Via Last Word on Pro Football, by Chris Trevino
Free agency is (for the most part) over, the NFL Draft has come and gone, and the Colts have a bristling roster of rookies and veterans who plan on being a part of the 53-man roster come August. There are a good number of veterans who have, as of yet, not lived up to their draft expectations. The Indianapolis Colts players who must show improvement in 2017 are high draft picks who have yet to reach their potential on the football field. Focusing on players going into the second to fourth year in the league and picked in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft, here are individuals who must show marked improvement in their game in order to be considered locks for roster spots in 2018.
Indianapolis Colts Players Who Must Show Improvement in 2017
Phillip Dorsett, Wide Receiver (2015 Draft, First Round, Pick #29)
Many Colts fans (and players) rightfully shook their heads when former general manager Ryan Grigson used the franchise’s first-round pick on a wide receiver in 2015. With glaringly large holes along the offensive line and throughout the defense, it seemed like Grigson saw this as a luxury pick more than anything. Dorsett, a diminutive speed receiver in the mold of T.Y. Hilton, was expected to come in and produce immediately out of the slot in order to alleviate pressure on Hilton and second-year man Donte Moncrief. Dorsett’s track background was likely the tantalizing hook for Grigson, who had to be enamored by Dorsett’s top end speed. Registering a 4.40-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, Grigson envisioned Dorsett as a receiver who could blow the top off of defenses while allowing Hilton and Moncrief to pile up possessions underneath.
Unfortunately, the Dorsett experience has been – to this point – a complete failure. In two seasons in Indianapolis, Dorsett has registered 51 receptions for 753 yards and three touchdowns while playing in 26 of 32 possible games. Those numbers would be pedestrian for a single season, let alone two combined ones. If Dorsett had played in all 32 games, his stat line extrapolates to a very mediocre 62 catches, 926 yards, and 3.5 touchdowns. In order to guarantee a roster spot going forward, Dorsett needs to prove that he has what it takes to be productive at the NFL level and to validate his draft position in 2015. New general manager Chris Ballard will likely be looking very closely at Dorsett’s production in 2017, and if he continues to underperform expect Ballard to cut his losses at the end of this season.
Henry Anderson, Defensive End (2015 Draft, Third Round, Pick #93)
The Colts used their third-round selection in 2015 to select defensive end Henry Anderson out of Stanford. Anderson, a two-time Pac-12 champion and first-team All-Pac-12 selection, was expected to be an anchor on a Colts defensive front that was, to be blunt, porous against the run. Playing in nine games during his rookie season, Anderson was well on his way to becoming a defensive mainstay with fellow rookie and fifth-round selection David Parry, disrupting offensive linemen and registering 31 tackles and one fumble along the way. Unfortunately, a torn ACL in his right knee against the Denver Broncos in November sent Anderson to the injured reserve list, where he stayed for the rest of the 2015 season.
The 2016 season looked bright for Anderson, but unfortunately he couldn’t shake the injury bug, logging an injury to his left knee against the Houston Texans in week seven and limiting his snaps yet again. Anderson did log playing time in eleven games last season, but was not nearly as effective as he was during his rookie campaign. With the Colts investing heavily on defense in both free agency and the draft, expect Anderson to need to prove that he can shake the injury bug that’s plagued him over the past two seasons and become a mainstay along the defensive front.
T.J. Green, Safety (2016 Draft, Second Round, Pick #57)
Knowing that the secondary was aging and underperforming, Ryan Grigson pulled the trigger on T.J. Green out of Clemson in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Green was expected to learn under veteran safety Mike Adams and second-year man Clayton Geathers while filling in time in substitution packages. It was known that Green would be a bit of a project going forward, but it wasn’t known how much work – and failure – would go into that project last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Green ranked dead-last in their rankings for NFL safeties last year in two categories (overall grade and coverage grade). Green’s coverage weaknesses have been known since he was drafted, but the expectation was time under Adams would allow him to grow and learn to make up for his deficiencies in that area.
With the Colts using their first two picks on secondary players in the 2017 NFL Draft, Green knows he has to step up his game in year two. The Colts have a viable starting pair of safeties in Clayton Geathers and first-round pick Malik Hooker – it’s up to Green to figure out how he fits in the rotation. The best way to do that is to make a significant improvement in his playmaking ability this year. Otherwise, he could find himself looking for a new team – or even a new career – come this time next year.
More to Prove
It’s obvious that Dorsett, Anderson, and Green have to show a lot of growth in the coming season if they expect to stay on the roster going forward. If any of them expect to wear the horseshoe in 2018, all of them need to play as if this was the final year of their contracts. There are other Indianapolis Colts who must show improvement in 2017 as well, but due to their draft positions, these three are undoubtedly the ones with the most to prove.