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Colt's top 5: Breakout Candidates for 2022.


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Colts Top 5: Breakout Candidates for 2022

These Colts’ players are in the perfect position to burst on the scene during the upcoming season.

ANDREW MOORE

 

The beginning of July may be the slowest time of the year for the NFL.

Players are away from the facilities, and teams will not start training camp for another few weeks.

Yet it seems this is the time of year when the anticipation for the upcoming season begins to build. Many teams around the league look forward to the start of the season with hopes of contending for a Super Bowl championship.

The Indianapolis Colts are one of the teams with very high aspirations heading into the season. While the Colts have not won the AFC South division title since 2014, Indy is focused on taking back the division crown and looking to make a deep run into the playoffs.

While the Colts may be off for the summer, that does not mean we cannot speculate on what will happen this fall. In the weeks leading up to training camp, a weekly “Colts Top 5” column will look to identify how certain players shape up as we head into 2022. From breakout candidates to those on the hot seat, we will look at various topics and which players fall into these categories.

The next topic in this series will be players who have the best chance to break out in 2022. The players in this list not only possess a good opportunity to have an impact but can take their skills to the next level to play an important role. Here are the top five breakout candidates for the Colts in 2022.

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DE Kwity Paye

The hype surrounding Paye as he enters his second season seems to be building as training camp approaches, and for good reason.

Paye is coming off of a rookie season that saw him register all four of his sacks during the last half of the 2021 season. The game began to slow down for the pass rusher, and he created more pressure on the quarterback. More of the same is expected in 2022.

New additions along the defensive line should favor Paye, as well. The Colts acquired Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue from the Las Vegas Raiders this spring to rush the passer opposite Paye. With offensive lines focusing their attention on Ngakoue and Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, Paye will have more one-on-one opportunities.

But the major difference may be in Paye’s role. In Matt Eberflus’s defense last year, Colts pass rushers were asked to read and play the run more. In new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s scheme, Paye can pin his ears back and focus on attacking the quarterback.

All these factors together could put Paye on track to be a force in 2022 and may even lead to national recognition if he can produce.

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CB Isaiah Rodgers

A sixth-round pick of the Colts in the 2020 NFL Draft, Rodgers has improved each season. From a special teams standout as a rookie to a spot starter in 2021, Rodgers has his eyes set on capturing a starting role on defense for good as he enters Year 3. And he may be on his way to securing it.

Rodgers has shown the skills necessary to be a starting cornerback in the NFL. His blazing speed permits him to stay step-for-step with any wide receiver in the league and allows him to recover in case of a mistake. The ball skills that Rodgers possesses make him a threat to take the ball away when he has the proper position.

While Stephon Gilmore and Kenny Moore II will man two of the starting cornerback positions, one is still up for grabs as the Colts traded cornerback Rock Ya-Sin to the Raiders in exchange for Ngakoue. Rodgers will need to earn that position throughout training camp as he battles with Brandon Facyson, who signed with the Colts in free agency this past spring. If Rodgers wins the competition, he will finally receive the playing time needed to show how big of a difference-maker he can be.

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WR Alec Pierce

As the Colts’ first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, it might be expected that Pierce is to have an impact right away. However, it seems like the Colts already have big plans for the rookie wide receiver.

Pierce, a second-round pick by the Colts this past spring, has the speed and leaping ability the Colts covet in their wide receivers. His long arms, combined with his basketball and volleyball background, give him a large catch radius making it easy for quarterbacks to deliver the ball. He presents the perfect complement to Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

It is evident the Colts want Pierce to take on an expanded role early. Coaches were working closely with Pierce to catch him up to speed on the playbook and help him master it quickly. Pierce was also seen taking many snaps with the first-team offense through OTAs and minicamp.

Outside of Pittman, the Colts have a lot of unproven talent at the wide receiver position. Without bonafide starters throughout the group, Pierce will have plenty of opportunities to take one of the starting positions and assert himself as a viable weapon for the Colts’ offense.

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S Nick Cross

On the second night of the NFL Draft this spring, general manager Chris Ballard posed a question to his scouts. If Cross were to come out in next year’s draft, where would he be taken? When the consensus was in the second round, Ballard had no problem trading back into the third round to select the electric safety prospect.

At the time Cross was drafted, Khari Willis was still a starting safety for the Colts. Cross was to learn behind Willis and slowly enter the lineup. Fast forward a couple of months, and Willis has now retired from the NFL to instead enter the ministry.

Because of this, Cross is projected to be the starter at strong safety as the Colts enter training camp. Cross can cover all over the field yet possesses the physicality to play in the box and defend the run. His five interceptions and three forced fumbles at the University of Maryland show he has a knack for forcing turnovers, a trait the Colts love in their defenders.

While Cross was not expected to have this big of a role so early in his career, it may just be the opportunity he needs to show he is the future at strong safety for Indy.

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TE Jelani Woods

The Colts have a hole at the tight end position with the retirement of Jack Doyle. While Mo Alie-Cox will assume the TE1 role left by Doyle, the tight end position will need one of their young prospects to help fill the void. Woods could be the one to do exactly that.

A third-round pick in this spring’s draft, Woods is a mammoth weapon at tight end. At 6’7”, 253 pounds, and the ability to run a 4.61 40-yard dash, the rookie has a rare combination of size and speed that can be a mismatch all over the field. The Colts also believe Woods can have an impact in the run game with his blocking ability.

Woods will have competition for snaps at tight end. Second-year player Kylen Granson, who is seen as the receiving tight end for the Colts, will battle Woods for snaps early in the season. However, if Woods can prove he can be a vital piece in all facets of the offense, head coach Frank Reich will give him plenty of opportunities to shine on the field.

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I question “Pierce was also seen taking many snaps with the first-team offense through OTAs and minicamp.”. I remember reading otherwise, so I guess we’ll see later this month.  I think too many of this years players were on the list.  Also, I’m looking for Dayo to break out along with Paye!

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3 hours ago, compuls1v3 said:

I question “Pierce was also seen taking many snaps with the first-team offense through OTAs and minicamp.”. I remember reading otherwise, so I guess we’ll see later this month.  I think too many of this years players were on the list.  Also, I’m looking for Dayo to break out along with Paye!

 

Yup. Buy most of the tweets and reports, he spent a little time with the 1s, but mostly with 2s. And the time with 1s could have been a product of Pittman sitting out a few times. He'll get his time though. I can't imagine him not being top 4 in the rotation so long as he improves his blocking and route tree. 

 

The one thing that was clear in terms of WRs, is that Campbell was considered the star of the camp, and seemed to have the most chemistry with, and most targets from, Ryan. Lord I hope he stays healthy. That could change though in TC lol. 

 

On Breakout candidates, so many ways you can look at things. Rooks, non-rooks that haven't played much in the past but could find a starting spot, guys that have played a lot but will take a step forward, etc.. 

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@compuls1v3 my last reply, and the different way to slice and dice things....

 

Breakout candidates

  • Rooks
    • D - Cross - good possibility he's a starter day 1 with Willis's retirement, and Blackmon's recovery timeline.
    • O - Woods - likely passes Granson later in the season. This could easily be Pierce if Campbell's health is an issue again. 
  • FAs added that weren't originally expected to do a lot
    • McLeod - another safety due simply to the S situation we have currently. McLeod had experience at both FS and SS, and might be a better C1 centerfield option anyway
  • Offensive non-rook, non new free agent, that weren't full time starters last season
    • Mo Alie-Cox - will be stepping into the TE1 spot, and have to assume his roll will expand
    • Pinter and Pryor - both stepping into starter rolls
  • Defensive non-rook, non new free agent, that weren't full time starters last season
    • Dayo - should be on everyone's breakout list. After all he was considered a year 2 impact player when drafted
    • Rodgers - improved a lot last season. Will likely be day 1 starter if he can hold off Facyson. Will definitely start if Moore's situation isn't resolved.
  • STs
    • Domann - might even battle for LB rotational minutes
    • Weatherford - dark horse too if we employ any Dime or Star type calls

 

Paye will likely breakout in terms of sacks, but he was already very solid grading last season, and was a full time starter. If he gets 10 sacks, I'd say that's break out level though. But I think most will expect him to improve, not really break out. 

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It might be wishful thinking but I'd love to see a breakout year from Parris Campbell. I know he's only played 15 games in 3 years but he's going to be just 25 years old heading into the season. He can be a really nice complement to Pittman if he can just stay healthy. 

 

Also, I don't know if he would be considered a breakout candidate, but I think Braden Smith could solidify himself as one of the best right tackles in the game. 

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14 minutes ago, Caleb3502 said:

It might be wishful thinking but I'd love to see a breakout year from Parris Campbell. I know he's only played 15 games in 3 years but he's going to be just 25 years old heading into the season. He can be a really nice complement to Pittman if he can just stay healthy. 

 

Also, I don't know if he would be considered a breakout candidate, but I think Braden Smith could solidify himself as one of the best right tackles in the game. 


I’d be more than happy if Smith gets even better.   But we already recognize him as one of the best RT’s in the game.   We signed him to a contract of 4/70.    That’s $17.5 per.   That’s top OT money. 
 

His only problems last year was a bad foot early in the season, and I think he got Covid late in the season.   Otherwise, he graded out very well. 

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