The Indianapolis Colts will hold a mandatory mini-camp this week for all players, after which we really enter the "dead zone" of the NFL offseason (so in other words, enjoy this week!).
Anyways, we highlight just a few of the biggest things to be looking for at mini-camp this week:
1. Bjoern Werner
How much playing time is the Colts' first round pick getting and how much does he have to split reps with Erik Walden? How is Werner looking, particularly at pass rushing?
The Colts used their first round draft choice wisely this offseason, taking outside linebacker and pass rusher Bjoern Werner out of Florida State. The team desperately needed help at the spot and Werner is hopefully the answer. At camp, it will be interesting to see how he is adjusting to the NFL level and how he is adjusting to playing 3-4 outside linebacker. While he can't hit quarterback Andrew Luck (that's probably a good thing!), he can show explosiveness off the line and we can see how comfortable he looks getting off the snap. We won't know for sure how Werner is progressing until he can actually get after quarterbacks in August, but we can get a good idea as to how he is coming along.
Perhaps the biggest thing to watch for is how much he is on the field. The Colts signed outside linebacker Erik Walden this offseason and let's just say not many people liked the move. He isn't a pass rusher at all, so it will be interesting to see just how often he is on the field and how the team rotates Walden and Werner in and out. A lot could change by the start of the season, but at least this will give us an idea as to what the Colts are hoping to do with their outside linebackers.
2. The Offensive and Defensive Lines
Who is running with the first team offensive line? The first team defensive line? Who is at center, right guard, and nose tackle?
Perhaps no two spots on the Colts' roster were addressed more than the offensive and defensive lines this offseason. They brought in four guys on the o-line and three on the d-line, and they all could make an impact next year. During OTAs, the first team offensive line seemed to be Anthony Castonzo at LT, Donald Thomas at LG, Samson Satele at C, Mike McGlynn at RG, and Gosder Cherilus at RT. Thomas and Cherilus were both brought in through free agency this year, and rookies Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton could potentially make a push for starting time as well. It will be interesting to see who has the edge in these battles after this week ends. How much time are the rookies getting with the first team line? Is it pretty set at the moment or is it very fluid? The way the coaching staff manages the rotation will be a good indicator as to how they will manage it later this year.
The defensive line has been much less set during OTAs, at least according to what I've heard. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that Aubrayo Franklin has been getting significant time at nose tackle, along with Josh Chapman. That will be a key battle to watch not only this week but in training camp as well, and it will be interesting to see how the Colts manage the d-line rotations as well.
3. The Secondary
How are the cornerbacks doing - particularly Greg Toler? And what about LaRon Landry - how does he look?
Word out of OTAs is that the corner backs have been impressive - especially Greg Toler, who the team signed this offseason from the Arizona Cardinals. Vontae Davis is also looking to build on the strides he made last year and is looking to turn into a premier corner. Darius Butler, who was a key piece to the Colts' playoff run last year and who the team re-signed this offseason, has also reportedly been impressing at OTAs and also looks to build off a strong 2012 season. It will be important that they play well this year for the Colts, and so keying in on them during mini-camp makes sense. How are they playing? It sounds like they really stood out at OTAs - will they do the same this week?
Another thing to watch for in the secondary is LaRon Landry, the team's starting strong safety that they signed in free agency from the New York Jets. Landry makes this list because he hasn't been at voluntary OTAs, so this will be the first time the Colts get to work with him. How does he look, and how quickly can he pick up the defense? it will be yet another thing to watch for in this week's mini-camp.
The Colts will conduct their mandatory minicamp for all players (veteran and rookies alike) this week, from Tuesday, June 11th to Thursday, June 13th. The June 12th practice (Wednesday) will be at Lucas Oil Stadium and it will be open to the public as part of their Fan Appreciation Day. Activities begin at 2:00 P.M., while practice begins at 5:30 P.M.