With mini-camp done, we now have more key information so that we may begin assessing the key training camp battles as we gear up for August. Camp is 8 weeks away, and while we are fast approaching the "official" beginning of summer, 8 weeks is not a long time away. This gives us to time to dig deep into this new roster, to evaluate these new coaches, and assess just what kind of team we should expect to see in 2009.
Recognizes key camp battles is important to this process.
As we have always stressed here, competition is good. Players who do not want to work for their job are bums. No one, not even Peyton Manning, is entitled to a roster spot. You must earn it, each and every year. There is a reason Peyton is the #1 QB in football: He comes into camp and works harder than any rookie free agent trying to win a roster spot. The Colts have never been known to be a "lazy" team in the 12 years Bill Polian has run the front office. Coaches Mora and Dungy instilled strong work ethics in the rosters they coached, and now coach Caldwell seems to be doing the same. 99.9% of the roster is participating in OTAs in Indianapolis. Effort in mini-camp was very high. People practice hard, learn quick, and seem focused on one goal: Winning another ring.
The key now is finding the best people who fit the system and have them play as often as possible. In 2006, we saw a rookie 7th rounder (Antoine Bethea) beat out an established veteran (Mike Doss) for the starting safety spot. The result was a dramatic improvement in Indy's safety play. In 2007, we saw an undrafted rookie (Ed Johnson) beat out several established veterans for the starting NT spot. In 2008, we saw a 7th round lineman (Jamey Richard) beat out other linemen drafted higher than him in 2008 to start several games at center and guard.
What will we see this year?
From my vantage, six key areas will have stiff competition:
- Third wide receiver: Who will play the slot, or the right side, when the Colts go three-wide?
- The starting defensive tackles: Lots of new talent, only four spots
- Third running back position: Third down specialist
- Punter and FG holder: Hunter is gone, who fills his shoes?
- Kick and punt returner: Does T.J. Rushing regain his old job, or wil someone else step up?
- Starting guards on offensive line: Will Mike Pollak earn the right ot start, or will a new player emerge?
If you have other camp battles you think are important to watch, let us know.