With their first big round of cuts Sunday, the Colts moved close to the 75-man limit required by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
But that’s just the first step.
After finishing the preseason schedule Thursday in Cincinnati, they must take it all the way down to 53 by 6 p.m. Saturday.
Some positions will feel more pain than others. At defensive line, where the Colts brought in two free agent starters, there are nothing but tough decisions. The same is true at linebacker and on the offensive line.
“Because of what we did in free agency and through the draft and the way the roster has changed, we’ve got competition across the board in a lot of spots,” said Coach Chuck Pagano. “Those spots in particular, it’s going to be tough because we’re going to have to make some tough decisions, obviously, and we’re going to let some good players go.
“You have to get to 75 is one thing, but getting to 53 is another. It’ll be a challenge and unfortunately there’s some guys that have played really good football for us over the past month and there’s going to be some good football players that unfortunately, we’re going to have to let go. It’ll be tough.”
With The Turk heading down the hallway, let’s take a look at who’s locked in and who’s on the bubble. The numbers in parentheses after each position reflect how many were on the roster at the end of last season.
>> QUARTERBACK (3)
Locked in: Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck.
On the bubble: Chandler Harnish.
Analysis: Harnish’s preseason struggles (a 39.5 rating) make this an easier call, because with so many depth issues elsewhere, the luxury of a third quarterback is something this team very likely cannot afford.
>> RUNNING BACK (4)
Locked in: Ahmad Bradshaw, Donald Brown, Vick Ballard.
On the bubble: Kerwynn Williams.
Analysis: Williams really helped himself against the Browns, breaking off a 39-yard kickoff return and a 27-yard run. He’s the team’s leading rusher in the preseason, but that’s kind of like being the smartest guy on Porter Ridge.
>> FULLBACK (1)
Locked in: Stanley Havili.
On the bubble: Robert Hughes, Dominique Jones.
Analysis: Jones’ ability to play both fullback and tight end should help his case, because the positions are largely, but not entirely, interchangeable.
>> TIGHT END (2)
Locked in: Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener.
On the bubble: Justice Cunningham.
Analysis: Based on performance alone, Fleener would belong on the bubble but as a high draft pick, he’s not going anywhere. Cunningham hasn’t played himself off the roster but neither has he caused any jaws to drop.
>> WIDE RECEIVER (5)
Locked in: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey.
On the bubble: LaVonn Brazill, Jeremy Kelley, Nathan Palmer, David Reed, Jabin Sambrano, Lanear Sampson, Griff Whalen.
Analysis: Whalen has been the best of the bubble bunch and is close to a lock. It’s uncertain if the Colts will keep an extra receiver while Brazill serves his four-game suspension. If they do – and assuming they keep Brazill – Reed is the strongest candidate because of his kick-return history.
>> OFFENSIVE LINE (10)
Locked in: Anthony Castonzo, Donald Thomas, Samson Satele, Mike McGlynn, Gosder Cherilus, Khaled Holmes, Hugh Thornton.
On the bubble: Joe Reitz, Jeff Linkenbach, Bradley Sowell, Ben Ijalana, Thomas Austin, Emmett Cleary, Lee Ziemba.
Analysis: Shifting to tackle has helped Reitz, who stepped in when Castonzo was injured against the Browns and will start again in Cincy. The Colts love Linkenbach’s versatility and Sowell’s athleticism. Ijalana has been an inspiring comeback story, but they can’t keep everybody.
Locked in: Cory Redding, Aubrayo Franklin, Ricky Jean Francois, Josh Chapman.
On the bubble: Lawrence Guy, Montori Hughes, Ricardo Mathews, Fili Moala, Drake Nevis, Martin Tevaseu.
Analysis: The deepest area of the roster will lose some names you recognize. They’d probably like to try to sneak Hughes through to the practice squad, but otherwise this will be an extremely tough cut. At tackle, Moala and Nevis both have had their moments. At end, Guy and Mathews are battling it out. Chapman’s health has likely made Tevaseu expendable.
>> OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (4)
Locked in: Robert Mathis, Erik Walden, Bjoern Werner.
On the bubble: Caesar Rayford, Monte Simmons, Daniel Adongo.
Analysis: Though five sacks and two forced fumbles should make Rayford a lock, the problem is he is a rush specialist and the roster already is loaded there with Mathis and Werner. The greater need is for a backup to Walden on the strong side, which could favor Simmons. Adongo is intriguing but beyond raw. If they can find a way to stash him, they’ll likely try.
>> INSIDE LINEBACKER (5)
Locked in: Pat Angerer, Jerrell Freeman, Kavell Conner.
On the bubble: Mario Harvey, Kelvin Sheppard, Josh McNary, Shawn Loiseau.
Analysis: Angerer’s durability is an issue, so an extra body may be required here, which bodes well for Conner. As for Harvey and Sheppard, flip a coin. They love McNary’s potential but he needs seasoning.
>> CORNERBACK (5)
Locked in: Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Darius Butler, Cassius Vaughn.
On the bubble: Marshay Green, Josh Gordy, Daxton Swanson, Sheldon Price.
Analysis: Gordy is a veteran who has looked good on special teams. Green had a big punt return and Swanson has scored on a fumble return. They may wind up keeping six corners and four safeties but if not, quality will be pared.
>> SAFETY (5)
Locked in: LaRon Landry, Antoine Bethea.
On the bubble: Joe Lefeged, Sergio Brown, Delano Howell, Larry Asante, John Boyett.
Analysis: Lefeged’s pending legal troubles mitigate against this former special teams captain. Howell has not only played a lot, but played well and Asante may have made the decision that much tougher with a pick-six against the Browns. Boyett is rehabbing both knees and likely will spend the season on injured reserve.
>> SPECIALISTS (3)
Locked in: Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee, Matt Overton.
On the bubble: None.
Analysis: No competition for any of these guys, and for good reason.
>> NOTES: CASTONZO INJURY NOT SERIOUS
Pagano described Castonzo’s injury as a “mild MCL sprain,” which was good news for the Colts, who expect their left tackle to be ready for the regular-season opener. He will not play Thursday.
The news wasn’t as good for Palmer, who will be out 4-6 weeks with a more severe MCL sprain. Veteran outside linebacker Lawrence Sidbury’s shoulder injury likely will require surgery, so the Colts placed him on injured reserve.
Guard Mike McGlynn, who missed the Cleveland game with a bruised knee, could play Thursday but Pagano said he wouldn’t hesitate to use rookie Hugh Thornton instead.
The Colts waived cornerbacks Johnny Adams and Allen Chapman, guard Danous Estenor, defensive tackle Kellen Heard, kicker Brandon McManus, running back Davin Meggett, linebacker C.O. Prime, center Rick Schmeig and safety Ashante Williams on Sunday. Wide receiver Maurice Williams was waived with an injury settlement and cornerback Teddy Williams was waived-injured. The roster stands at 78.