Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke roams during the 2019 preseason.
ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 08: Indianapolis Colts Linebacker Bobby Okereke (58) reacts to a play during the first half of the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Buffalo Bills on August 8, 2019, at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Position Battles To Watch At Colts Training Camp

INDIANAPOLISOn paper, about 4 or 5 new starters are expected for the 2020 Colts.

You have Philip Rivers at QB1, Michael Pittman at WR2, Trey Burton at TE2 and DeForest Buckner at three-tehcnique DT.

What other questions remain on the depth chart heading into camp?

Marlon Mack vs. Jonathan Taylor

Frank Reich has said Mack has earned the respect to still get the lead running back look to start the season.

That’s, understandably, fair.

But Jonathan Taylor isn’t a typical rookie. He shattered NCAA records and did it for college football’s most ready-made NFL rushing system.

Sure, Taylor is hurt a bit by the lack of an offseason/preseason, but he remains one of the more Day 1 ready rookies.

Will Taylor push Mack for that lead back role in 2020?

Anthony Walker vs. Bobby Okereke

This is a battle we heard about leading into last year’s camp.

But Walker maintained the starting MIKE spot next to Darius Leonard.

Hype for Okereke is building though, and that includes public comments from very important people inside the Colts organization.

Simply, having Okereke as the starting SAM linebacker wouldn’t lead to him playing all that much.

The reliability of Walker is nothing to overlook though.

At the MIKE, do we see the second-year Okereke overtake Walker, who led the Colts in tackles last season?

Starting Defensive End

Back in the spring, new defensive line coach Brian Baker said he had two open starting spots up front.

Assuming two of the four starting jobs are going to DT-DeForest Buckner and DE-Justin Houston, does that mean there are open jobs at defensive tackle and defensive end?

I think Grover Stewart is still the best bet to be the early-down guy at one defensive tackle spot.

But the defensive end position that Jabaal Sheard occupied for the last three years is now open.

The Colts have said they will take look at some interior options in the versatile Denico Autry, or maybe Tyquan Lewis, particularly on the run downs. Al-Quadin Muhammad is another name to keep an eye on, given his run-defense pedigree.

When it’s time for the opposing offense to pass, you have to think Kemoko Turay is going to be a mainstay off the edge.

Expect some combinations to make up for not having Sheard anymore.

Rock Ya-Sin vs. Xavier Rhodes

When the Colts go to their nickel package in 2020, the expectation is Ya-Sin and Rhodes will be the outside corners with Kenny Moore in the slot.

But what about the base defense?

Even at 5-9, Moore is still too valuable not to have as one of the two outside corners in the base grouping.

So will Ya-Sin, who played the most snaps of any Colts defender last year, or Rhodes, who has started every single game he’s played in since 2014 (94 straight games), be the other outside corner?

A New Kicker

This is the best pure ‘head-to-head’ competition. 2 guys for 1 spot.

Like quarterback, the Colts have real questions at kicker for the first time in quite a while.

And while the Colts have not given a public statement, one way or the other, on Adam Vinatieri possibly returning for a 25th NFL season, their actions scream life after The GOAT has begun.

The signing of Rodrigo Blankenship, along with the re-signing of Chase McLaughlin, is a definite indicator that the Colts are prepared to have a 2-man competition this offseason.

Charting kicks during camp is now on the storyline list for the Colts.

How will not having any preseason games hurt a rookie like Blankenship, compared to McLaughlin, who has kicked in real NFL games (McLaughlin was 26-of-26 on extra points and 18-of-23 on field goals during the regular season last year)?

Wide Receiver Depth Chart

This isn’t so much of a ‘starting battle.’

T.Y. Hilton is still WR1. And then Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal will factor into other wide receiver packages. How that playing time and targets is divided up will be interesting to watch though.

Honestly, the 53-man roster (in my eyes) lacks a bit of debate, but filling out a wide receiver No. 5, and possibly No. 6, is up in the air.

Is it Marcus Johnson, Reece Fountain, Dezmon Patmon and Ashton Dulin for those spots, assuming they keep 6 wideouts?

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