Evaluating Colts 2019 Rookies At Bye Week
Evaluating Colts 2019 Rookies At Bye Week
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INDIANAPOLIS – For a team that returned 20-of-22 starters this season, the Colts are still relying on a ton of playing time from their rookie class.
Particularly on the defensive side of the ball, where the Colts brought back all 11 starters, Frank Reich has seen a trio of rookies start.
With the Colts bye week here, let’s evaluate the rookies through the first 5 weeks of the season:
-CB-Rock Ya-Sin (5 games, 3 starts): Ya-Sin won a spot in the team’s nickel package coming out of the preseason. For the most part, Ya-Sin has shown strong coverage ability. But it’s finishing plays and being sound in zone recognition as areas where the second-round pick can clean up. The Colts continue to love the professionalism and competitiveness from Ya-Sin. Against the Chiefs, we saw Ya-Sin in more of his element---man coverage---which was a reason why the Colts spent the 34th overall pick on him.
-DE-Ben Banogu (5 games): The role for the TCU defensive end could very well be growing. After not seeing any defensive action against the Chiefs, Banogu needs to be ready for more action following the season-ending injury to Kemoko Turay. The Colts need to find more of a speed presence off the edge. That’s where a guy like Banogu could help. If Banogu can offer a Turay-like presence/production, that will greatly aid this team’s third-down package. Banogu has 5 tackles and a half sack while playing a dozen snaps per game.
-WR-Parris Campbell (4 games, 1 start): Similar to Banogu, it’s been a slow-ish start for Campbell. In 11 touches this season (10 catches, 1 rush), Campbell is averaging just 6.3 yards per touch. His long reception has been 15 yards. The chunk play or two has yet to occur for the explosive Campbell. And now the rookie is dealing with an abdominal injury, which forced him to have surgery last week. Campbell missed the Kansas City game and his return to the lineup remains to be seen.
-LB-Bobby Okereke (5 games, 3 starts): An injury to Darius Leonard took Okereke from around 10-to-15 snaps early in the season, to a starter the last three weeks. While it obviously hasn’t been flawless, Okereke was really good against the Chiefs. He showed off some great ability in coverage, which could be his role moving forward, now with Leonard healthy. Handling the communication duties and moving over to Leonard’s WILL spot, Anthony Walker has played every single defensive snap with Leonard out, with Okereke logging about 85% of the snaps. So, I still think it’s a bit early to think Okereke will stay on the field and start, with Walker going to the bench, now that Leonard is returning. But could we see more of a Walker/Okereke split?
-S-Khari Willis (5 games, 2 starts): Easily this team’s best rookie through the first 5 weeks, Willis is making a strong case to be a starter for the rest of the season. The staff continues to rave about everything Willis stands for. He plays extremely fast for a rookie, especially when you remember he wasn’t some Combine warrior in the testing numbers. After his role slowly increased the first few games of the season, Willis has started for a banged-up safety group the last two weeks. For me, Willis is starting to show that he’s too solid to take off the field.
-CB-Marvell Tell (2 games): This likely ‘redshirt’ season for Tell did see him get his first defensive action against the Chiefs. A bevy of first-quarter injuries at cornerback sent Tell onto the field for 3 snaps. This is a developmental year for Tell as he makes the switch from college safety to professional corner.
-LB-E.J. Speed (4 games): I’ll be curious to see how Speed’s role evolves this season, particularly against the run-heavy teams. Speed has yet to start, but against the Raiders the rookie played many more snaps than ‘starting’ SAM LB-Matthew Adams. But versus the pass-happy Chiefs, Speed barely saw the field. Still, for a guy making the jump from Division II Tarleton State, his presence on the field is impressive so early into his rookie season.
-CB-Shakial Taylor (1 game): Last week, Taylor’s schedule looked like this: Monday-Signed to the practice squad for the first time in his NFL career; Saturday-Promoted to the team’s 53-man active roster after S-Rolan Milligan was hurt in Friday’s practice; Sunday-Dresses against the Chiefs and plays 13 snaps with a pass defensed. What a whirlwind for the undrafted rookie. Taylor was one of the few UDFAs who turned some heads back during camp, but a concussion ended any chance of him making the 53-man roster. Taylor gives the Colts some slot corner ability.
-WR-Ashton Dulin (2 games): With the recent injuries at wideout, the Colts moved Dulin up from the practice squad. Dulin was a decorated Division II playmaker, but the undrafted free agent was stuck pretty low on a deep wideout depth chart this offseason. Dulin made a tremendous special teams tackle against the Chiefs, on a play that helped the Colts maintain decent field position. Dulin has played 7 offensive snaps the last two weeks.
The Colts have draft picks DE-Gerri Green (6th round) and OT-Jackson Barton (7th round) on the team’s practice squad.