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Colts 2017 Training Camp: What We Learned

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Training Camp Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Another Indianapolis Colts training camp is now in the books. We have only seen one preseason game and about two and a half weeks of practice, but there is plenty that we can take away so far.

This team goes nowhere without Andrew Luck.

The thought was that if the Colts could give quarterback Andrew Luck even an average defense, the team would be in the playoffs. Well, with Luck still sidelined during shoulder surgery rehab, we have seen the ugly side of his absence. Luck isn’t expected to miss much regular season time if any at all, but because of how bad the backup quarterbacks performed in camp and so far in the preseason, it’s hard to say how well the Colts could do if Luck does miss any regular season time.

Chester Rogers is the real deal.

Rogers barely squeaked his way onto the 2016 roster, but he wound up playing a marginal role on offense and became the team’s full-time punt returner in Quan Bray’s absence. Rogers was one of those under-the-radar players who you say to your buddies, “Man, I can’t wait to see him even more next year!” As it turns out, the Colts were also ready to see more from Rogers. He opened up camp as the team’s third receiver and didn’t let up. In fact, he probably grasped tighter, as Phillip Dorsett and Kamar Aiken had very underwhelming performances. Rogers’ footwork and route-running left even the Colts’ best defensive backs crossed-up. Once Luck returns and Rogers can be on the receiving end of some catchable passes, people will become more familiar with Rogers.

Brandon Williams is probably a better pass-catcher than given credit for.

Williams is entering his fifth NFL season but has just 6 catches to his professional resume’. When he was signed by the Colts, there was an assumption that he would just be a blocking tight end behind Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope. However, Williams showed a bit more than that in camp. He showed the ability to slip out and catch the ball effectively. Plus, he had a 20-yard catch in the Colts’ preseason opener. The team hasn’t treated him like a guy who’s only caught 6 balls before. If Erik Swoope misses much regular season time following his knee cleanup, Williams might prove to be a decent pass-catcher behind Doyle.

The offensive line has very little depth.

The offensive line has been a mess of injuries this summer. It’s truly a shame because the preferred base starting five is known (Anthony Castonzo, Joe Haeg, Ryan Kelly, Jack Mewhort, Le’Raven Clark), but they haven’t been able to practice together consistently. The Mewhort/Haeg, left guard/right guard switch was promising as well. Recent injuries to Haeg, Kelly and Denzelle Good have muddied the water, however. Thursday, head coach Chuck Pagano announced that Kelly underwent foot surgery. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that it is expected to keep Kelly out for 6-8 weeks. His backup, Brian Schwenke, was on the Physically Unable to Perform list (foot) for the entirety of camp. Players like Jeremy Vujnovich and Deyshawn Bond are seeing serious time with the starting line, and it hasn’t always gone smoothly.

The defense is much deeper, livelier.

Maybe it’s partially attributed to the makeshift offense, but the Colts defense looked pretty decent in camp. And they acted like it. Even when guys have gone out with injuries, their backups came in and looked the part or weren’t totally punked. The coaches took liberty with putting Nate Hairston and T.J. Green with the first-team defense at times. Important pieces like Edwin Jackson, Akeem Ayers, Quincy Wilson and Malik Hooker made the second team look alive as well, and they also saw reps with the ones.

The coaches see something in Antonio Morrison, Nate Hairston.

To be perfectly honest, I left Morrison off of my initial 53-man roster prediction before camp started. He is a two-down linebacker who looked totally lost at times as a rookie in 2016. However, Pagano and defensive coordinator Ted Monachino really see promise in him, making him the starting MIKE linebacker to open camp. Monachino stated that Morrison has a much better grasp of the mental portion of the position now. Rookie fifth-round pick Hairston, as mentioned before, has seen quite a bit of time with the first-team defense at corner. At times, it was baffling because Wilson and Tevin Mitchel both stood out in camp, much more so than Hairston. Regardless, the coaches kept at it with Hairston and moved him to nickel when they gave Green reps at corner with the ones.

They’re not giving up on T.J. Green.

Like Morrison, Monachino said that Green is much more understanding of the defense now. While he continued to get second-team reps at safety, a new development came about with the Colts trying Green at cornerback. He has practiced basically all week with the first and second-team defense at corner. It is intriguing because Green would be required to think less at corner and still be able to use his athleticism. It is expected that Green will get some action at corner in the Colts’ second preseason game on Saturday. It is evident that, before the Colts throw in the towel on Green, they are going to try and tap him for production in a multitude of ways.

They appear to have drafted well.

It’s early, but none of the Colts’ 2017 draft picks look like wastes to this point. You can usually tell by now if any of them are going to totally flop. Hooker has been in and out of practice with minor ailments but has looked comfortable and displayed his range and instincts. Wilson has seemingly gotten better with each practice. Tarell Basham has flashed here and there, although inconsistently. Marlon Mack looks much more comfortable than in the beginning of camp. Grover Stewart has occupied multiple blockers at times, showing his pure strength. Hairston is a favorite of the coaching staff. Anthony Walker has seen action with the starting defense. All of the picks have seen significant action with the first and/or second units, and all saw plenty of action in the preseason opener.

Because of injuries, we know nothing about how this team will actually look in the regular season.

There have been so many important players sit out with injuries in the past few weeks. Obviously, Luck has been on PUP since camp opened. Same with Schwenke. Morrison and Jon Bostic, who opened up as the starting inside linebackers, both missed plenty of time. Starters Donte Moncrief, Haeg, Swoope, Rashaan Melvin and Johnathan Hankins also. That’s not everybody, either. With the news today about Kelly, this team might actually be cursed. Hopefully, this is not a constant issue throughout the season, but if the regular season started this week, nobody would know what to expect as an on-field product.