The Race to 53: Who Will They Be?

With Organized Team Activities underway at the team's West 56th St. headquarters, the Indianapolis Colts have begun the process of evaluating the players to see who will make the opening day roster. Since it's never too early to speculate, Eric Hartz unveils the first of his mock rosters inside!

The Colts are in the midst of Organized Team Activities, but the practices are closed to the media, as well as the public. The first chance for anyone outside of the organization to see the early editions of the 2010 Indianapolis Colts will come on Saturday, when the team will host a fan open house, culminating in a 105-minute workout, at Lucas Oil Stadium.

But, since the team's coaches will be busy in the next few weeks evaluating the old and new talent in the Horseshoe, an early look at the 53-man roster seems appropriate. Without further ado:

Quarterbacks (2):

Peyton Manning
Andy Lyons/Getty

Peyton Manning, Curtis Painter.

Full disclosure: I started to type "Jim Sorgi" before remembering that longtime No. 2 Sorgi was released during the offseason and is now a New York Giant. In retrospect, the writing was on the wall for Sorgi last fall, when Painter made the roster as the No. 3 quarterback. When Sorgi went down with the latest in a series of injuries, it was clear that his days in Indy were numbered.

Painter is far from the ideal solution, but he ended the last season as the No. 2, and with no veteran in sight, is the prohibitive favorite to start this season as the backup. Drew Willy was re-signed from the practice squad, but sources have told me he doesn't have an NFL-caliber arm. Tim Hiller, the undrafted rookie from Western Michigan, will be worth keeping an eye on this summer, however.

Joseph Addai
Christian Peterson/Getty

Running backs (3):

Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Mike Hart.

No surprises here, and with other candidates to return kicks, the Colts let Chad Simpson go in free agency. All three of these players have battled injuries over the last couple of seasons, but all three have the goods, so an injury at this position is not necessarily a cause for panic. Javarris James, the cousin of former Colts great Edgerrin James, and Devin Moore will likely be on the outside of the 53-man squad, but one or both could end up on the practice squad.

Wide Receivers (5):

Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garçon, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Sam Giguere.

Reggie Wayne
Harry How/Getty

This is where it starts to get tough. Wayne, Garçon and Collie are assured of spots, as is Gonzalez, provided he recovers from the knee injury that erased his 2009 season. That's a good start at the position, and gives the Colts one of the best WR corps in the league.

Giguere gets the fifth spot because of his experience with the team and his potential as a returner, but don't sleep on undrafted rookies Dudley Guice or Blair White. White has reportedly impressed in his short time with the team, and Guice has tantalizing measurements at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds.

Tight ends (4):

Dallas Clark
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

Dallas Clark, Tom Santi, Jacob Tamme, Brody Eldridge.

A tough position to break down, as we haven't seen enough of Santi and Tamme to really distinguish between them, two years into their careers. One of them could fall out of favor as the summer goes on. Eldridge seems to have been drafted for a specific reason, to be a blocker at the point of attack in the running game when the Colts absolutely need to pick up a few yards on the ground.

Something tells me it's Gijon Robinson (along with Colin Cloherty) that will be the odd man out here. Robinson isn't a natural pass-catcher, and he has been solid, but not exceptional, in the blocker/H-back role. Eldridge and Santi should overtake him this summer, and Tamme is the best pass-catcher of the backups, as well as a good special teams player.

Offensive line (10):

Jeff Saturday
AP/Tom Strattman

Jeff Saturday, Charlie Johnson, Kyle DeVan, Mike Pollak, Adam Terry, Ryan Diem, Jacques McClendon, Jaimie Thomas, Tony Ugoh, Jamey Richard.

This was one of the hardest units to evaluate, and this is also one of the units that has been in transition this offseason. Saturday, Diem and Johnson will all be a part of the squad, but things get hazy after that. Kyle DeVan took away Mike Pollak's starting job last season, but with Ryan Lilja gone, Pollak will have a chance to get his starting spot back.

Terry, a free-agent signing, should have a chance to compete for a tackle spot, and this is probably a make-or-break year for Ugoh. Draft pick Jacques McClendon should get involved in the guard sweepstakes, and Jaimie Thomas impressed me during training camp last August. Richard also gets a nod as the most likely backup center candidate.

Defensive line (9):

Dwight Freeney
AP/Michael Conroy

Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Antonio Johnson, Daniel Muir, Fili Moala, Jerry Hughes, Eric Foster, Keyunta Dawson, Ricardo Mathews.

The first four players were starters last season, and the Colts are still hoping to get production out of Moala, their second-round choice last season. Hughes, this year's top draft choice, should be able to contribute right away, and Foster and Dawson are versatile players that can move inside and out on the line.

There are many other possibilities here, and no doubt a player or two will surprise in camp and grab a spot. Mathews gets the nod for now, mostly by virtue of being a draft choice. Keep an eye on Ervin Baldwin and John Chick, however, as the battles play out this summer.

Gary Brackett
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Linebackers (6):

Gary Brackett, Clint Session, Philip Wheeler, Pat Angerer, Ramon Humber, Kavell Conner.

The first four players are no-brainers, and Humber impressed in camp and on special teams last season. Conner shows potential as the type of fleet-footed linebacker the Colts like, and will get a chance to make his mark on special teams.

If the Colts decide to keep a seventh linebacker, keep an eye on rookie Vuna Tuihalamaka or'09 signees Brandon Renkhart and Cody Glenn for the final spot.

Defensive backs (10):

Bob Sanders
Donald Miralle/Getty

Kelvin Hayden, Jerraud Powers, Jacob Lacey, Antoine Bethea, Bob Sanders, Melvin Bullitt, Jamie Silva, Ray Fisher, Terrail Lambert, Jordan Hemby.

The safeties should all be back this fall, with the biggest doubt being the ongoing health of Sanders. Silva has proven to be a "glue" guy and is solid on special teams or in a pinch at safety.

The Colts are heading into the season thin on experience at corner, as they let several veterans go and third-round draft choice Kevin Thomas was injured in the team's rookie camp.

Hayden, Powers and Lacey give the Colts a solid corner rotation, albeit a little short on experience, as Lacey and Powers are just second-year players. For the rest, Fisher should see special-teams playing time, as a returner in some fashion or as a gunner on coverage units. Lambert was on the practice squad last fall and knows the system, so he gets a nod.

An undrafted rookie, Jordan Hemby, rounds out the secondary. At this point that's little more than a hunch. Keep an eye on Brandon King or Thad Turner for the final secondary spot as well.

Specialists (4):

Adam Vinatieri
AP/Chris Park

Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee, Justin Snow, Brandon James.

Vinatieri has been fighting injuries, but offseason reports have him feeling strong again, and I don't see Brett Swenson beating him out at this point. McAfee had a fine rookie season and should only get better, and Snow is an institution at long snapper.

James is included on this list mostly because of wishful thinking. He's listed on the Colts roster as a kick returner, not a defensive back, and it would be nice to see the team devote a player exclusively to the position. Maybe that's a luxury the team doesn't feel it can afford, maybe James doesn't have what it takes, and maybe Fisher can fill the role. But for now, James makes the list.

Like Eric's roster? Think he's crazy? Think you can do better? Discuss it in the forums, RIGHT HERE!

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