The Indianapolis Colts recently wrapped up an eight-week offseason workout program, meaning that the next time we’ll get to see the team is when they report to training camp. It’s way too early to make any major judgments at this time of year, but let’s take a look at a couple of players who impressed and a couple of players who didn’t (mainly due to injury).
The star of the offseason program, T.Y. Hilton drew praise from head coach Chuck Pagano, who said the receiver had as good of an offseason as anyone. Hilton was making plays all over the place, was a huge factor in the offense, and picked up right where he left off with quarterback Andrew Luck. If the offseason is any indication of the upcoming season, Hilton should prove to have a major impact.
We could really put any of the players who worked with the first team when not expected to in this section, but Joe Reitz stands out among the rest. Reitz was the team’s first team right tackle from day one of the offseason program through the final day of mandatory mini-camp, seeing valuable reps. More than that, however, the player who was expected to most heavily compete with Reitz for the spot (Denzelle Good) was working at guard instead of tackle. And then on top of that all, general manager Ryan Grigson expressed his desire to see Reitz wind up winning the right tackle spot. He’s not guaranteed the spot yet by any means, but he seems to have a significant hold on the position and can easily be considered a winner of the offseason program.
Unlike with Reitz, Andrew Luck is guaranteed a starting spot right now and for years to come as the team’s franchise quarterback. There’s no drama that exists at the position, but Luck can still be considered a winner from the offseason program. Here’s why: arguably the most encouraging thing we could have possibly seen and did see was that Luck was back at practice with no limitations. After a rough 2015 season plagued by injuries (including shoulder and rib injuries, a lacerated kidney, and torn abdominal muscle), Luck returned to action with the team when the Colts began their program and the quarterback practiced throughout the entire eight weeks without limitations.
It’s hard to really tell ‘losers’ from the offseason program since everything around this time of year is so positive, but if a player isn’t practicing it could potentially impact his roster situation. For some players like Donte Moncrief, it’s not as big of a deal because he’s guaranteed a roster spot and will be the number two receiver. For others, it matters much more. One of the players who falls into the latter category is cornerback D’Joun Smith, who missed most of the offseason program with a knee injury. It was also a knee injury that caused him to miss most of his rookie season, and the Colts have confirmed that Smith suffered a setback in his recovery. Though he’s expected to be back by training camp, the lost time could impact his quest for the Colts’ number three cornerback job. He wasn’t out there competing this offseason, which makes his job much tougher when training camp rolls around if he hopes to supplant Darius Butler for the nickel corner role.
Another player who could be affected by missing the offseason program is guard Hugh Thornton. He has started 32 games at guard over the past three years, but 2016 is a big season for him - not only is it a contract year, it’s a year in which the Colts will likely be looking to see if he can achieve the consistency that has plagued him. He’s the projected starter at right guard, but since he missed the offseason program it gave Jonotthan Harrison a lot of reps there, as well as others like Denzelle Good. Thornton will certainly be thrown right back into the mix once training camp starts and he will have a good shot to compete, but missing practice this offseason has allowed others to step up, see more time, and catch the coaches’ attention.