5 Storylines to Follow During Indianapolis Colts Training Camp
Five Storylines to Follow During Indianapolis Colts Training Camp
The Indianapolis Colts were one of the most understated teams in the NFL last season. Led by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, the team had one of the most impressive turn-around years in league history, making the playoffs as a wild card before losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.
Yet, the Colts did all of that with an insane amount of parody going on in the locker room and off the field. Everyone remembers the well-documented struggle of head coach Chuck Pagano’s recovery from cancer. Bruce Arians did an incredible job, but he has since left to become the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. He himself became ill before the Colts' playoff loss, and as a result, the team ended the game with no touchdowns.
Personnel have changed immensely since 2011. Thanks to an incredible draft class in 2012 and GM Ryan Grigson’s ability to save cap, the 2013 Colts are a great mix of young talent and veteran leadership that may win the AFC South, unseating the Houston Texans, who have had control of the division since Peyton Manning’s neck injury.
Training camp is where teams unite and rosters are defined. The Colts are one of the best teams at finding no-name players and turning them into contributors. On the offensive side of the ball, Luck has been reunited with his college coordinator Pep Hamilton, who will be installing what he calls a “no coast” offense.
Defensively, the Colts' run defense will be remaining in a 3-4 set, but key additions like Lardon Landry and Erik Walden will have to fit in their roles, ideally elevating the Colts' run defense and turning the team into a threat on both sides of the ball.Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486
No. 5: Who Will Fill in at Wide Receiver?
Wide receiver is one positions the Colts are strongest at on the depth chart. Reggie Wayne is coming off another Pro-Bowl season, while Darrius Heyward-Bey will likely slot in behind him. Big-play threat T.Y Hilton is coming off a strong rookie campaign as well.
After that, things get very interesting. LaVon Brazill was suspended by the league for the first four games of the season, allowing Nathan Palmer and Griff Walen to fight for the fifth receiver spot, with playing time coming in September if they make the 53-man roster. According to Colts.com, Palmer has been one of Luck's most consistent targets through OTAs.
No. 4: What Will Be Done at Nose Tackle?
Despite the look of being ready to come back, NT Brandon McKinney will miss his second straight year, after complications from a torn ACL. He will likely be cut, having played no games in a Colts uniform. In his spot will be Aubrayo Franklin, who took his spot and had an underwhelming 20 tackles last season and 0 stuff yards.
Josh Chapman has been backing up Franklin, but keeping any more NTs on the roster seems unlikely considering the Colts spent a lot of money on Ricky-Jean Francois, who can certainly play nose tackle in certain situations.
No. 3: Can The Colts Secondary Improve Drastically?
The weakness of the Colts was by far their secondary. And while free agent Vontae Davis looked good at the end of last season, the last three quarterbacks he faced before the playoffs were Matt Schaub, Matt Cassel and Jake Locker.
New acquisition Greg Toler has been sidelined with a concussion he sustained yesterday in practice, adding to the list of injuries he has sustained during his career. If Toler misses time, Jerraud Powers will be back to seeing large minutes, and cornerback progress will be nullified.
At safety, LaRon Landry will be in charge of being a run stopping force, while attempting to stay healthy. By staying on the field, Antoine Bethea can stay at his natural free safety position and hopefully improve.
No. 2: How Will the Colts use Kerwynn Williams?
Seventh-round pick Kerwynn Williams looks to be a shoe-in for the roster as a kick returner. At Utah State, Williams earned over 3,400 yards and a touchdown as a returner. A small running back, Williams also played slot receiver in his time at Utah State becoming a prolific player. Four Colts returned at least six kicks last season, making the job apparently Williams' to lose.
No. 1: How Will Drops Effect the Fight for The 2nd Receiver Spot?
Hamilton continues to stress that the Colts are a downhill running team. Assuming he uses his west coast style offense primarily with a two-tight end set of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, Hilton may be pushed out of the fray. The job is DHB's to lose so far in camp, in large part due to the fact that Hilton's hands are almost as bad as Heyward-Bey's.
In 2009, Heryward-Bey dropped over 35 percent of passes thrown to him. In 2012, it was 12.6 percent to Hilton's 16.67 percent drop rate, equal to Donnie Avery, who the Colts cut. Some of Heyward-Bey's poor play can be attributed to the quarterbacks he played with on the Oakland Raiders. On the team, his catch rate was 14.6 percent, an absolutely abysmal number. If he regresses, Hilton will likely be chomping at the bit to see more action at the No. 2 spot.