Inside linebacker will be one of the most competitive battles for the Colts

Edwin Jackson emerged as a starter for the Colts at inside linebacker last season but will have to hold off several challengers in training camp. Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS -- The most competitive position for playing time for the Indianapolis Colts this training camp won't be on the offensive line, receiver or in the secondary.

It'll be at inside linebacker.

The Colts have two open spots at inside linebacker with five candidates competing. Holdovers Antonio Morrison and Edwin Jackson ended last season as the two starters and will battle free-agent signings Sean Spence and Jonathan Bostic along with rookie fifth-round pick Anthony Walker Jr.

It wouldn't be surprising if this battle that doesn't get determined until closer to the regular season. The Colts likely wouldn't want it any other way since their goal is to create as much competition as possible on the roster, especially at problem positions.

It would be putting it nicely to say the Colts had an issue or two at inside linebacker in 2016.

It started when they decided not to re-sign Jerrell Freeman, who was first or second on the team in tackles in all four of his seasons. The new projected starter, Nate Irvin, didn't make the 53-man roster at the end of the preseason.

Sio Moore, who ended up being one of the starters, was released after their Week 4 game against Jacksonville in London. D'Qwell Jackson was one of the veteran leaders of the defense, but he was also 33 years old and ended up being suspended for the final four games of last season for using performance-enhancing drugs. Morrison and Edwin Jackson, who were a rookie and second-year player, respectively, showed flashes but not enough consistency. Jackson was third on the team in tackles with 66.

Combine those issues with the fact that group struggled in coverage and stopping the run, and it was easy to understand why changes had to be made at inside linebacker during the offseason. General manager Chris Ballard put a premium on athletic players capable of causing turnovers.

Bostic, a former second-round pick in 2013, missed all of last season with a foot injury with Detroit. He hasn't started more than one game in a season since starting eight with Chicago in 2014. Spence joins the Colts after playing for AFC South foe Tennessee. He has the most experience of the group, having started 19 of the 46 games he's appeared in.

Walker missed part of OTAs while finishing his final semester at Northwestern. What makes him intriguing is his athleticism. Walker had 225 tackles, including 29 for a loss, and six sacks in his final two college seasons. He might not be talked about as much as some of his fellow linebackers, but don't be surprised if Walker is in the mix at inside linebacker throughout training camp.