The Indianapolis Colts have wrapped up their two week training camp, and now it's on to the four preseason games and two joint practices with the Chicago Bears. Training camp is an important time, however, when the team gets work in before the game and gets the opportunity to teach, learn, and work on their playbook. They build camaraderie with teammates due to the fact that they're staying in dorms, and then on the field they were working on the same thing.
After watching the team's training camp, I came up with three things that really stood out as key takeaways from the camp, which I've outlined below. There are certainly a number of others, but these are perhaps the three biggest ones for me.
1. Passing game is loaded - and looks very good
If you've been keeping up with the Colts, you surely know that they have a lot of talent at the wide receiver position. And here's one of the biggest things we saw at camp: they look very good already. There's T.Y. Hilton, the new 65 million dollar man, who was making catches all over the field and showed once again that he's Andrew Luck's top target. There's Andre Johnson, the 13-year veteran, who had a very strong camp and showed that he will be a huge part of the offense this year. There's Donte Moncrief, the second-year wideout, who had a very impressive camp and showed how much improvement he has made from last year to this year. There's Phillip Dorsett, the first round draft pick, who showed off his explosiveness and his speed while having a great first training camp. There's Duron Carter, the CFL signing, who was one of the stars of camp with his impressive catches and abilities that were on display nearly every day. There's Griff Whalen, the former Stanford receiver, who had yet another strong training camp by routinely making catches all over the field. There's Vincent Brown, the five-year veteran, who seemed to fit in comfortably with the second-team and had a good camp. There's Quan Bray, the undrafted rookie, who was one of the most pleasant surprises of camp and who stood out in a good way. That's eight wide receivers who all impressed during camp, and we learned that not only does this passing game look very good, it looks very deep as well.
Not only is the position deep, however, they'll likely be going deep a lot in games. The Colts worked on their downfield passing game a lot in training camp, and as long as the offensive line holds up enough to do so, I expect the team to utilize the downfield passing a lot this year. With the speed of Hilton, Moncrief, Dorsett, and Carter, the Colts really have a group that defenses can't match up with, and in camp the downfield pass wasn't stopped with any consistency. That would likely be the case if the Colts tried it this season, and if camp is any indication, they'll certainly be using a lot of it.
2. Continuity is a huge key for the offensive line
When training camp began, there was still some question about who would be the starters at left guard and center, though we had a general idea of who the favorites were. But in training camp, the Colts had the same first-team offensive line play together every single day - except for the last day when veteran right guard Todd Herremans received a veteran's rest day. Other than that, it was the same exact group for nearly every first-team snap: Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Lance Louis at left guard, Khaled Holmes at center, Todd Herremans at right guard, and Jack Mewhort at right tackle. The reason is clear: the Colts are putting a big emphasis on continuity this year. Last year, no offensive line had less continuity than the Colts did - due to both injuries and coach's decisions. This year, they are trying to do everything they can to make the unit up front more consistent.
"[It's] very, very important and it's been good that they've been able to do that and stay healthy and stay together," head coach Chuck Pagano said when asked about the continuity. The thinking behind it is that, perhaps moreso than any other positional group in football, the line needs to learn how to work together as a unit. They need to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the others and help compensate for them, and that's why the Colts have had the same starting five up front for the entirety of training camp. Things could still change in the preseason, but based on what we saw in training camp, the Colts aren't just talking about emphasizing continuity up front but are actually emphasizing it with their actions on the field. Hopefully, that pays dividends when the games roll around.
3. Rookies might make a big impact
The Colts have a number of intriguing rookies on their team, and we saw in training camp that they could have a significant impact in 2015. Safety Clayton Geathers is the first name that comes to mind, as he saw time working at the safety position and also at inside linebacker in dime situations, and it appears that he will have a key role this year. In fact, I think he might get the most playing time of any of the rookies early on. Cornerback D'Joun Smith had a bit of a rough camp going up against the Colts' wide receivers, but he too should have a nice role this year, as he played as the number four cornerback all of camp. If one of the starters is injured, it would seem that Smith would be the first one to step in. And since I know you'll ask about him, Henry Anderson had a good camp as well, though there's not much we can learn from a defensive lineman - especially one who plays like Anderson - in camp. But what we could see is that he saw a lot of reps with the second-team defense and seemed to know what he was doing, and his depth and versatility could play a nice role this year. Even David Parry, who again is hard to judge in preseason, could have a role - if not in the rotation at nose tackle right away then perhaps as a fullback, where he saw a bit of work in goal line situations.
Offensively, the wide receivers are the ones that gain the focus and are likely to make the biggest impact early. First round draft pick Phillip Dorsett had a very good camp and should see significant time with the offense, while also likely working as a returner (at least on punts and perhaps on kickoffs too). It's less clear on how much playing time Duron Carter will get, but he has almost surely earned himself a roster spot with his performance and could be utilized, particularly for his speed down the field. Then running back Josh Robinson could also make the roster as a backup, and he showed in camp that he could be especially useful in short yardage or goal line situations, an area where he impressed when given the chance in camp.