The Indianapolis Colts finally kicked off the 2012 campaign by opening training camp last weekend. The team will look vastly different this year compared to previous teams of the last decade.
No longer are the Colts be the team to beat in the AFC, and they really won’t be a threat for a playoff spot this year. There’s so much change within the organization that the new foundation has yet to be built.
That’s what makes this preseason so interesting. It will be the first time Colts fans see a team with a new look, players, coaches and style of play.
These are the top-five things that Colts fans should be watching for this preseason.
Usually we have a grasp on who will be on the 53 man roster each year. In the past, the preseason was basically meaningless, and the old regime used the month to get their timing down.
It will be totally different now.
I have 47 guys that should be locks for the roster, and 10-12 guys on the bubble going for the final five spots. The position battles will be a great thing to watch.
The biggest battles will be for the receiver and running back positions. Will the Colts hold more than three running backs on the roster, and more than four or five receivers?
For the backs, the Colts have Donald Brown, Delone Carter and newly-signed Mewelde Moore. They also drafted a good back out of Mississippi State in Vick Ballard. Do they really need four active backs on a 53 man roster?
The receivers battle will be good too. They have Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and Donnie Avery. Add Quan Cosby, rookies T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill and that’s six options. With playing a two tight end set do you need six receivers?
These are just two examples of position battles facing players trying to make a 53 man roster.
The Colts used to care little about their record in the preseason. They only cared about what pays, and that’s the regular season.
Almost every year we would see the Colts go 0-4 or 1-3 in the preseason. This year will be a lot different. Instead of meaningless games, the team needs to build off each game and get guys experience.
It's not just rookies needing experience either, it's literally every guy on the roster.
The team will use new schemes on both sides of the ball, and new guys will be playing new positions. This team isn't just going to go through the motions each game. They're playing each game to win and get better.
This is one major thing to watch out for, and may be the most important.
The Colts are coming off one of their worst seasons in franchise history, and have totally rebuilt this team. Now, with so many new starters and new players, improvement is key.
No one is really expecting much out of Indianapolis this year, and this is a prime time to improve. If they can improve after each practice and game they will be fine. That all starts this preseason.
The culture will be set now. With a rookie leading the way, the preseason in year one of the new regime will determine how this team will operate in the future.
The Colts will play a totally different style than we've ever seen. Gone is the old smaller-but-faster defensive mindset. The old cover two base 4-3 is gone for the new man-coverage 3-4 base.
The smaller-but-faster players are replaced with bigger, beefier linemen and bigger linebackers.
On offense, the Colts will no longer rely on just the passing game to win contests. They will use more of a balanced attack, and play with a running game rather than relying on the quarterback to win games.
I think the schemes will work long-term, but not so much in year one. With rookies and veteran players who've never played these new roles, it will take some time to adjust. It will also take some time to get new guys for the new roles.
I think it will be fun seeing a new style of football, and I'm looking forward to it.
Dwight Freneey is one of the longest tenured Colts on the roster. He's definitely a Hall of Famer, and should go down as the best Colts defensive player to ever suit up. The question is, how much longer will he be a Colt?
I don't think he lasts the entire season, and may not make it past the preseason. Freeney is the highest paid player on the roster, and is due just over $19 million this season. That's a lot for an aging player trying to adjust to a new role.
Why pay a guy so much when he won't be the best player on the team? I think if a team that still plays a 4-3 needs a defensive player by the end of the preseason, a trade will be made.
Freeney can certainly help a roster that plays a 4-3 scheme, but I'm not sold on paying him so much in a 3-4.