I almost hate using the term “competition” right now because it’s the biggest buzzword in relation to the Indianapolis Colts and general manager Chris Ballard. It’s been overused. However, it’s unavoidable. It means almost everything to this team right now, and hopefully for the foreseeable future.
Building a depth chart full of competition has been Ballard’s main focus this offseason. And without seeing the product on the field yet, it appears that he’s done a good job. Several position groups are up in the air because there are so many options to take over those spots. Training camp and the preseason will sort all of that out. The good news for the Colts is that, even though they may have some good players that miss out on valuable playing time on offense or defense, it can make their special teams units that much better.
The Colts will do what they can to find rookie running back Marlon Mack a role on offense. However, since Frank Gore and Robert Turbin will both also see plenty of touches, it makes sense for the Colts to try Mack out as a kickoff returner. It fits his style of play very well. The same could be said for fellow rookie Dalton Crossan, who returned kicks in college. Someone who could block for them is third tight end Brandon Williams. He doesn’t offer much in the speed department, but his specialty is blocking.
If players such as receivers Tevaun Smith and Bug Howard are fortunate enough to earn a roster spot, their main contributions would certainly be on special teams. Their open-field speed and size could certainly help when it comes to tracking down returnmen. The same can be said for linebacker Barkevious Mingo, cornerback Nate Hairston and safeties T.J. Green and Tyvis Powell. The Colts have had awful luck in recent years when it comes to punt team gunners downing punts before they hit the goal line. Maybe these players can improve that.
For linebacker Luke Rhodes, not only does he have “special teamer” written all over him, but he is also capable of being the team’s long-snapper. During OTA’s when the Colts released their long-snapper, Matt Overton, they had no other options on the roster. Rhodes stepped in and delivered snaps to the team’s punt and kicking units. It’s not known whether he will get a shot to battle rookie Thomas Hennessy as the long-snapper, but they feel that Rhodes is obviously capable of stepping into that role in a pinch.
The Colts also signed defensive lineman Margus Hunt this offseason. While he is a longshot to be a frequent contributor on the line, his best ability is blocking kicks. He blocked 17 total kicks in college, which was two short of the all-time NCAA record. He also blocked three kicks last year with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Quality depth breeds competition. Missing out in one spot can open opportunities in another. If the Colts’ depth is as good as we think it might be, then their special teams will benefit greatly.