Let's start with a look at my 53-man mock roster to see how I did (players in bold are ones I didn't have on the list, strikethrough players are ones I had that didn't make the cut):
Quarterbacks (3): Peyton Manning, Jim Sorgi, Curtis Painter.
As you can see, I had four players on the final roster that didn't make it, and five players made it that I didn't have. The reason for the difference is that Ed Johnson won't count as one of the 53 players until after the first week, at which point the Colts will have to make another cut (likely second kicker Shane Andrus).
Every year, we see players in training camp and preseason, get attached to them, and can't believe it when they are cut. Taj Smith and Adrian Grady were two such players for me in 2009.
Smith came out on fire the first week of camp, catching everything in sight. He cooled off once the preseason began, but finished it off with a big preseason game against the Bengals that included a touchdown catch.
Grady first caught my eye during a training camp practice scrimmage in which he spent most of the time in the offensive backfield, despite going up against starting guard Mike Pollak for much of the practice.
The undrafted defensive tackle from Louisville continued to show strong play throughout the preseason, and led many to state he looked like the best rookie defensive tackle on the roster. Fellow rookie Terrance Taylor, a fourth-round pick, was also cut, but second-round pick Fili Moala did make the final roster.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the cuts, however, wasn't Smith or Grady — who most figured were firmly on the bubble — but Marcus Howard, the second-year player from Georgia who was a fifth-round draft choice in 2008.
Howard saw action in nine games last year and recorded 1 1/2 sacks, and looked to many like a situational pass rusher who could step in for Robert Mathis or Dwight Freeney. At just 6-feet, 237 pounds, however, he was built more like a linebacker — he is the same height and just one pound heavier than Tyjuan Hagler, and just an inch taller and two pounds than Gary Brackett — and the Colts ultimately couldn't keep him on as a passing-down only specialist.
Howard did play linebacker in college before moving to defensive end as a senior, and likely will find a spot in the NFL as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
The other cut from my final roster wasn't as surprising. Mike Hart has made me look plenty silly over the last year and a half — first I said he wouldn't make the team in 2008, which he did; then I said he wouldn't recover from his knee injury in time for camp, which he did; then, when I admitted I was wrong and picked him to make the team, he was injured for the entire preseason and ended up cut — but a third running back needs to be reliable and Hart's injuries have held him back. Chad Simpson leaves a bit to be desired, but he stays healthy and has the added benefit of being a kick returner. Keep an eye on Dominic Rhodes, however, who was cut by the Bills and may be brought back as the third back by Indy.
Two other players the Colts kept, Painter and Andrus, also make sense, because the players ahead of them, Jim Sorgi and Adam Vinatieri respectively, are still recovering from injuries that kept them out most of the preseason.
As mentioned above, Andrus will probably be jettisoned once Ed Johnson returns and Vinatieri shows he's fully healthy. Painter was one player I was wrong about, but the Colts obviously see enough talent in him to want to protect him from other teams. For now, he'll run the scout team and serve as the emergency quarterback. After a year watching from the sidelines, the Colts will see if he can challenge Sorgi for the backup position or generate some trade value in 2010.
Another player I missed was Jacob Lacey, but I have no complaints with his inclusion on the team. He impressed me starting with the first practice of the first day of training camp, when he made a juggling interception near the sideline and still managed to keep both feet in bounds. He was physical and showed good coverage skills in the preseason games and was one of my final cuts on my last roster. I wish I would have remembered my initial impressions when making my final decisions.
The real surprise "keep" of this roster was Freddy Keiaho. He is, however, a versatile player that has been a big part of the team the last two seasons. He fell into disfavor in the offseason and didn't do much to get it back in the preseason, but it's clear the coaches trust him for the effort and flexibility he has demonstrated. Many people (including me) would have liked to see Grady or Howard on the final roster instead of Keiaho. But let's not forget that two years ago at this time, Keiaho looked like a future star after a huge opener vs. New Orleans. Those expectations have been tempered, but Freddy is capable of playing all three linebacker positions in a pinch and contributing on special teams.
Overall, this looks like a solid roster for the Colts. There are some questions with depth at receiver and running back, and we still haven't seen the defense as Larry Coyer intends it to be, so questions remain there.
there is a good bit of flexibility built into this roster should the team feel it needs to make an adjustment or add a player at a given position.
Besides a third quarterback and second kicker, the team also has four tight ends, and if Tom Santi can remain healthy and find a role, Gijon Robinson could become expendable. Solid depth means the Colts also have potentially expendable players at linebacker (Keiaho or Ramon Humber) or safety (Jamie Silva, although he is a linchpin on special teams and has proved himself on defense as well) should a position of need arise.
Surprises aside, the fact is we're discussing fringe players on the edges of the roster that, while they will be important for depth, won't ultimately determine a lot of wins and losses for the Colts in 2009. The best news? The final cuts mean the season is just a week away.
BY THE NUMBERS: A quick look at the final roster:17 — The number of undrafted free agents on the roster, the same number as the 2006 Super Bowl champions.
11 — The team-leading number of receptions for TE Jacob Tamme in the preseason. It's the second-straight season Tamme has led the team in receiving during the exhibition slate.
8 — The number of first-round draft choices on the roster.
6 — The number of 2009 draft choices that made the final roster, our of eight. Fourth-round pick Terrance Taylor and seventh-rounder Jaimie Thomas were the two players cut.
What did you think of the Colts' final cuts? The discussion rages on in the forums. Let us know your thoughts RIGHT HERE!
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