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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cody Manning

Ranking the Colts’ positions by strength entering 2023

The Indianapolis Colts are set to begin minicamp as the offseason workout program winds down this week, which means it’s time to take a look at how the roster is looking in the middle of June.

With free agency and the 2023 NFL draft having passed, we have a pretty clear idea of what the roster will look like going into the season. Some positions will see some additions and subtractions but likely at a minor level.

So which position groups are a strength of the Colts roster heading into the 2023 season?

Let’s take a look at which parts of the roster are steady and the ones that have a cause for concern:


Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The cornerback room has the most question marks on the Colts roster. Kenny Moore II is the only player in the group that has started a full season and is coming off a down year in 2022. The team not only needs him to be on par with the level of play he’s shown in his career but also to help speed up the development of the younger corners on the roster. 

With Isaiah Rodgers Sr. under investigation for gambling and expected to potentially be suspended the entire season, Indianapolis will be leaning on a group of players that have a combined seven starts between them to compete for starting and backup roles on the defense. 

The expected leaders of the pack for the starting boundary cornerback spots are Julius Brents, Dallis Flowers, and Darius Rush. Flowers did start in one game as a rookie in 2022 while Brents and Rush will be entering their first season in the league. Seventh-round selection Jaylon Jones along with Darrell Baker Jr. and Kevin Toliver II are other names to watch to push for a spot on the 53-man roster. 

The group is rounded out by Tony Brown, who is more of a special team contributor and is a nickel corner to give some depth behind Moore II. There will be struggles with the younger corners to start the season but the potential of players like Brents and Rush is something to be excited to see play out in 2023.


Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Julian Blackmon and Rodney Thomas II are heading into the season as the starting safeties for the Indianapolis defense. Blackmon has the most experience in the group and will be transitioning to strong safety after Thomas II emerged as the starting free safety in his rookie season. The 2022 seventh-round selection led the team in interceptions last year. 

It’s an inexperienced group behind the starters. Nick Cross had a lot of hype behind him last year as a rookie but ended up basically redshirting in 2022 after starting in the opening game. He will be looking to be more of a contributor this season with Rodney McLeod joining the Cleveland Browns in free agency. Indy’s fifth-round selection Daniel Scott is expected to be a special teamer and compete for a role on the defense.

Offensive Tackles

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The Colts have a young group of offensive tackles that they will be working with this season. Braden Smith is the veteran of the group that will be looking for a bounce-back season and form one of the better bookend tackles in the league if Bernhard Raimann takes the next step in his development. 

It’s the depth behind the starting tackles that has a cause for concern. Smith and Raimann are the only players in the group that have experience playing in live NFL action. Indianapolis is set to have their fourth-round selection Blake Freeland be their swing tackle. The other name to watch in the group is Jake Witt. The seventh-round rookie tackle is viewed as a project that has the upside of developing into a quality offensive lineman.

Interior Offensive Linemen

 Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

For a group that features Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly, they should be much higher on this list but the pair are coming off down years. Plus there is some worry about the right guard spot and the depth behind them. Will Fries is slotted in to be the starting right guard entering his third season and is coming off starting nine games for the Colts in 2022. 

As far as depth, Danny Pinter has the most experience and has the versatility to play center and guard but he’s better suited to play the center position. Arlington Hambright has NFL experience but he hasn’t played in live action since 2020. Wesley French made the team after being a UDFA rookie but didn’t see the field as a rookie. 

The name to watch for is UDFA rookie, Emil Ekiyor Jr., he was viewed as a draftable prospect but his medical red flags led to him not being selected. Indianapolis needs Nelson and Kelly to play to their level of talent in 2023 to help the offensive line get back to being respected as one of the better units in the league.

Wide Receivers

Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

The competition for spots in the Colts receiving corps will be something to watch for during the preseason. Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce are set to be the starting wide receivers. The pair will play a vital role in Shane Steichen’s offense. The slot role is up for grabs. Third-round rookie Josh Downs is expected to battle with veteran Isaiah McKenzie for the starting job. 

Ashton Dulin is a core special teamer but also can contribute in a small role to the offense. A couple of other situations to monitor later this summer will be where Mike Strachan is at in his development entering his third season and if the recently acquired veteran Breshad Perriman can push for a place on the 53-man roster.


AP Photo/Michael Conroy

The quarterback room is headlined by the new franchise quarterback, Anthony Richardson. The rookie quarterback has untapped potential that can skyrocket this position group to the top of this list by this time next year if Richardson exceeds expectations in Year 1. Indianapolis also has one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL with Gardner Minshew. 

The veteran quarterback 24 starts under his belt and is capable of handling starting duties if the coaching staff wants to be patient with Richardson. Sam Ehlinger is the only carryover quarterback on the roster from the 2022 season. The third-year quarterback’s chances of making the team increased this offseason despite the additions of Richardson and Minshew because of the new third QB rule the league approved this offseason.


Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Indy’s special teams unit features some of the best players in the league at their positions. Luke Rhodes is one of the longest-tenured Colts and has been named an All-Pro long snapper twice in his seven-year career. Rigoberto Sanchez is considered a top punter in the NFL despite not making a Pro Bowl in his first five seasons. Matt Gay has joined the team after signing a record deal for a kicker. He had a Pro Bowl season in 2021.

There could be an argument that the specialists should be higher on this list since the team is set with great players at kicker, punter, and long snapper but there are a couple of questions that need to be answered in 2023. Sanchez is coming off a torn Achilles so we will have to see if he can return to his level of play prior to the injury. 

The other is how well the operation is run between the three during field goal attempts. The trio will be looking to build on their chemistry later this summer.


Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

With the assumption that Shaquille Leonard will be 100% ready for the 2023 season, the Colts have one of the best trio of linebackers with the leader of their defense, Zaire Franklin, and E.J. Speed. This is usually a deep group for Indy in recent history but there are some question marks for this season’s backups. JoJo Domann showed some good things in the preseason as a UDFA rookie but only played as a special teamer in his first season. 

Grant Stuard is a core special teamer and also registered zero defensive snaps last year. Cameron McGrone was acquired late in 2022 and only played 14 snaps on special teams. Linebacker is a top-heavy group that the team is betting on to stay healthy for all 17 games.

Tight Ends

Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

It is going to be interesting to see how the tight end position group plays out for Indianapolis this season. It’s a deep group that will be battling out for a spot on the roster. It is a mixture of veterans that have past starting experience in Mo Alie-Cox, Kaden Smith, and Pharoah Brown. Plus the upside of younger players with Jelani Woods, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, and Andrew Ogletree. 

Woods is the darling of the group because of the excitement of the player he can develop into. But there is much to like what Granson and Mallory can provide to the passing attack. There is also the question mark of the player Ogletree can be after having some preseason hype last year prior to tearing his ACL before his rookie season began.

This is going to be the toughest position group for Chris Ballard and Shane Steichen to decide on who should be on the 53-man roster when cuts are due.

Edge Rushers

Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

There is plenty of upside for Indy’s edge rush group. They are led by starters Kwity Paye and Samson Ebukam. Ebukam is coming off his best season as a pro with the San Francisco 49ers and will be looking to make an impact in the LEO position in his first season with the franchise. Paye is poised for a breakout season heading into Year 3. 

Fellow 2021 draft classmate, Dayo Odeyingbo, is also set to take the next step in his career. His versatility to also play inside gives Gus Bradley flexibility on how he wants to deploy his front four. The group is rounded out with veterans Tyquan Lewis, Genard Avery, and Khalid Kareem. Plus, sixth-round selection, Titus Leo, will be battling for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Running Backs

AP Photo/Matt Patterson

The Colts have a quality stable of running backs heading into the 2023 season. Jonathan Taylor’s return to his MVP form after his recovery from ankle surgery will be something to monitor. But for the team’s sake, they don’t have to rush the process because of the depth they have. Zack Moss and Deon Jackson performed well last year when they had the opportunity to start. 

Plus, Indianapolis also has their new fifth-round pick in Evan Hull who is expected to potentially help out the passing attack. Ideally for Shane Steichen, Taylor is back to himself and can handle his normal workload, but he also can elect to keep his star back fresh throughout the season with the running back-by-committee approach with the depth they have.

Interior Defensive Linemen

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart are among the best defensive tackle tandems in the NFL. Their performances in 2022 didn’t get the recognition that they both deserved. The pair combined for 144 tackles (88 solo), 20 TFLs, 29 QB hits, 12 sacks, six pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles. 

The depth for 2023 is much better this season with the signing of Taven Bryan and the selection of Adebawore Adetomiwa. They also have a 2022 fifth-round selection in Eric Johnson that will battle for his spot in the rotation.

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