Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Kevin Hickey

4 Colts rookies who need more playing time during final four games

The Indianapolis Colts have four games remaining on the schedule entering Saturday, and they are essentially out of the playoff race coming out of the bye week.

While interim head coach Jeff Saturday stated the team is focused on winning now rather than evaluating for the future, the team still should put forth the effort to see what they have in some of their younger assets.

Buy Colts Tickets

Forcing a player to see starting snaps would be an unrealistic scenario, but the Colts should at least begin rotating some of their younger, ascending talents into bigger roles.

With four games remaining, here are four Colts who should see more playing time during the final four games of the regular season:

TE Jelani Woods

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Season snap share: 23.5%

There have been plenty of flashes from Woods this season that should have led to him carving out a bigger role. The most recent example was his breakout game in Week 12 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in which he recorded eight receptions on nine targets for 98 yards.

Despite the big jump in production, Woods followed that game up by playing just 21% of the snaps in Week 13 against the Dallas Cowboys. Jeff Saturday didn’t have an answer as to why Woods didn’t get more opportunities in that game following his breakout.

If this were a case where Woods was behind other tight ends who have been extremely productive, it would make sense. But starter Mo Alie-Cox has the same number of receptions (17) and fewer receiving yards (185) than Woods on the season.

The current regime used a third-round pick on Woods in hopes he could turn into a starting Y tight end. It’s time to see if he can handle that role.

S Nick Cross

AP Photo/Zach Bolinger

Season snap share: 13.9%

It’s been a pretty odd rookie season for Cross. There was considerable hype throughout training camp and the preseason as he tore it up, showing off his elite athleticism and solid ball skills. After starting in Week 1, Cross was essentially benched for the remainder of the season on the defensive side of the ball.

Since playing a combined 116 snaps on defense during the first two games, Cross has seen a whopping total of just two defensive snaps in the 11 games to follow. It should be noted he has played 48% of the special teams snaps.

The Colts have gotten solid production from veteran Rodney McLeod and rookie seventh-round pick Rodney Thomas II, especially from the latter when Julian Blackmon missed time due to injury.

But Cross needs to be mixed in more. He’s still extremely young, just 21 years old, and he needs the experience of playing to further his development. Players with his athletic profile and ball skills don’t come around often so it would behoove the Colts to get the most out him over these final four games.

WR Alec Pierce

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Season snap share: 59.7%

No rookie on the offensive side of the ball has seen more snaps than Pierce, and it’s still not enough. The second-round pick hit a massive lull during the month of November but showed in Week 13 just how much he can open up the offense by posting a career-high 86 yards and catching a touchdown.

It’s unlikely that the Colts will move Parris Campbell from his starting spot. He’s had a pretty solid season all things considered. But Pierce needs to be on the field more than what he’s been seeing. He’s the only consistent deep threat this offense has, and even though Matt Ryan is terrified of what might happen if a seven-step drop is called, the Colts have to continue developing their young wideouts.

There’s a chance Campbell finds a new home in free agency this offseason so getting Peirce and Michael Pittman Jr. on the field together as much as possible should be a priority.

DT Curtis Brooks

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Season snap share: 0%

This is a name Colts fans haven’t heard in a few months. A sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati, Brooks was labeled as a potential steal for the Colts in the 2022 NFL draft. He never really made any noise during training camp or the preseason so it made sense that the Colts have had him on the practice squad this whole time.

But Brooks was an intriguing prospect both from a production and athletic standpoint. Giving Brooks a bigger role doesn’t mean he sees 25% of the snaps every week, but some of the snaps that go to Byron Cowart, who has seen 18% of the defensive snaps, could go to Brooks.

Cowart’s impact and role aren’t large enough to keep the Colts from seeing if they may have a diamond in the rough when it comes to Brooks. It’s understandable that some rookies simply don’t develop at the same rate so this isn’t to say the Colts have been wrong to keep him on the practice squad.

But Brooks was intriguing enough as a prospect to warrant some extra snaps down the home stretch.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.