The Colts have wrapped up training camp, and they’ve done so without playing in a single preseason game. That’s an odd fact, but it’s the result of the Hall of Fame game being cancelled.
As a result, our opinions on the team are still based on what we’ve seen on the practice field (or, for some of you, what we’ve written about what we’ve seen), so it will be exciting to actually see some games to watch how the players do in a true live setting like that. With that said, we still learned plenty from training camp, so let’s recap camp by looking at ten things (in no particular order) that we learned.
- Joe Reitz is the starting right tackle. He played there for the entirety of camp (except for a few days he missed due to a groin injury), and Chuck Pagano went ahead and made official what we all knew: “He’s the starting right tackle.” Pagano explained that Reitz is “a damn good football player” and the Colts have confidence in him, and Reitz did start 14 games at right tackle for them last year too. We entered training camp knowing that Reitz was the heavy favorite, but training camp solidified it: Joe Reitz is the team’s starting right tackle.
- Denzelle Good is the clear frontrunner to be the starting right guard. We entered training camp under the assumption that Hugh Thornton was a slight favorite to win the right guard competition, mainly because we hadn’t seen the others yet. Jonotthan Harrison had worked some at guard in the offseason, as had Denzelle Good - but both were changing positions. In camp, though Thornton saw some first-team reps, it was loud and clear that Good is the frontrunner to win the job. He’s not guaranteed to win it, as there are still four preseason games left, but at this point it would be a legitimate surprise if he’s not their starting right guard.
- Hugh Thornton’s roster spot is in danger. Along those same lines, with Denzelle Good emerging as the guy at right guard, Hugh Thornton’s spot on the roster is very much in danger. He missed most of the offseason work as he rehabbed an injury, and then he missed most of camp with a setback to that ankle injury, wearing a boot on his foot. If Thornton doesn’t win a starting spot (and it’s very unlikely he will), it wouldn’t be a surprise whatsoever to see him cut. Guys like Jonotthan Harrison and Joe Haeg, who can play multiple spots along the line, are better depth options for the Colts along the offensive line, meaning that someone like Thornton who plays just guard isn’t secure. If you remember last year with Josh Chapman at nose tackle, he was cut after failing to win a starting spot. The same could happen with Hugh Thornton this year.
- Tight end depth is a concern. This is one of those things that you could notice simply by looking at the depth chart, but it became much more obvious in training camp. Dwayne Allen’s durability across a 16 game season is very much in doubt, and so after Allen there are plenty of questions at tight end. Jack Doyle is a very solid number two or three, but what about when he has to step up and be the number one? And after Jack Doyle, who’s left? Erik Swoope is the number three by default, but he didn’t really have a standout camp. Neither did Chase Coffman or Emil Igwenagu or Konrad Reuland. Basically, the Colts will be in trouble at the tight end position if Dwayne Allen goes down.
- Depth on defensive line proving to be key. Entering camp, we talked quite a bit about the depth along the defensive line and how it could perhaps be the deepest position on the roster. That depth has already been tested and already has proved to be key. Art Jones was suspended shortly before camp began, and Henry Anderson began camp on the PUP list. Then during camp, Kendall Langford suffered a knee injury and had to have it scoped, putting him out 3-4 weeks. In the meantime, T.Y. McGill had a standout performance in training camp and Zach Kerr got a ton of first team reps, while others like Hassan Ridgeway also saw valuable reps. Hopefully in the long run that will make the unit even better, though the key is obviously getting Langford and Anderson back healthy.
- Depth receivers gain separation, but position still wide open. When we entered training camp, the wide receiver position behind the top three was wide open. As we exit camp, it’s still that way - though we have a better idea now of some of the main competitors for the spots. Josh Boyce saw a lot of reps, while Tevaun Smith and Chester Rogers emerged from the group of undrafted players to have very strong camps. Then, of course, Quan Bray is very much in the running for a spot because of his return abilities. So we have a much better idea of the group of receivers, but preseason will be key. We’ve seen in the past where a receiver has a good camp but then goes invisible in the preseason (like Duron Carter), so nothing can be decided yet.
- T.Y. Hilton is pretty good. With the talk of the depth wide receivers, let’s not forget the team’s number one: T.Y. Hilton. Everyone knows that Hilton is good and we’ve seen it for the past four years in games, but Hilton once again had a terrific performance in training camp. He was all over the field and making plenty of plays, and he proved to once again be Andrew Luck’s go-to guy. The top three of Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett looks to be a very promising and dangerous trio, but Hilton is definitely the guy at the top. At the end of camp, Luck called him “probably the best player at practice,” and he was probably right in saying that.
- Understanding schemes. Training camp also allowed us to get a slightly better idea of what to expect from new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and new defensive coordinator Ted Monachino. On offense, the Colts were running a base three wide receiver offense and were utilizing several route combinations to get guys open. For example, they at times used Hilton out of the slot to create better matchups - like having him face off against Colts nickel corner Darius Butler, who Hilton promptly beat for a touchdown on one play. With three skilled playmakers at the wide receiver position, Chud will surely get them all on the field together quite a bit and find ways to get them the ball. On defense, Monachino’s scheme won’t initially appear much different than what Chuck Pagano has run in the past, since it’s still Pagano’s program, but Monachino emphasises pass rush, pressure, playing aggressive, and putting guys in the position to play to their strengths and avoid weaknesses.
- Extra week of practice. Though the Colts didn’t play in the Hall of Fame game due to the field, it wasn’t all a loss: they got extra practice time, since their game was supposed to be earlier than everyone else. That extra practice time should prove to be key for some of the younger players, as they get longer to work with the coaches and teammates. The Colts will still have the normal slate of four preseason games, so that won’t be any inconvenience to the players, but the extra practice time is an advantage.
- Injuries progressing. The Colts have several injured guys, and we got a better idea of where they stand as camp went on. Henry Anderson seems to be doing very well and was doing sprints and other workouts on a side field, so there’s encouraging news about his status. Safety Clayton Geathers was placed on the NFI list to begin camp due to a foot injury, and it’s still up in the air whether he’ll be back for week one. Art Jones is still recovering from his ankle injury, D’Joun Smith is still dealing with his knee injury, and of course Hugh Thornton is still dealing with his injury too. The one major injury of camp was to Kendall Langford, who will be out 3-4 weeks with a knee injury. There were several other players who suffered various injuries, but we got an update on the injured guys, which was definitely a big thing we learned in camp.