We have been living in a vacuum for these long summer months. Our lives have been devoid of football for so long that we are starting to wonder if it is ever going to return. So, when training camp kicks off, the hyperbole gets cranked to 11 and we start making wild conjectures and declaring players the next big thing. I talked about this phenomenon in my piece on training camp tropes.
There are some early stories coming out of Colts Training Camp that fit right in that niche and so with that in mind, I want to talk about which storylines I think you should buy, which to sell, and which ones to hold off believing until we have a clearer picture.
Donte Moncrief is off to a hot start
As I said before in my story about Moncrief, I think he is primed for a big year. Last year T.Y. Hilton started his season off right by wowing everyone in training camp. So far Moncrief has been doing the same. According to Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, Moncrief is catching everything thrown his way and looking like he has improved his catch radius.
If Moncrief can carry that momentum into the season it will go a long way to helping the offense. The big telling mark will come Tuesday when the pads go on. Playing against a defense that can’t get physical is a much easier task and getting a look at Moncrief in a more genuine game type situation will be what really reveals how focused and improved he is this year. With a lot on the line, it is good to see him getting off to a solid start.
The Chester Rogers hype train is off the rails
Much like the legend of Jack Doyle chopped wood right into our hearts last season, Rogers seems to have the much of the Colts fan base rooting for him. The coaching staff likes him as well, and according to Keefer, they told Rogers that if he wanted the 3-receiver spot to go take it. That is not to say that they haven’t told the same thing to all the receivers, but Rogers has taken it to heart and appears at least for now, to be making his best attempt to do it.
Just like for Moncrief, with the receiver position, it is hard to really tell how well they will do until receivers are getting jammed at the line and knocked off their routes. But given how he did in his limited playing time last season and how he looks so far there is reason for hope that this is not a fluke. If Rodgers can continue to hold on through training camp and the preseason, he may be able to lock down that starting spot and leave Aiken and Dorsett on the outside looking in.
Marlon Mack currently sits at No 4 on the depth chart
George Bremer of the Herald Bulletin in Anderson pointed out that Mack is behind Josh Ferguson in the lineup thus far in training camp. While it is very early yet in training camp, this kind of thing can really get Colts fans frustrated because there was a lot of buzz about the kind of talent Mack could be and that he might be a steal for the Colts.
Given the hopes for a player like Mack to do well quickly this can seem like a big deal, but in reality, it doesn’t mean much.
The truth is that it is nearly impossible until a team starts full contact practice to properly evaluate any running back. You would be able to pick out if they are completely lost or incompetent, but without contact, you get almost no sense of what a running back would be doing in an actual game. This time of year you often hear about backs wowing people, only to find that when contact resumes their production disappears.
Additionally, Mack is not expected to start out as a featured back. His placement in current reps, given that Gore is the established starter, means he likely needs to continue learning the playbook and adapting to an NFL offense. We expect to see him grow into a larger role in the Colts’ backfield this season.
However, as has been discussed by Matt Danely and George Bremer on the Stampede Blue Colts Cast, the threat of a home run hitter like Mack has an impact on defenses whether he gets 5 carries per game or 15. The only way to truly start to get an idea of what kind of game-breaking ability he has is by seeing him in live tackling.
We have seen Ferguson struggle once the pads go on. I don’t expect Mack will stay behind him for long once that part of camp begins.
Phillip Dorsett has looked smooth on deep routes early
Again, this is the time for undersized guys to shine. No one can knock them around and take their lunch money. But starting tomorrow, Dorsett will have to prove he can stand up to the bullies on the block, or he won’t be eating. That is not something he has shown a consistent ability to do throughout his time with the Colts.
Given the competition at the receiver position, and with players like Rodgers and Aiken contesting fiercely for those spots, I anticipate they will end up with the more physical receivers unless Dorsett can dig deep and find something we haven’t seen thus far.
To be fair, new receivers coach Sanjay Lal has received high praise from all the Colts receivers regarding his attention to detail. If that is well deserved and Dorsett has been paying attention and working hard, maybe we have not seen the last of him yet. But just like all the others on the list, before seeing Dorsett getting past physical corners at the line of scrimmage to get separation, I am hesitant to believe it can happen.
Rashaan Melvin is getting first team reps at the second cornerback position
This one should not be entirely surprising. Cornerback is one of the toughest positions to learn for a rookie. It is a totally different level of complexity, and the Colts defense puts a ton of pressure on their top two guys by playing them in press man and asking them to hold down their man on the outside. That alone puts Wilson at a disadvantage.
Melvin played respectably last season and has been in the league long enough to have developed a comfort level in the position. He has a year under his belt in the Colts defense, and so should get the nod ahead of Wilson. It is up to Wilson to go out and earn that spot.
To his credit, Wilson is at his best when he can get physical and jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. Once the pads go on, we may see a different type of player and it may make the coaches take notice. Until that point, expect that experience will win out in a defensive backfield that is short on it.