INDIANAPOLIS – Kemoko Turay will miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season, and Rodrigo Blankenship will be the Indianapolis Colts’ first rookie place-kicker to start the season since the franchise moved to the Circle City in 1984.
Those are the headlines from a cutdown day unlike any other Saturday.
There were no organized team activities in the spring, fewer training camp practices in the summer and no preseason games before the roster was trimmed to the 53-man regular season limit.
“I feel really good about the development of our roster,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said Thursday, following the team’s final preseason practice. “I do feel like we’ve had enough time to sort through who is going to earn a spot on this team.”
Among those who made it was 25-year-old defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth. A former undrafted free agent out of South Carolina, Stallworth played 18 games with the New Orleans Saints over the past two seasons, recording 16 tackles and one sack.
He was cut by the Saints on Aug. 4 and signed with Indianapolis just six days later. But the 6-foot-2, 305-pounder showed enough during training camp to beat out sixth-round pick Robert Windsor and earn a spot as the backup to nose tackle Grover Stewart.
The focus on the defensive line quickly will move to the outside, where Turay will start the season on the physically unable to perform list. Denico Autry and camp star Al-Quadin Muhammad likely will see the bulk of the snaps opposite four-time Pro Bowler Justin Houston, and second-year pass rusher Ben Banogu will have an opportunity to step forward in Turay’s absence.
The Colts also believe they’ll get a better pass rush up the middle from a defensive tackle group that added all-pro DeForest Buckner and could benefit from a resurgent Tyquan Lewis – who was another defensive star during training camp.
There could be more movement on the defensive line Sunday. Sheldon Day, an Indianapolis native and former Notre Dame captain, missed at least the final three weeks of training camp with a knee injury and could be a candidate to be placed on injured reserve.
Tight end Trey Burton also is recovering from a calf injury suffered during the final scrimmage at Lucas Oil Stadium and is expected to miss time at the start of the regular season. That could lead to an addition at the position after the team kept just three tight ends on the roster Saturday.
Blankenship won training camp’s highest profile position battle, edging incumbent Chase McLaughlin to become the full-time replacement for future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri. The former Georgia star had a rough day during the first scrimmage at Lucas Oil Stadium but bounced back with a strong showing in the final scrimmage five days later.
Blankenship won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top college kicker in 2019 and extended the streak of an undrafted free agent making the initial 53-man roster to 22 years.
Indianapolis will assemble a 16-man practice squad Sunday, and many of the players cut Saturday could return in that capacity.
The team waived 22 players Saturday. If they are unclaimed on waivers before Sunday’s noon deadline, they will become free agents.
Cornerback Andre Chachere, defensive tackle Kameron Cline, tight end Dominique Dafney, guard Jake Eldrenkamp, wide receiver Daurice Fountain, tight end Farrod Green, defensive end Gerri Green, wide receiver DeMichael Harris, offensive tackle Brandon Hitner, wide receiver Marcus Johnson, quarterback Chad Kelly, McLaughlin, offensive tackle Carter O’Donnell, center Javon Patterson, cornerback Lafayette Pitts, cornerback Jackson Porter, cornerback Travis Reed, safety Donald Rutledge, cornerback Tremon Smith, tight end Andrew Vollert, defensive tackle Chris Williams and Windsor were waived.
Tight end Xavier Grimble and center Joey Hunt were released and are free agents immediately.