The first week of Indianapolis Colts training camp is in the books, and believe it or not we're already into the second and final week of camp, as it's a shortened camp due to the fact that the Colts will hold a joint practice with the Chicago Bears next week.
Obviously, there's only so much that we can learn from training camp and a lot of these position battles will be figured out in preseason games, but training camp can lay a huge groundwork and give us a good idea of how players are doing and where the coaches currently slot them. So with that said, let's look at the position battles one week into training camp.
What competition? All offseason the Colts and their coaches talked up the fact that there would be a competition between Khaled Homes and Jonotthan Harrison, and while many in the know seemed to think it would end up being Holmes, it seemed clear that there was going to be a real competition between the two players. So far in training camp, that hasn't been the case. Instead, Khaled Holmes has taken all of the first team reps. It is obvious that the Colts are intent on giving Holmes every chance to be the team's starting center and be a consistent player up front for Andrew Luck and the rest of the line. FOX59's Mike Chappell wrote the other day about how the Colts need Holmes and Luck to develop that quarterback and center rapport that Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday had, and the only way for that to happen is if the two spend as much time working together as possible. The Colts are seemingly placing a huge emphasis on continuity up front (which is smart) and that has resulted in little competition along the line, particularly at center. Of course, Jonotthan Harrison hasn't particularly helped himself while playing with the second team, either, as he has had a couple of bad snaps and was kicked out of practice on Sunday for fighting. Before camp, I would have been slightly surprised if Holmes didn't wind up as the week one starter, but after watching the first week of camp, I'd be shocked if the week one starter is anyone other than Khaled Holmes. He's getting every opportunity to play with Luck and develop that continuity between quarterback and center that could go a long way to improving the line in 2016.
Again, the Colts seem to be sacrificing a bit of competition along the offensive line for the sake of continuity, something that isn't a bad idea either considering how much continuity issues the Colts have had in recent years. Having the same five players all playing together and getting used to doing so can be a very underrated aspect of offensive line success, and the Colts appear to be taking that to heart, as the same five players have been working with the first team all of camp. That means that, at left guard, Lance Louis has seem almost all of the first team reps (I've only seen one 11-on-11 drive where he wasn't at left guard with the first team). This was, in my opinion, going to be the most significant battle in training camp as Louis, Hugh Thornton, and perhaps others competed for the starting spot vacated by Jack Mewhort moving to right tackle. But, much like with Holmes at center, Lance Louis has been the guy at left guard from day one. I thought he probably had a slight edge at the spot, but if the first week of camp has been any indication, that edge is more than just "slight." I think this spot could still change depending on preseason, but it's clear that the coaches are valuing continuity much higher this year than in past years, which is a good thing.
Number 3 Wide Receiver:
The top two on the depth chart at a loaded wide receiver position for the Colts are clear: T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson. But what about the number three spot? It's really a competition between Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett, but others like Duron Carter, Vincent Brown, and even Griff Whalen figured to try to compete for the spot. The receivers as a whole have been tremendous in training camp so far, and the depth is remarkable. Hilton, Johnson, Moncrief, and Dorsett figure to get significant reps and be a major part of the offense in 2015, and Carter should get opportunities as well. With all of that said, Donte Moncrief is the number three wide receiver right now, and that hasn't changed through the first week of camp. Moncrief looks really good and looks like he has improved significantly from last year to this year. He's displaying a number of physical skills but also some very great timing with quarterback Andrew Luck, and he has had a very productive training camp so far. It's likely that the Colts will use a number of targets regardless of their spot on the depth chart, but so far, it's Donte Moncrief as the third receiver for Indy.
Number 2 Running Back:
The Colts signed Frank Gore to be their starting running back, but who will be their number two guy? Boom Herron is the favorite, but what about Josh Robinson, Vick Ballard, or Zurlon Tipton? Could they push for that number two running back spot? The answer, through one week of camp, is no. But it's kind of hard to tell with this position because a few of the guys have been sitting out of practice. Ballard suffered a hamstring injury that has kept him out for the past few days as the Colts take it easy with him, while Robinson has missed a few days of practice too. Those are really the two players who could really take that number two back spot from Herron, as Robinson has a lot of potential to work with as a rookie and Ballard can be a very solid back when healthy. So far, however, their opportunities have been limited, and that has left Boom Herron as the number two back - something that was expected even without Ballard and Robinson missing time. Boom provides the Colts with a nice change of pace back and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him used as a receiving back more often this year, and I think he's got a nice hold on the number two running back spot… for now. I'd keep an eye on Josh Robinson moving forward, but I'd think the number two back in week one will be Herron.
Mike Adams is the starter at one of the safety positions, but what about the spot alongside him? Veteran Dwight Lowery was signed to be an option there, and he's a solid player to fill in at the spot. He should be able to give the Colts good, solid play, and it's fully expected that he'll be the starter in week one. But could someone else push him for that starting spot? Absolutely, and the player most likely to do that is rookie Clayton Geathers. There is a lot to like about Geathers, and the Colts are very high on him as well - and, unlike Lowery, he could have the potential to be a long-term answer at safety. So far in training camp, Lowery has been working as the first team safety alongside Adams. Geathers, though, has seen significant reps with the first team as well - as a linebacker. It appears that the Colts are planning to use Geathers as an inside linebacker in place of D'Qwell Jackson in passing situations, adding another defensive back in a dime package but as a linebacker instead. So Clayton Geathers should see quite a bit of playing time with the defense, though it appears Dwight Lowery is still fully expected to be the starter at safety. I wouldn't expect that to change by week one, but as the season goes on perhaps that will change.
Kick and Punt Returner:
If there's still one position battle that we really don't have any idea about, it's the kick and punt returner spots. Why? Well, firstly there's no real way to distinguish who is playing as the "first team" kick returner, etc. But what we have noticed is who is back there: typically, Phillip Dorsett, Donte Moncrief, Quan Bray, Ryan Lankford, Boom Herron, Josh Robinson, and Duron Carter have been back returning either punts or kicks. It's really too early to tell who is leading this competition, but we can make an educated guess: my best guess would be that Phillip Dorsett would be the punt returner and that either Dorsett or Boom Herron would be the kick returner if the season started today. But the preseason should tell us a lot more about this position than training camp ever could.