Welcome to the Inside Slant. Each week we talk to a popular writer from around the AFC South to get the inside scoop on the teams.
B/R: What the best thing you've seen from the Colts in camp?
Rodriguez: For me, the most encouraging thing from this team going forward has been the direction brought in from the coaches and the total support they seem to have from the players. Outside of Dwight Freeney seeming a little skeptical of his new role at outside linebacker, the theme coming from the players in Anderson was total respect and belief in what Chuck Pagano and his coordinators want to do.
Bruce Arians is completely changing the offense, going from three-wide base sets to a tight-end heavy offense with a lot of motion. Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky are overhauling the defense, transitioning from a conservative Tampa-2 to an aggressive 3-4 hybrid.
Yet, when you talk to veterans like Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis, they seem to have nothing but respect and faith in the coaches and their plans. While we'll have to wait and see whether or not these new systems will be successful, the first step is to get your team to buy into your philosophy and direction, and it seems like Pagano and the rest of the coaching staff have succeeded in that regard.
B/R: What's the most troubling thing you've seen?
Rodriguez: The most troubling thing I've seen has to be injuries. Unfortunately for the Colts, injuries have been a common theme over the last decade, and this new front office and coaching staff don't seem to have gotten rid of that curse quite yet. It started off with season-ending ACL tears for promising offensive lineman Ben Ijalana and linebacker A.J. Edds on the very first day of training camp.
Since then, we've seen linebacker Scott Lutrus go down with another ACL tear, linebacker Pat Angerer break a bone in his foot (six weeks), offensive lineman Mike McGlynn sprain his ankle (possibly six weeks), Austin Collie sustain another possible concussion, running backs Mewelde Moore and Delone Carter suffer rib injuries, and defensive veterans Mathis and Cory Redding sustain a few minor injuries.
The Colts are not a deep team to begin with, and these injuries right off the bat are going to really hurt as the season progresses.
B/R: Has your opinion of the team changed at all since the start of training camp?
Rodriguez: My initial thought was that the team was going to take time to transition, and four to six wins was the plateau for this year. After camp and a couple preseason games (which I know can be dangerous), I'm slightly more optimistic.
The main reason is, of course, Andrew Luck. The rookie has been even better than most of us expected, and light years ahead of where rookie quarterbacks should be. He alone should help propel the Colts to a few home wins.
Some of the positions' depth have surprised me as well, especially at running back (Vick Ballard has impressed), wide receiver (there is a lot of young talent competing for a few spots), and outside linebacker (Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison have looked good so far, and could actually be productive in spelling Mathis and Freeney).
The secondary and offensive line are still going to be questionable all season, but the other areas of the team may work out better than expected, and Luck's development will be a big boost.