Injuries are a part of life in the NFL. The phrase “next man up” is repeated by every team in the league and signifies the need for players to step up when teammates are down.
The Indianapolis Colts will begin training camp this week at the Grand Park Sports Complex for the fourth straight season. Each player is required to pass a physical before being cleared to practice. Unfortunately, some will have to wait before they can take the field.
The Colts announced several injuries Sunday before the start of camp. Linebacker Darius Leonard, defensive end Tyquan Lewis, safety Rodney McLeod and wide receiver Mike Strachan have been placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Defensive tackle Eric Johnson II has been placed on the active/non-football injured (NFI) list.
Since those players will miss the start of camp, the door is wide open for other players at those positions to show what they’re made of. Here are the Colts players who should take advantage of the upcoming opportunities.
Leonard underwent back surgery in June to address an issue that had been causing him problems throughout the offseason. The surgery should also help address a functional ankle issue that plagued the All-Pro guard during the 2021 season. Leonard is expected to return before the start of the regular season, but will miss training camp.
With Leonard out, Speed will slide into WILL’s starting point guard spot. Speed has replaced Leonard before, most notably against the Arizona Cardinals last December. Speed led the team on the day with nine tackles in the win.
While Leonard’s job is not in jeopardy, Speed still has an opportunity to impress the coaches. He can solidify as the team’s fourth linebacker and could earn some SAM snaps. Speed is also in a contract year and will look to prove to the Colts that he deserves a second contract.
Lewis suffered a torn patellar tendon in his knee in Week 8 against the Tennessee Titans. Lewis injured his knee on the same play in which he recorded his first career interception. As a result, he missed the rest of the season.
Luiz is still working to get back to 100% from injury, which leaves the door open for Banogu to make an impact. A former second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Banogu’s career has been a huge disappointment to this point. The linebacker has recorded just 2.5 sacks in three seasons, all during his rookie season, and has been active in just 18 games over the past two seasons.
This preseason could be Banogu’s last chance to make an impression on this team. He enters a contract year as the Colts’ top trade candidate if he can’t prove he deserves a role on this team. Banogu will need to have the camp of his life to save his career.
McLeod comes to the Colts after spending the past six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. McLeod was placed on the PUP list, but his injury was not officially announced by the Colts. The timing of the injury isn’t ideal for McLeod, as he had to contend for the starting strong safety spot after Carey Willis retired this spring.
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The door is now wide open for Cross to step into the strong safety competition. Cross was selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft after the Colts traded the rookie. General manager Chris Ballard and the Colts front office were enamored with the young linebacker’s ability to take the ball and make plays all over the field.
Cross was thought to be the favorite for the strong safety position entering camp because of his skill set and playing style. With McLeod set to miss time to start camp, Cross could lock down the starting spot with an impressive early performance.
Strachan was one of the stars of training camp in 2021. The rookie wide receiver made plays every day of practice and stood out in the preseason. However, Strachan didn’t make much of an impact once the regular season began and now enters camp with an undisclosed injury that dates back to OTAs this spring.
The wide receiver most closely competing with Strachan for a bigger role in the Colts offense is Patmon. Patmon is entering his third year in the NFL and has had little production to show for it so far. He recorded two catches for 21 yards and a touchdown in eight games last season.
Although Patmon hasn’t had much production, he’s constantly working on his craft to earn a bigger role. During spring practice, Patmon got some snaps with the first-team offense and worked out with Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. throughout the offseason. If Patmon can have an impressive start to camp, he could solidify his spot ahead of Strachan and as a key backup in the wide receiver room.
Johnson II was taken in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft to provide depth on the interior of the defensive line. The rookie defensive end will compete for Pro Bowler DeForest Buckner’s backup. Johnson’s injury has yet to be announced, so there is no word on how long he will miss.
Johnson II’s injury now presents a big opportunity for another rookie in Brooks. Brooks was taken just one round after Johnson II last spring by Cincinnati. The linebacker had 7.5 sacks last season while helping lead the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff.
Brooks is a fiery defensive prospect who will be one to watch throughout training camp and the preseason. His motor skills and pass rush ability come off film, and he will look to impress the coaches in a crowded defensive line group. With Johnson II out, that might be all Brooks needs to gain the edge and carve out a role on defense.
Any thoughts on who will need to impress early in Colts training camp? Let us know in the comments below!
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