Colts Training Camp 2008: Camp closing soon, thoughts on the whole thing

Camp is closing soon. Colts City has been taken down. Yesterday was the last day for camp fundamentals work, which is the core focus for all Colts camps. Today, they focus a bit more on game-planning for the Falcons, but what that really means is a lot of film work, walk-throughs, and rehab for the injured guys. Fewer fans are in the stands for camp, watching players work and progress. And after Friday, camp breaks and all practices are in Indianapolis. Some next week will be in Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Lube, as I call it. The "Luke" is too boring for me, and I have to mock (a little bit) a stadium with the word oil in it.

Some wrinkles the Colts are working on in camp involve receiver end-arounds (Dallas, Gonzo, and Pierre) and running backs passing the football near the end zone (Dom got a crack at it). But as camp winds down, I'm starting to collect my thoughts, and come to grips with the fact that summer is almost over and FOOTBALL IS ALMOST HERE! OMGOMGOMGOMGOMG!

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The Colts will practice at "The Lube" next week.

Having said that, after watching practices, pre-season games, and listening to contacts and people within the Colts, I have a few thoughts about the roster. Some of these thoughts you already know, but I'll say them anyway because, well, I'm a blogger. It's what I do:

  • One area of concern for the Colts is linebacker. Lots of fans are whining about DT, but I think they just don't get it. I also think they have their heads stuck in 2006. The DTs are fine. LBer is the concern. Too many injuries and not enough depth. Tyjuan Hagler is out until October because of an injury that still annoys me. Clint Session is back, but I don't think he'll make a good SAM backer. Session is a WILL, or weakside, backer. We probably won't see Philip Wheeler again until October, or late September. This means the Colts have only Freddie Keiaho, the starting WILL, backing up MLB Gary Brackett. That's not good. There's a lot of uncertainty, health-wise, with his area and it concerns me.

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I'm worried about the linebackers.
Photo via static.nfl.com

  • Barring some kind of miracle performance this weekend, I have to say I have very little, if any, faith in Jim Sorgi. He just is not an NFL QB, and you have to have someone who can play the position in the event something happens to Peyton Manning. I refuse to accept the dumb excuse Well, if Manning goes down the season is tanked anyway. So why bother? It's simply a defeatist attitude that has no business in Colts Country. If anything happens to Manning, the Colts have to have someone who can step in and make plays. Someone with experience, a good arm, and a solid understanding of the offense. So far, only Quinn Gray has shown me he has the potential to do those things, but he's been far from perfect. But at least Gray has experience stepping in as a back-up. He knows the AFC South (played for both the Jags and Texans before coming to Indy) and has a strong arm. I think it's a long shot that Sorgi gets canned because the Colts seem to like him, but this was his chance to prove he was a solid back-up, and he's failed.
  • We know the Colts have great depth at WR this season, but the depth at TE is also looking impressive. Gijon Robinson is now pretty firmly entrenched as the #2 TE in the 2 TE set, but Jacob Tamme has looked damned good in camp and pre-season. The Colts might enter-change them depending upon the down and distance. Tamme just seems like money in the redzone. Tom Santi is now running and doing conditioning drills. Remember, he had the same knee surgery as Peyton. So, we should expect to see Peyton throwing passes in practice next week.
  • I feel fine with the pass rush going into the season. Dwight Freeney is healthy and Marcus Howard is looking more and more like a 5th round steal. Howard has given LT Tony Ugoh fits all throughout camp. The two have really battled, and it has paid off with Howard looking impressive in pre-season. With Robert Mathis back to normal and Raheem Brock returned to DE, the position is deep with guys who can get to the QB. The Colts are also experimenting with blitzing the SAM backer more, which plays to the strengths of guys like Session and Wheeler. I feel very good about this area, which was so thin last season it cost Indy another championship.

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Marcus is the real deal.
Photo via i.a.cnn.net

  • Charlie Johnson looks like he's poised to start at OG over rookie Mike Pollak when the season starts.
  • I feel oddly comfortable about the special teams this year. In fact, this is as comfortable as I've ever felt with this area. I'm so used to worrying myself silly over this unit. But, there are strong, tangible reasons to feel good about the special teams. I truly think Adam Vinatieri is in the best shape of his life, and for the first time in three years he's healthy. Colts.com did an article about the special teams unit recently, and this quote from Vinatieri caught my attention:
    "Our team obviously has good offense, defense and we’ve had OK special teams the last few years, but we’ve been kind of average in those phases," Vinatieri said. "We’ve kind of taken it upon ourselves to help our coverage teams by kicking the ball even further or higher.

    "There are 11 guys on the field, but if we can do our job even a little bit better, it helps everybody else do theirs, too. It really is a team effort and until I kick every ball through the uprights and make every kick a touchback, there really is room for improvement. I’m sure Hunter would say the same thing.

    "The more hang time and the more fair catches we can make those guys do and the more touchbacks that I can do, it’s only going to help our chances."

    If you want to know about "intangibles," look no further than Adam Vinatieri. This is a kicker (a potential HoFer) assuming responsibility, working to make himself better, and assuming a leadership role. Could you ever see Mike Vanderjagt doing this? Obviously, Adam is being generous when he says special teams have been "OK." Truth is they've stunk worse than Peter King's toilet after a late night Mexican chili dinner. So, rather than blame others (his position coach, his QB, his coverage guys, his linemen), Adam got himself into great shape and is now routinely booming the ball into the back of the endzone on kickoffs.

    That's pimp-tastic-awesome folks. Again, this is our kicker. This is what leadership really is.

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This man is a pimp. A total, uber-pimp.

I'll sate the obvious here: If the Colts field a solid-to-good special teams unit this season, this team will be scary good. The only weakness this team has ever had consistently in the Dungy era is special teams, in particular the coverage units. If the Colts have finally managed to turn that around, this will be THE team in the NFL in 2008. I'm starting to think they have turned that corner; that special teams is no longer a weakness.

I'm starting to get really, really excited for the 2008 season.

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