INDIANAPOLIS – Roster depth is always important.
But relying on it, and inevitably having to use it, takes on an even larger importance here in 2020.
With the roster uncertainty week-to-week thanks to COVID-19, teams should fully expect to need to use their entire 53-man roster, and even (larger?) practice squad, to persevere through this season.
Well, if you ask Frank Reich, the Colts are in very good shape to handle that.
On the eve of the 2020 NFL Draft, as Reich perused over the Colts roster, the head coach felt the urge to text his general manager.
“As you look at how Chris (Ballard) has managed this roster over the time that he has been here, it’s been very measured, very calculated,” Reich said. “It’s just been really good, and that’s just what I was saying (to him in the text). I was sitting there and I was looking at our depth chart and going through some scenarios in my mind and personnel groupings and stuff like that, looking on both sides of the ball and looking at our specialist group, a quick note to Chris just acknowledging, ‘Man, just everything has been measured, calculated, poised, in reach. Let the game come to us.’ I just think he pulled it off really well.
“I think it was a smart move for Chris to come in, learn the organization, learn the team, learn where the needs are and learn your coaches. What’s important to us as coaches? Him just not wielding the power of a general manger and making moves just because he can do that but really involving everybody in the process – scouts, coaches – to really formulate a plan of how to build a team and how to build a roster. I just think he’s done a masterful job of doing that.”
Reich acknowledges that having Ballard’s prudence with roster building, plus having Philip Rivers here on a 1-year deal, led to a little more aggression from the Colts this offseason.
When Ballard became the general manager of the Colts in 2017, he quickly decided the defense needed to be all but shredded.
A scheme change on that side of the ball came the following year.
Offensively, belief in the incumbent members on the line lasted one year, before Ballard realized an overhaul was also a must there.
While the top end of the roster, at key spots, doesn’t have the definite Pro Bowlers, there’s little doubt that the depth has improved across both units.
“I think each year it has gotten deeper and stronger,” Reich says. “It is really a credit to Chris and his staff, and really everyone. I think the vision becomes clearer and clearer. The core leadership in our locker room gets clearer and clearer. I think it is an ongoing process where yeah, it starts with a clear vision, but it gets stronger. I think that’s what is happening. I think we’ve gotten traction. Early on we said we were going to build from the inside out, character is going to be important. Then you feel the success that we have with that. We know it is true, but there is nothing like feeling it and doing it. That just strengthens your convictions. So we continue to try and sign players as free agents and draft players that will help us along that path.”
Heading into Year 4 for Ballard, and Year 3 for Reich, sensing their excitement is obvious.
And they better be ready to use all of that depth.
“I think Colts fans should be really excited right now,” Reich says. “I know you don’t want to get over-hyped and you rather under promise and over deliver and all that stuff, but I’m excited. I think Colts Nation should be excited.
“This roster is a good roster, good players, good talent and equally as important to Colts Nation, these are good men. These are good men who will represent us well on the field.”