Final roster decisions will cut the deepest as the Indianapolis Colts must part with 22 more players after Tuesday.
When head coach Chuck Pagano was hired in 2012, he and general manager Ryan Grigson were just trying to plug as many holes as possible.
The Colts have gone 11-5 each of the past two seasons and continue to build. And one of the drawbacks to progress is having more players than a team can keep when the 53-man roster is settled by 4 p.m. Saturday.
Injuries also factor into how many players are kept at certain positions.
“You may keep a few more guys than you normally would,” Pagano said Monday, when the Colts trimmed the roster by waiving 11 players. The team must cut four more Tuesday to get down to the NFL-mandated 75-player limit.
Pagano conceded this roster trim will be more of a challenge than in the past two years.
“We said from day one it was going to be extremely difficult because we felt like the 90-man roster this year compared to year one is a heck of a lot different,” he said. “We’re deeper at every position, we’ve got more competition at every position.
“Everybody says, ‘Hey, getting to 75 is easy, and 53 is much tougher.’ We let go of some good football players, some really good football players (Sunday). It wouldn’t surprise me to see any of those guys get picked up probably sooner than later. What we try to do regardless is tell all those guys that you keep working your craft, you keep studying, you keep staying in shape, doing those type of things because whether it’s Week 1, Week 8, Week 14, you can find yourself right back here. It was a lot more difficult this year than at any point in previous years.”
The Colts (0-3) participated in a light workout Monday, will practice again Tuesday and then have a walk-through Wednesday before traveling to Cincinnati (1-2) Thursday night for the preseason finale at Paul Brown Stadium. Cornerback Darius Butler (ankle) and center Jonotthan Harrison (thumb) were held out of Monday’s practice.
One of the players trying to prove he should stick is running back Dan Herron. The Colts need a third runner to back up Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. Herron, a second-year pro out of Ohio State, spent his rookie year with the Bengals. Signed a year ago by the Colts, he’s led the team in preseason rushing with 104 yards on 18 carries.
Pagano admitted the Colts’ run game isn’t where he wants it to be. Richardson has managed just 51 yards on 20 carries (2.6 ypc). Ahmad Bradshaw, coming off a season-ending neck injury in Week 3 a year ago, finally saw his first action in Saturday’s 23-17 home loss to New Orleans. He gained just two yards on three carries.
“Well I don’t think it’s where we want it,” Pagano said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction. When you look at the stat sheet, some guys gained some yards late in the game and our rush average was good, our totals were good. You’d love to have that at the end of every game, but we’re still working at it. We’ve had some lineup changes obviously in the offensive line, which we went through a whole season last year with that. From a continuity standpoint, getting those guys together, you’ve got Dwayne (Allen) back. We’re still working at it and it’s going to be a work in progress the whole season. All we want to do is be better tomorrow than we were today, and the next game, and the next game, and the next game.”
Pagano conceded Herron, nicknamed “Boom,” has been steady.
“I just know Boom had a really good camp and a good preseason, and he’s made some nice runs,” the coach said. “It’s comforting to know that you’ve got a guy that not only excels on special teams, but you’ve got another guy in the backfield that can run and get yards for you when you need them.”
A year ago, Herron played in this preseason finale for the Bengals. Now he’s trying to have one more good game to bolster his resume for a roster spot.
“It’s definitely important,” he said. “We want to go out there and showcase our best game right now. We’ve just got to keep getting better and go out there and play our best game.
“I’m just excited and blessed to be in the position that I am right now. Like I said, I’m just trying to come in here every day and show the coaches my ability to play this great game. I’m just happy to be a part of this team.Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.