INDIANAPOLIS – Will the Colts start two rookies in 2022?
It’s looking like that’ll be the case, with a few other rookies knocking on the door for playing time.
How did the rookies perform in their first training camp/preseason, and what is their projection for Year One in the NFL?
WR-Alec Pierce: Pierce is going to be counted on from Day One. You can debate whether Pierce of Parris Campbell is the No. 2, but both are going to play a lot when the Colts go to their 3-receiver personnel package. It did not look too big for Pierce in August. Regular season football is a different level though, so taking another step will be something to watch. As Chris Ballard said last week, the Colts need Pierce to grow up, fair or unfair.
TE-Jelani Woods: Outside of a couple catches in the preseason opener, Woods had a pretty quiet camp/preseason. The Colts need Woods though. With Drew Ogletree’s torn ACL, Woods is the team’s 3rd tight end entering the season. Does that earn him around a dozen snaps per game?
OT-Bernhard Raimann: With the Colts clearly focused on getting Matt Pryor as many starting reps as possible in August, Raimann played almost exclusively with the second-team at left tackle. Depending on the health of Dennis Kelly, Raimann could be the team’s top tackle reserve entering the regular season. Unless Pryor struggles in the season, Raimann’s rookie role will be as a backup.
S-Nick Cross: You could be talking about a Week 1 starter in the Maryland safety. Cross made several plays, in the run and pass game, during the preseason, as he tried to beat out veteran Rodney McLeod for the starting strong safety job. On the Colts official depth chart, it’s Cross ahead of McLeod in the starting lineup.
DL-Eric Johnson: A summer back injury kept Johnson sidelined for the early part of camp. Once Johnson got healthy, there were some flashes of that quick first step, but in-game production wasn’t there in the preseason. It remains to be seen if the Colts will have Johnson dressing in games, and rotating in along the defensive, or if he’s a healthy scratch.
TE-Drew Ogletree: In the most disappointing injury news of camp (until Rigoberto Sanchez’s torn achilles), promising rookie Drew Ogletree tore his ACL on the first day of joint practices with the Lions. Ogletree was on track to play a meaningful Day One role for the Colts. Now, it’s a 9-month recovery.
DT-Curtis Brooks: Similar to Johnson, you certainly notice a quick first step with Brooks. But the in-game preseason moments weren’t too frequent from the Cincinnati product. The Colts cut Brooks last week and have since brought him onto the practice squad. Interior defensive line depth is a question for the Colts and the Day 3 picks of Johnson and Brooks didn’t cement themselves as unquestioned reserve guys right behind Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner.
S-Rodney Thomas: Until the final preseason game, there wasn’t a ton to see from Thomas. After some initial debate on where Thomas will play, he’s been a safety at this level, and made several nice plays in the preseason finale. If the Colts are going to have Thomas active on game days, he will need to be a core special teamer right away.
Undrafted Free Agent Class: In the undrafted class, LB-JoJo Domann (Nebraska) was easily the most consistent UDFA from the spring. Fellow LB-Sterling Weatherford (Miami Ohio) was someone the Colts desired to retain, but the Bears claimed him. CB-Dallis Flowers (Pittsburgh State) made a strong enough impression to earn the 5th cornerback spot on the 53-man roster. Offensively, it was a bit surprising to see OL-Wesley French (Western Michigan) earn a roster spot. Although offensive line depth is a major question right now.