The Indianapolis Colts have until Tuesday afternoon to cut the roster down to 53 players as the preseason officially comes to an end.
This is no easy task, and there will be plenty of surprises along the way. After three preseason games and joint practices with two separate teams, the Colts have to use all the information they’ve gathered to compile the best collection of 53 players moving forward.
The process, of course, doesn’t end with the initial 53-man roster, and it’s likely that changes will come immediately the day after through the waiver wire.
As we went through with our final roster projection ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, there were some difficult choices made regarding players on the roster bubble. It could be due to the fact that they played well in a crowded room or they didn’t show quite enough to be worthy of a spot.
Here’s a look at the eight toughest cuts we made in our final roster projection for the Colts:
RB Kenyan Drake
Because of the Jonathan Taylor saga, it’s incredibly difficult to project the backfield. We went with the method of projecting the Colts either trading Taylor away or putting him on the reserve/PUP list to begin the season. Even so, Drake didn’t make the cut. He showed some life in the preseason finale, averaging 4.2 yards per carry while adding 22 receiving yards and a touchdown while working with Gardner Minshew and the second-team offense. Drake has some juice left, and that’s something the backfield needs, especially if Taylor is on his way out.
WR Mike Strachan
The idea of what Strachan can be may be more appealing than what he actually offers the Colts. But upside is always enticing, and it’s something Strachan has decidedly. Despite strong showings in training camp, Strachan was limited to just one preseason game in which he recorded a single reception for 18 yards. He left the final joint training camp practice with the Chicago Bears early due to an undisclosed injury. Even with a roster spot opening up due to Ashton Dulin’s injury, Strachan simply hasn’t made a compelling case for the final spot in the room, which mostly stems from his lack of special teams ability.
We opted to project the Colts keeping five wide receivers on the initial 53-man roster. But if we went with six, Winfree would have held that final spot. Offering more special teams ability than the aforementioned Strachan, Winfree also had some strong showings during the preseason. He was tied for the team lead with five receptions and was the only wideout to record a touchdown. Winfree showed off some solid route running as well, but we decided to keep Amari Rodgers instead because of what the latter offers on special teams.
Sensing a theme here? The wide receiver room was pretty difficult to pin down during the projection process. In terms of pure preseason production, Montgomery made the most compelling case. He led the entire offense with 75 receiving yards during the preseason, and he did so by joining the roster after training camp had already concluded. Montgomery was signed the day before the second preseason game against the Chicago Bears. He barely had a handful of practices and averaged 15.0 yards per reception with the third-team offense. Montgomery isn’t a household name, but it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he made his way back to the practice squad.
DE Titus Leo
Not every rookie had the luxury of making the roster in our final projection. In fact, Leo was the only draft pick from the 2023 class that failed to make it in our projection, and it may not be all that fair to him. Despite being an older, lesser-known prospect from a Division-I AA program, Leo put together a strong preseason. Though he had a quiet preseason opener, the sixth-round pick finished the preseason with 1.0 sack, one batted pass, three total pressures and three total defensive stops, according to Pro Football Focus. If he’s cut, hopefully, he clears waivers to come back onto the practice squad.
Sometimes a player does everything he can in his own power, and it still isn’t enough. There may not have been a more productive player for the Colts during the preseason than Kareem. He led the defense with 3.0 sacks, four tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, 11 total pressures and eight defensive stops. He even gutted through a rib injury during the preseason finale. There just doesn’t appear to be enough room among the edge rushers. Maybe we’ll get a bit of a surprise, and Kareem will make it onto the initial roster because he likely deserves it more than any other player on this list.
LB Segun Olubi
We opted to keep only five linebackers on the final projection, which is something the Colts haven’t really done during Chris Ballard’s tenure. They typically keep six for special teams depth. However, Olubi failed to make the cut in our projection. The second-year linebacker brought immense energy to the middle of the defense and was flying to the ball at all times. He showed some lapses in coverage, though, and was outplayed by Grant Stuard, who was one of the standouts from the preseason. Olubi is certainly interesting and potentially worthy of a roster spot if they keep six linebackers.
When it comes to play-making, Black proved he can get the job done. He was responsible for two forced fumbles during the preseason, one of which was the ideal example of putting his hat on the ball in the finale. Black also showed he can be a presence on special teams. But with Julian Blackmon and Rodney Thomas II now healthy, and Nick Cross making strides in his second season, Black failed to make the cut. Maybe he makes it over Trevor Denbow, but it’s difficult to see the Colts keeping five safeties considering the depth they’ll need at other positions.