INDIANAPOLIS — With the Indianapolis Colts set to begin training camp soon at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., Colts.com takes a look at some of the under-the-radar players to keep an eye on throughout camp:
» Marcus Johnson, wide receiver: Johnson had close ties to Colts head coach Frank Reich when he was acquired in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks just before the start of the 2018 regular season; the two worked together in 2017 in Philadelphia when Reich was the Eagles' offensive coordinator. So perhaps it was no surprise how quickly Johnson picked up the offense when he arrived in Indy, and by Week 6, he was putting together his best game of the season with two receptions for 52 yards and his first-career touchdown against the New York Jets before suffering a freak season-ending ankle injury on a kickoff play along the sideline. So while the Colts certainly have plenty of competition for spots at wide receiver heading into training camp, a now-healthy Johnson — who is comfortable in Reich's offense and can also be a key contributor on special teams — almost certainly won't be lost in the shuffle.
» Ross Travis, tight end: All season-ending injuries are tough, but one really had to feel for Travis last season when he suffered a season-ending ACL injury late in the fourth quarter of the Colts' preseason finale last year against the Cincinnati Bengals. At the time, Travis had really built a good bit of momentum to make the 53-man roster heading into Week 1 of the regular season; instead, he had to spend his season recovering from surgery and then rehabbing to get back as soon as possible. While Travis — who was re-signed to a one-year contract extension in February — missed the entire on-field portion of this year's offseason workout program, the hope is that the 6-foot-6, 248-pound Penn State basketball product will be back in camp and continue carving out a role as a mismatch nightmare both in the slot and down in the red zone for the tight end-heavy Colts, who should have a very well-rounded group of players at the position in 2019.
» Jonathan Williams, running back: It's easy to look at the Colts' running back situation heading into 2019 and acknowledge that Marlon Mack is the team's lead back, while Nyheim Hines is expected to have more of a third-down role. But brewing beyond those two players will be quite the battle for depth chart positioning — or, simply put, a spot on the 53-man roster, as the team typically kept three to four running backs throughout last season, with three usually active on gameday. While Jordan Wilkins deserves attention for his 5.6 yards-per-carry average in limited opportunities as a rookie last year, and the team also brought in veteran free agent Spencer Ware and his 40 career games played (and 18 starts) this offseason, don't go forgetting about Williams. A fifth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 2016 NFL Draft, Williams, at 6-foot, 217 pounds, brings more of a traditional running back approach to the position, and he's someone general manager Chris Ballard raved about on more than one occasion this offseason. Williams should get plenty of chances in practices — but especially in preseason games — to show what he can do.
» Jalen Collins, cornerback: The Colts will enter training camp with nine cornerbacks vying for (probably) anywhere from four to six spots on the Week 1 53-man roster. So that means, just like at wide receiver, there will be some fierce competition for jobs over the next few weeks in practices and preseason games. While Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore II were rewarded with contract extensions this offseason, the team selected Rock Ya-Sin early in the second round of this year's draft and Quincy Wilson is hoping to keep the momentum going from a solid finish to his 2018 season, beyond that, can Collins, who spent a good chunk of the 2018 season on the Colts' practice squad, show off the talent that made him a second-round pick of the Falcons back in 2015? Let's not forget: Collins was Atlanta's top tackler just three seasons ago in Super Bowl LI.
» Derrick Kindred, safety: Indianapolis has its two starters returning in Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker. It has a team leader, versatile defender and special teams ace coming back in Matthias Farley. It has George Odum, who surprised many as a small-school undrafted rookie last year, returning for Year 2. And it also moved up 20 spots to select a smart, instinctual player in Khari Willis in the fourth round of this year's NFL Draft. So it would appear the Colts are just about set at the safety position, right? Well, let's not forget about Kindred, a fourth-year veteran who was claimed off waivers by Indy back in April. A fourth-round pick by the Cleveland Browns back in 2016, Kindred has 42 games and 17 starts to his credit, which makes him the most experienced safety on the Colts' roster. And if injuries become an issue again at the safety position, the chance to plug in an experienced playmaker like Kindred — much like Indy did with Mike Mitchell beginning in Week 6 last season — could really help his case.
» Jihad Ward, defensive tackle: Ward's time on the Colts' active roster in 2018 was relatively brief, but he made the most of his opportunities in the six games he did get into. The 6-foot-5, 287-pound Illinois product logged a career-best 3.0 sacks to go along with four tackles (three for a loss) and six quarterback hits, constantly applying pressure from the interior of the defensive line. But Ward suffered an ankle injury Week 7 against the Buffalo Bills that would cost him the rest of his breakout season. The Colts enter training camp with plenty of depth along the defensive line, and in the interior they have proven playmakers Denico Autry and Margus Hunt to go along with young guns like Tyquan Lewis and Grover Stewart. But the 25-year-old Ward, who was able to return to the practice field during veteran minicamp to end the offseason workout program, will certainly do his best to make some noise and keep building on what he started last season.