With training camp less than a week away, many fans are chomping at the bit to get a look at this new Colts team. There are a ton of interesting observations to make once camp opens, from checking out how Andrew Luck’s throwing is progressing, to getting a first look at some of the rookies, to seeing just how Frank Reich runs his first camp as a head coach.
However, perhaps nothing will be more interesting in this training camp than seeing some of the position battles heat up and watching guys compete for starting roles. Competition has been the mantra Chris Ballard has preached since his arrival and this will be the first opportunity to really get a look at what that means to him now that we have his chosen coach and a team full of his acquisitions. So this week we will be taking a look at some of the battles that might be the most intense once training camp kicks off.
Presumed Starter – Matt Slauson
We will dip our toes in the water first with a relatively calm battle. Matt Slauson is the presumed starter at guard opposite Quenton Nelson, largely because he has the most experience and track record of the players vying for the job. On a team that is largely short on veteran leadership, the 32-year-old Slauson can offer a mature voice that can help be a tone setter and help steady and mentor the young guys on the offensive line in particular.
As far as his playing goes, he offers some versatility, which is a staple in guys that Ballard brings in. He can play at the guard or center position, works hard, and is a reasonably good pass blocker. Given his signing it was not hard to see why people might pencil him in as the early starter. However, there are two other very worthy contenders for the role who might show up to challenge that assumption once camp opens.
Jack Mewhort’s first two seasons with the Colts he proved himself as one of the better and more reliable options on the offensive line. While the line around him often struggled, Mewhort was the most consistent player out there. He brought a level of toughness to the line that they completely lacked before he arrived.
Unfortunately, 2016 and 2017 have been marred by injury and have left Mewhort’s longevity in doubt. If he has truly recovered and can stay healthy, Mewhort offers more than just a good backup capability. He will definitely be looking to prove he has what it takes to be a starter.
Not to be outdone, rookie Braden Smith will look to establish himself early and prove that he can be every bit as valuable as Quenton Nelson. A big, powerful prospect with a mean streak, Smith has the strength and power to push guys around and camp will be the first opportunity to showcase that.
Graded by PFF as the 3rd best guard in pass protection in all of the draft and an impressive ability to move his huge frame in space, Smith will be looking to prove he deserves to be the starter from week one. He will face a tough uphill battle.
The learning curve is steep when jumping to the NFL, and nothing will be given to him. His technique isn’t perfect, and he’ll take time to develop. However, watching him get to finally go toe-to-toe with NFL defensive linemen will be a thing of beauty, even if it is in a camp setting.
In the next round of training camp battles: Running Backs