statistics, so there isn't much of a sample size to judge.
In addition, according to Football Outsiders, the best indicators of a college quarterback's success at the next level are starts, wins, and completion percentage. But, in the aforementioned 11 starts, he did manage to claim seven victories, although his completion percentage (55 percent) would be considered below average for an NFL quarterback.
He certainly looks the part at 6-feet-4 and 236 pounds, has a good head on his shoulders, ran a pro-style offense for the Eagles, and throws a nice ball with good touch. He cannot escape the fact, though, that he did not play much in college and, when he did, his stats weren't even close to being comparable to Ryan's.
Ryan was the third overall selection in last year's draft and led a Falcons team that many considered to be a good bet to be drafting third overall in this year's draft to the playoffs, so he set the bar rather high. Crane didn't meet Ryan halfway results-wise and stats-wise, though, so no real comparisons can be made between the two quarterbacks.
Crane has only adequate arm strength and his footwork and rhythm as a passer lend themselves better to playing in more of a timing offense — and less of a vertical offense — than the one the Colts deploy. Still, Indianapolis officials saw something they liked in the young man and he's currently on the roster. Where he goes from here is up to him, as the Colts aren't very attached to anyone at the position not named Peyton Manning.
2. Tim Masthay:
Senior NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber likes some of what he sees in Masthay's game and identified some key areas in which he could help the team.
Masthay punts against Alabama in 2008
"Tim Masthay is a hardworking, but inconsistent punter," Steuber said. "He's a good athlete who has a nice frame, but a lean build. He lacks technique and is only marginal on directional punts, but has above average leg strength to get off some boomers. He has experience as a kickoff specialist and a holder. He's deliberate on his punts and the opposition always has a chance to block it."
Masthay is, essentially, a less consistent, less reliable version of seventh round choice Pat McAfee. What Masthay also has is a strong leg and perhaps more upside than McAfee.
Both men have the same skill set — they can handle punting duties and kickoffs, while also being able to fill in for Adam Vinaitieri if necessary — so it's a matter of whether the Colts are going to go with the safe, conservative choice in the kicking game, or take a little bit of a risk and go with Masthay.
The biggest thing he has going for him is his live leg, so look for Masthay to try to boom the ball all over the field in training camp. This competition will go down to the wire and each player will try to accentuate his strengths and hide his weaknesses, but the competition will ultimately come down to a matter of preference for the Indianapolis coaches.
Obviously, if he faces long odds to make the roster, the chances are better for Crane to be the successor for Josh Betts rather than Manning, but he could still beat out Painter, the local favorite.
Painter is another quality prospect, but probably benefitted from the fact that Bill Polian saw him in person more times than he most likely watched film on Crane.
Now that both men are on the roster and the coaches will see them an equal amount of time — and both up close and personal — the field of play is even. If history is any indicator, Crane and Painter are probably fighting for a spot on the practice squad, but with a new regime and Manning not getting any younger — and, ostensibly, Sorgi not getting any better — the Colts have to be starting to move into contingency mode.
With Masthay versus McAfee, it will come down to personal preference. If the Indianapolis staff is looking to overhaul the coverage units and special teams, they will choose Masthay, thinking that they can teach him the finer points of directional punting, but that you cannot teach a player to have a strong kicking leg. If they are looking to add a younger, fresher, stronger version of Hunter Smith, they will go with McAfee.
Masthay needs to show that it's not as easy to block his kicks as advertised and that he has just as much power — if not more — as advertised, whereas McAfee needs to remain consistent, but try to add a little distance to his punts and kickoffs. It will be an interesting competition to watch, but, sadly, may just come down to whether or not the Jim Caldwell feels like rolling the dice.
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