The 2017 Indianapolis Colts are a team like none other we’ve seen in the Andrew Luck era. New GM Chris Ballard has preached building from within and competition from his introductory press conference, and that’s just what he’s built. With all of the new faces, position battles should be aplenty this year going into the preseason. Today we examine the linebackers.
The Colts made huge improvements in their linebacking department this offseason when they added an army of new faces. Additions poured in from everywhere possible, including players from Houston and New England. The Colts will have four spots up for grabs but who will fill them?
The Outside Linebackers
These two spots will be essentially a four-man battle between Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, Barkevious Mingo and Akeem Ayers. Ayers has been decent in limited action since coming to Indianapolis, but don’t expect him to win this competition.
According to Stephen Holder, Mingo has shown off his impressive speed during OTAs, looking like a blur coming off the edge. The big thing here is his history. Mingo was a sixth overall draft selection but has never been able to translate his potential onto the field. If Mingo can finally put it all together, he could win a starting position and be a steal for the Colts.
At this point the outside linebacker jobs are Simon’s and Sheard’s to lose. Both players came from rivals and both have said all the right things to this point. Simon has preached nastiness and toughness on the defensive side of the ball from day one. While these two are not household names, that could change very soon.
The Inside Linebackers
This battle is where the competition should really rage, with Sean Spence, Antonio Morrison, Anthony Walker, Jon Bostic and Edwin Jackson. Those are five players who all have varying strengths and could make an impact in starting roles.
Last year’s starters, Morrison and Jackson, are far from locks in 2017. The influx of new talent and young blood will likely force Jackson to a special teams role. Morrison, on the other hand, looks like he currently has the inside track to starting week one. The problem for him is that it may not stay that way.
Rookie Anthony Walker recently joined the team after Northwestern’s semester ended and has looked phenomenal. While a starting rookie linebacker in the NFL isn’t all that common, Walker should get a chance sooner rather than later.
One slot over, there will be a battle between Bostic and Spence. Spence brings a tenacity to the team and will likely win this job. Bostic is a good player but he doesn’t look like someone who will overcome Spence for a job.
On thing is certain, Chris Ballard has improved this defense by light years.