Friday is the final day of OTAs for this week. The third and final round of the voluntary team workouts will be held next week. While we slog our way through this typically boring period of the NFL news cycle, let's look ahead to the 2013 campaign and play THE EXPECTATIONS GAME!
I've taken nine players and grouped them into three categories: Top Tier, Mid Tier, and Low Tier. The rankings are based on my personal level of expectations, with the top group meaning "I expect this guy to really break out" and the low one meaning that I have about as much faith in these guys as I do in Will Smith's new After Earth movie winning the Best Picture Oscar or the U.S. Congress voting on meaningful legislation.
Top Tier (a.k.a. high expectations)
Andrew Luck, QB
NFL.com editor Gregg Rosenthal ranked Luck as the best under-25 quarterback in the league. Gregg is a wise soul, because OF COURSE he's right! Fan love and silliness aside, if you had any kind of objective or critical eye when evaluating the young QBs last year, it was Luck who stood out over the rest. Especially when you consider what he had to work with in terms of surrounding talent and the adversity he and the team had to overcome. Luck enters 2013 with a full offseason of work under his belt. He's also reunited with his former college offensive coordinator, and he's been gifted a revamped offensive line. If Luck is not putting up Manning-Brady numbers in 2013, then something is seriously wrong.
Coby Fleener, TE
Like his quarterback, Fleener is working with offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton again. This should be a big boost for Fleener, who struggled to make an impact last season in Bruce Arians' chunk-yardage offense. Some positives to take away from 2012 were that Fleener proved he was tough by playing through a nasty shoulder injury, and he made strides as a blocker. With Hamilton calling plays now, Fleener should expect to have more of an impact in the passing game, especially in the redzone.
LaRon Landry, SS
Chuck Pagano has consistently called Landry as "game-wrecker," which is Chuck Speak for "difference-maker." Landry was arguably the best safety in the AFC last year based solely on watching his tape. He had a career high in total tackles (76), snatched two picks, scored a touchdown, and forced four fumbles. The problem with those numbers is that they came in a contract year. Landry knew the his 2012 campaign with the Jets was an audition for the free agent signing period he cashed in on this offseason. Based solely on his contract ($11 million guaranteed), he comes with extremely high expectations for the Colts in 2013.
Mid Tier (a.k.a. medium expectations)
Vick Ballard, RB
Ballard is a solid back, nothing more. He isn't a playmaker in the sense the he can take over a game. He just does everything well, which is all anyone can ever expect from a guy drafted in the fifth round in 2012. Concerns about the run game aren't a reflection of him, but rather the lack of depth behind him. If he can repeat his 2012 season, that would be great. The problem is Ballard ran for only 814 yards last year. It's unrealistic to expect Ballard to be a 20-25 carry-a-game back. Unfair as well. He's just not built for it. Ballard is better suited splitting carries with another back who is, hopefully, equally solid.
Jerrell Freeman, ILB
An undrafted guy who made his mark in the CFL who got signed last year, and all he did was play as good at inside linebacker as names such as Jerod Mayo. The sham that is the Pro Bowl was further exposed when Freeman didn't get selected. Derrick Johnson of the friggin Chiefs goes over Freeman? GTFOH! Look for Freeman to replicate his 2012 dominance. If he does, maybe these moron Pro Bowl voters will reward him.
Donald Thomas, OG
He was a solid, dependable guard in New England last year, and if he can replicate that in Indy for 2013, it's a significant upgrade over scrubs like Joe Reitz and Seth Olsen. Nothing against those guys personally, but they didn't play well and couldn't stay healthy.
Low Tier (a.k.a. I the Colts can get anything consistent outta these guys, it's gravy)
Donald Brown, RB
He's on the team solely because the Colts did nothing this offseason to upgrade their weak runningback stable. Brown has been a consistent disappointment since he was drafted in the first round in 2009. He's never started more than eight games in one season, and after four years in the league his pass blocking is still inept. If the Colts get 400 yards and 4.0 a carry outta this bust, I'm kissing babies and toasting Jesus.
Kelvin Sheppard, ILB
Sheppard was the trade compensation the Colts got for sending 2010 draft bust Jerry Hughes to the Bills. He's a solid player who, perhaps, could fill the reserve, utility linebacker role that Moise Fokou worked so effectively in last year.
He's the weak link in a revamped offensive line. If he holds onto his starting job, it's a minor miracle. Satele's pass blocking is poor, and Khaled Holmes wasn't taken over skill position players like Quinton Patton just so he can "sit and learn" in 2013.
What players do YOU have high, medium, and low expectations for in 2013?