On Tuesday, July 26, the Indianapolis Colts will report to Anderson University to begin their 2016 training camp, ending a long offseason and officially turning the page to a new season.
It’s an exciting time of the year, as it’s filled with plenty of hope for every team. The Colts are looking to rebound from a disappointing 8-8 season a year ago, and the expectations have kind of been reset for the team. Last year, they entered training camp with talk of the Super Bowl swirling. This year, the talk surrounding the Colts is whether they’ll even win their division.
Things have changed a lot, but the Colts still figure to be a tough team in the division if Andrew Luck can stay healthy for all 16 games. The AFC South is improved, but getting Luck back will be huge for the Colts.
The team also added cornerback Patrick Robinson in free agency while re-signing tight end Dwayne Allen and kicker Adam Vinatieri. They lost inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, tight end Coby Fleener, and safety Dwight Lowery in free agency. The Colts heavily addressed the offensive line in the draft, using four of their eight picks on offensive linemen and using their first round pick on Alabama center Ryan Kelly.
The Colts are still led by head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson, which would be stunning to you if you hadn’t paid attention since last year’s season finale. It was widely expected that at least Pagano would be gone, but instead owner Jim Irsay opted to bring both men back. The rest of the coaching staff, however, experienced a major revamp. The Colts overhauled their staff, bringing in Ted Monachino as the new defensive coordinator and removing the interim tag from offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. Outside of the coordinators, the most notable addition to the staff was the hiring of Joe Philbin as the team’s offensive line coach - a move intended to help improve the important unit.
The Colts will have eleven practices open to the public, the first of which will be held Wednesday afternoon. Camp wraps up on Thursday, August 11, and will span the Hall of Fame game against the Packers in Canton, Ohio (on August 7). You can find the full camp schedule here.
As we begin to start camp, let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines. Here are six things we’ll be watching during camp.
Offensive Line Starters
The Colts significantly addressed the offensive line this offseason, and the biggest move they made was to bring in center Ryan Kelly in the first round. He’s the team’s starting center, and he’ll slide in alongside starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo and starting left guard Jack Mewhort. The other two spots, however, are up for grabs. At right tackle, Joe Reitz seems to be the favorite and has a solid lead, but someone like Denzelle Good could push for it as well. Right guard is even more undecided, as Hugh Thornton, Jonotthan Harrison, Denzelle Good, and others could compete for that starting spot. With so much talk about the offensive line this offseason, it makes sense that one of the biggest things to watch in training camp and preseason is who the starters will be.
Inside Linebacker Competition
The Colts lost Jerrell Freeman in free agency this offseason, meaning they will be without the four-year starter who had been productive for Indianapolis. He was very good in 2015 and will be with the Chicago Bears in 2016, leaving his starting spot with the Colts empty. To fill it, the Colts are looking to Nate Irving and Sio Moore to compete, and those two will do just that in camp and preseason. We could see a darkhorse candidate emerge to join that competition too, but the bottom line is that the position battle will be an underrated yet important one for Indianapolis.
There will be plenty of depth battles going on all over the roster for the Colts in training camp and preseason. Take, for instance, the following: the backup running back spots; the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots; the third tight end spot; offensive line depth; depth at pass rush; the fifth cornerback spot; and the fourth safety spot, among others. All of those areas will be decided over the coming month, so the depth will be an incredibly important part of training camp.
If there’s one thing that could beat the attention on the offensive line, it would be the attention on Andrew Luck. In one sense, he’s the most boring part of training camp because he’s the most secure player on the roster. The Colts franchise quarterback who signed a six-year, $140 million extension this offseason isn’t going anywhere and his starting status isn’t in any doubt. In another sense, however, there are plenty of questions surrounding Luck. He was the once-in-a-generation prospect in 2012 who has drawn incredibly high praise, but in 2015 he had a very rough season that was plagued by turnovers and injuries. Can he get back on track? There’s plenty of reason to think so, but there will be plenty of eyes fixed on him nonetheless.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, the Colts will have two ‘new’ coordinators: Ted Monachino as the defensive coordinator and Rob Chudzinski as the full-time offensive coordinator. That means that the Colts will be switching to two different systems this year. On defense, there will be plenty of similarities because of Chuck Pagano’s influence and the Baltimore similarities between Pagano and Monachino, but there will still be a change. On offense, there will also be plenty of similarities because of Rob Chudzinski’s familiarity with the team, but there will still be changes made as he puts in his system. This transition began in offseason work and will continue in training camp.
In the back of everyone’s minds in training camp is the ever-present concern of health. The Colts have a few injury situations that will be worth keeping an eye on, and they have a few players who could begin camp on the PUP list. Defensive lineman Henry Anderson is recovering from a torn ACL, and while the hope is that he’ll be back for week one that’s still uncertain. Another defensive lineman, Arthur Jones, is still recovering from an ankle injury, though his four-game suspension to start the season makes it a little less important to be healthy right away. Other players, such as guard Hugh Thornton, cornerback D’Joun Smith, wide receiver Donte Moncrief, and outside linebacker Curt Maggitt missed most (if not all) of this offseason’s work due to various injuries, so the status of those players will be worth monitoring as well.