6 breakout candidates for Colts in 2021

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·5 min read
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With a new NFL season comes new excitement for all 32 teams, including the Indianapolis Colts, who are a very different-looking team coming into the 2021 regular season.

With a new face of the franchise at quarterback in Carson Wentz, the Colts have a very young roster with only five players above the age of 30, which includes the recent signing of new left tackle Eric Fisher. With that youth movement comes room for this young talent to learn and grow improving on past seasons.

Here we have six young Colts who, with new starting positions up for grabs on both sides of the ball, have a great opportunity to make a statement, and solidify a bigger role on the roster for the coming year.

WR Parris Campbell

AP Photo/Gary McCullough

We start with the speedster wide-out from Ohio State who, unfortunately, has had some rough luck with injuries in his first two seasons in Indianapolis. His 2020 season ended after just two games due to a nasty collision that required knee surgery, his fourth surgery in just two years. Even so, it's very easy to see the amazing potential that Campbell has yet to really tap into thus far as a Colt with great upside as a slot option. A good showing of his potential was the first game of 2020 against the Jaguars, where Campbell led the team with six catches for 71 yards. In 2021, staying healthy will be the biggest task for the former second-round pick going into his third year. There is great competition at his position but there are snaps to be had in the slot where Campbell is at his best. Should veteran T.Y. Hilton and Michael Pittman Jr. have the two outside starting spots locked down, Campbell will battle it out in training camp and preseason for the final starting spot. With a healthy return to the field, Campbell and his speed should be the easy betting favorite to win the job.

LB Bobby Okereke

AP Photo/AJ Mast

Another player with a great opportunity at a starting position for the Colts is Okereke. After starting eight games in each of the last two seasons, and being a solid defender in pass coverage as well as against the run, Okereke was simply due for more snaps in a talent-crowded room. With former starting MIKE linebacker Anthony Walker joining the Browns in free agency, Okereke looks to step into his vacated position this season. Okereke gives the Colts great versatility alongside All-Pro Darius Leonard who should be freer to crash the line and rush the quarterback with a stronger coverage option next to him in Okereke. This season will be a great opportunity for him to not share as many snaps at the position and prove he belongs in the starting defense full-time going forward.

WR Michael Pittman Jr.

AP Photo/Zach Bolingere

Because of a leg injury that limited him to 13 games, Pittman Jr.'s rookie season was a bit of a disappointment. However, the Colts are confident in his ability to take over the wide receiver room as the X in the formation while being the top target in the offense. Pittman Jr. recorded 40 receptions for 503 yards and one touchdown during his rookie season. There's a chance he establishes himself as the WR1 in the offense, which means he's knocking on the door of a breakout in Year 2.

DL Tyquan Lewis

AP Photo/Zach Bolinger

Another former second-round pick who will be fighting for a starting spot this season is Lewis. The Ohio State product seemed to find his rhythm in more of a rotational role last year, starting four games totaling 21 tackles, four sacks and eight quarterback hits. With a pair of young high-profile additions to the room from this year's draft in Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo, the pressure is on guys like Lewis even more to make their mark and prove they belong this season. With Paye presumably the favorite to start at right defensive end, and Odeyingbo unlikely to play early in the year due to injury, Lewis has a great opportunity to lock that left-end spot down in training camp and preseason. While the crowded competition along the defensive line will likely be one of the toughest on the roster in 2021, if Lewis continues to improve on what he showed in limited snaps last year, he may be the final missing piece to what is shaping up to be a very talented and dominant defensive front in Indianapolis for years to come.

CB Rock Ya-Sin

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

It has been an up-and-down road for the former second-round pick out of Temple. He's flashed some improvement in making plays on the ball but has also struggled with his consistency in defending the deep ball. The 24-year-old has allowed a passer rating of 101.4 and 105.0 in each of his first two seasons, respectively. But Ya-Sin came out as one of the biggest winners of the draft after the Colts opted against selecting a cornerback. He has the opportunity to earn that starting role on the boundary again and if he can make improvements to his technique down the field, a breakout wouldn't be totally surprising.

TE Mo Alie-Cox

AP Photo/Ben Margot

It may be a bit harder now that fourth-round pick Kylen Granson is in the room as well competing for snaps as the move tight end, but Alie-Cox will forever hold upside because of his blend of size and athleticism. He's still learning the nuances of the position but if Alie-Cox continues his development as a pass-catcher, he could become a favorite target for new quarterback Carson Wentz.

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