5 Potential Sleepers to Watch for in Indianapolis Colts Training Camp
The Indianapolis Colts begin training camp in just under a week. This will be a different camp than what we've been accustomed to in the previous decade.
All the players are learning a new system and scheme. The offense will no longer be built around one guy and have more balance to it, and the defense will go from the old Cover 2 based 4-3 look to a more man coverage based 3-4 look.
There's really only a few holdovers from last year returning to their respective positions. That means a ton of movement on the depth chart will be made in training camp and the preseason.
I can think of 48 guys that are pretty much a lock for the 53 man regular season roster. That leaves five spots open that have a possibility of 12 guys to gain.
I think this will build tons of competition throughout camp and these are the guys I'd watch for in training camp.
Kavell Conner isn't a big name guy on the Colts, but he will earn one of the starting middle linebacker spots. Conner is entering his third season with Indianapolis and will be the only starting linebacker outside of Pat Angerer returning.
Conner has 161 career tackles in his first two seasons with 81 of them being solos. He only played 12 games in his rookie season because he was hampered by injuries, but played in all 16 games last year.
Conner had 104 tackles last year and I think that number will only grow this year. He's a very quick linebacker and good with not only filling gaps, but in coverage. With the new 3-4 Conner will be able to hit holes to stop running backs at the line and with him being a hawk for the ball carrier he will thrive.
Expect big things out of Conner this season, starting in camp.
T.Y. Hilton will give the Colts so much that they've been missing. He's arguably the fastest player the Colts have ever had and will not only make his presence known in the return game, but as a receiver as well.
Hilton ran a 4.24 40-yard dash on his pro day and is not only quick, but has decent hands. I think he will line up in the slot as a receiver and be a matchup problem for almost anyone trying to defend him.
Hilton will stretch the field in the middle and allow for big gains and single coverage on the outside for other receivers. He will get a ton of playing time in the preseason and I think he will have a similar rookie preseason as that of Austin Collie.
Hilton will be a receiver that everyone will know by the time their first game comes in Chicago.
Unfortunately, Avery has been somewhat injury prone. He's played in only three games since the last game of the 2009 season. He missed the entire 2010 campaign and only made it through three games last season.
I think Avery will be a sleeper in the camp as he's fighting for a roster spot.
Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie will surely be the starters and T.Y. Hilton will be fighting with Avery for the third option. Mix in Quan Cosby and rookie LaVon Brazill and there will be a big battle for the wide receiver position.
I wouldn't sleep on Avery.
Avery has 103 career receptions for 1,308 yards and nine touchdowns. He's a very quick receiver with great hands.
If he can play an outside receiver spot, then Collie can move to his more natural slot position and have Hilton back him up in the slot. That will make Avery a big contributor in the offense.
Delone Carter won't be much of a sleeper other than a sleeper for earning the starting spot for Week 1. I think he will be in the running if he can have a good camp.
Carter is certainly much bigger than Donald Brown as he's 5'9", 238 pounds. If he can fix his fumbling habit that he had last year, he will get a big bulk of the carries as I think he will in camp and the preseason.
The Colts picked Carter high last year to be that new running back of the future. They want to see if he has improved and fixed the issues he had last year as a rookie and will surely use him.
The new coaching staff favors backs like Carter. They want that big smash-mouth runner that will run through people and get positive gains. Carter was that guy last year as he rushed for 377 yards on 101 attempts. He scored two touchdowns and will be great in the red zone, but he fumbled three times.
If his mistakes are corrected, watch out for Carter.
Most people probably have never heard of defensive tackle Antonio Johnson. He's played on the Colts the last four seasons, but hasn't had much attention with being on the same line as Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
I have Johnson as the starting defensive tackle when camp opens and he can really surprise people in camp. He now will get attention as the lone guy in the middle eating up space.
Johnson is a big lineman as he is 6'3" and 310 pounds. He's big and strong, but fast and athletic as well. He gives the Colts more beef up front and can not only eat up space to stop runs in the middle, but athletic enough to chase down the ball carrier if he breaks to the outside or harass the opposing quarterback.
Johnson has 95 career tackles and has played in at least 14 games the last three seasons. Look for Johnson to come out and make an impact in camp.