Wilson's Word: Cut surprises? Not too many

Colts get down to mandated 53 players

Final roster cuts are probably not so final with more shuffling expected, but Colts' casualties include Harnish, Sheppard, McKinney, placing Howell on IR, trading Burley to Seattle.

After the final-cut phone calls concluded, the Colts had kept six wide receivers, Delano Howell’s neck situation landed the safety on injured reserve and cornerback Marcus Burley was traded to Seattle for a sixth-round pick.

Keep in mind the current 53-man roster likely changes some more in the next 48 hours, when NFL teams start poaching off the waiver wire to shore up depth issues — for the Colts, that sure looks like on the offensive line.

Aside from that, any Saturday surprises?

Surprise probably isn’t the right word. Let’s say maybe a few subtle eyebrow raises.

The Colts parted with tight end Weslye Saunders, who they’ve signed twice before and is arguably the best blocker at his position. But they kept fullback Mario Harvey, at least for now. The hunch is Harvey could be waived in the next couple days to make room for someone else, or he hangs onto his roster spot until fullback Stanley Havili comes off PUP.

They kept six wide receivers, which was what I expected and suggested until Da’Rick Rogers punted the football after scoring a TD and received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty Thursday night. Keeping him, though, makes sense. Reggie Wayne is 35 and coming off ACL surgery, Hakeem Nicks has an injury history, Donte Moncrief is a rookie. You make sure Andrew Luck always has plenty of targets.

Center Thomas Austin probably didn’t make a lot of mock rosters, but with Khaled Holmes and Jonotthan Harrison both injured, it’s understandable. Austin probably isn’t around for too long, but the Colts likely don’t want to go into Denver with rookie Jack Mewhort starting at center. I don’t think. You never know. It serves the second-round pick better to keep him focused on learning offensive guard. Should he be needed in an emergency situation, then you switch him to center.

The Howell move was practically anticipated. We don’t know if it was his decision or the team wanted to do this all along, but waiting until now to do it probably lessens the likelihood of anyone claiming him off waivers. Still could happen. Or the Colts could designate him as the one player they can bring back off IR later on. Or if he was able to get healthy in the next month or two, he could ask to be released outright.

It’s nice to see the Colts acquire a draft pick instead of giving one up. GM Ryan Grigson gets something for Burley, a first-year cornerback I had on my final 53 but would have been fifth or sixth on the depth chart.

I didn’t expect four running backs to be kept, and again that could change, but undrafted rookie Zurlon Tipton showed a burst at times in preseason. Daniel Herron was the team’s leading rusher in the four games. When considering Trent Richardson has a lot to prove and Ahmad Bradshaw is coming off neck surgery, this makes sense.

It probably doesn’t happen often, but Grigson admitted to a draft miss in cutting sixth-round pick Andrew Jackson. The linebacker could be brought back for practice squad. Perhaps that was the Colts’ plan all along after seeing him in camp. The guy we called “The President” made a few plays in practice, but got hurt at times, too. He exited Thursday’s game with cramps.

As much as the media, myself included, like quarterback Chandler Harnish, you had to know he wasn’t going to be kept on the active roster. Backup Matt Hasselbeck counts $3.75 million against the salary cap for a reason, because he’s an experienced pro who could step in at any moment and lead this team. He’s the best insurance policy you could ask for, which means Harnish probably ends up on practice squad for a third consecutive year, unless another team claims him off waivers. Either way, he’s a good guy you hope will stick somehow, somewhere, in any way.

While some might be surprised by the team cutting linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, the former Buffalo Bills starter acquired for underachieving pass rusher Jerry Hughes, the only real unexpected aspect of this move is that the Colts played Sheppard for only one series Thursday, which suggested they would keep him. Instead, evidently, they had seen enough. The Bills had parted with him because he didn’t make big plays and too many of his tackles were down the field. The Colts saw a guy who couldn’t be used in pass coverage and didn’t have the potential of some of the other young guys.

Which brings up Andy Studebaker, a strong special-teams player who did play most of the game against the Bengals. As stated in my pick-53 story, you’re going to use your last linebacker on special teams. And Studebaker is outstanding on those units. I spoke to him Thursday and he had a great attitude about the situation. He gives it everything he’s got, then hopes for the best. Don’t waste time worrying about the stuff you can’t control.

The emergence of undrafted defensive tackle Zach Kerr cost Brandon McKinney a roster spot. McKinney hadn’t played since 2011 and was making a comeback from two ACL injuries. If it’s a push, you go with young, healthy legs which are cheaper.

When it comes to stockpiling players on the practice squad, again presuming they clear waivers, the Colts could add Harnish, Jackson, defensive end Tyler Hoover, offensive guard Josh Walker and tight end Erik Swoope, among others.

Colts moves

Waived DE Gannon Conway, RB David Fluellen, QB Chandler Harnish, DE Tyler Hoover, OLB Phillip Hunt, ILB Andrew Jackson, WR Ryan Lankford, WR Josh Lenz, C FN Lutz, S Dewey McDonald, DT Nnamdi Obukwelu, CB Sheldon Price, ILB Rob Ruggiero, TE Weslye Saunders, ILB Kelvin Sheppard, TE Erik Swoope, OG Josh Walker.

Released NT Brandon McKinney.

Waived injured OT Matt Hall (triceps), S Delano Howell (neck). If they clear waivers, will revert to teams Injured Reserve list.

Traded CB Marcus Burley to Seattle for sixth-round selection in 2015 NFL Draft.

Placed OLB Robert Mathis on Reserve/Suspended by Commissioner list.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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