Indianapolis Colts: What to Watch for at OTAs
As the offseason progresses, each possible opportunity to see the team in action or glean some updated information and tidbits is cherished by NFL fans.
The last such opportunity came during the second weekend in May, during rookie minicamp. While the camps are held without pads and their value shouldn't be overstated, there were a few things we learned about the Colts.
This week, the Colts will be beginning their annual organized team activities (OTAs), annually the main source of information prior to training camps in late July and August. The Colts' OTAs will take place on May 20-22, May 28-30 and June 3-6.
Although live contact is not permitted, 7-on-7, 11-on-11 and similar drills are. Meanwhile, quotes from coaches and staff can be informative as well. There are plenty of angles to watch for this year, so what should we expect to see as the team meets?
Is Khaled Holmes the Long-Term Answer at Center?
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With the Colts' somewhat controversial trading of A.Q. Shipley earlier this month, they stuck a huge vote of confidence onto rookie center Khaled Holmes.
With Samson Satele still a major question mark after an inconsistent, maddening year in 2012, trading Shipley (who played very well filling in for Satele in 2012) was a sign that the Colts' coaching staff views Holmes as a long-term answer at center.
The question is, is he up to it?
The former USC Trojan had a poor year in 2012, but was battling injuries throughout the year and had had an impressive 2011.
Holmes is an intelligent blocker with quick feet who can struggle to anchor in pass protection, but only time will tell what his future will be in Indianapolis.
If he works out, the move to trade Shipley (and likely cut Satele and his overpriced contract) looks just fine. If Holmes doesn't work out, then both the Colts' pick in the fourth round and their trading of Shipley will be ridiculed, and rightly so.
What Does the Offensive Philosophy Look Like?
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Since Pep Hamilton's hiring in January, Colts fans have been filled with speculation and anticipation for the new offense in 2013.
With Hamilton's background running power-running, West Coast offenses, many initially speculated that the Colts' playbook would largely incorporate that style as well in 2013. Pep Hamilton then brought up possibilities of running pistol schemes and incorporating read-option, while Andrew Luck discussed the offense as a "hybrid."
Most recently the Colts' new offense has been called a "no-coast offense," as the Colts' coaches don't want to limit themselves to a particular scheme, but instead desire flexibility to run any number of sets.
Meanwhile, the team has re-tooled the offensive line this offseason to become better and more run-oriented, after using the draft last season to give Luck a stable of young receiving weapons.
The Colts are assumed to run more power-run sets, but nothing is certain. The drills and themes during OTAs may give us a better idea of what to expect come August.
What Cornerbacks Will Fill out the Roster?
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Although the Colts' top three cornerback spots seem to be set with Vontae Davis, Greg Toler and Darius Butler, the rest of the roster is seemingly up for grabs.
Cassius Vaughn and Josh Gordy, members of the 2012 Colts squad, seem to have the advantage, especially Vaughn.
But even though Vaughn started 12 games in 2012, he was downright awful for most of the time, and his spot is assumed to be fluid.
The Colts signed three undrafted free agent cornerbacks, including Daxton Swanson, Sheldon Price and Allen "Bubba" Chapman, and all three look to have a shot at the roster at the very least. Each of the three had a solid rookie minicamp and will look to improve upon it during OTAs.
Will Hugh Thornton Beat out Mike McGlynn?
With the Colts announcing that third-round draft choice Hugh Thornton would stick to right guard, they ensured that Thornton would be battling with six-year veteran Mike McGlynn, who started all 16 games at the position last season.
The Colts brought in Donald Thomas to specifically play left guard, and see Thornton as a possible long-term answer on the right side. Thornton would complete the offensive line overhaul, assuming Khaled Holmes plays at center.
If Thornton doesn't beat out McGlynn, the Colts will have to suffer through another season of McGlynn's ineptitude once again. Andrew Luck simply can't take that kind of beating again.
How Will Snaps Be Spread out Among Andrew Luck's Receiving Targets?
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The Colts' receiving targets' lack of experience and inabilities to get open last season exacerbated the offensive line's struggles in 2012. However, with the young receivers' year of experience with Andrew Luck, things are expected to improve in 2013.
However, as Hamilton's offense is expected to use tight ends and a fullback, there will be a limited number of snaps to go around for Luck's receiving targets. Along with Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen at tight end, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, and Darrius Heyward-Bey will be in the mix at wide receiver (along with LaVon Brazill).
Which players are going to be priorities to get on the field once the season starts? Hilton and Allen in particular had fantastic rookie seasons, and Fleener's role is expected to grow under his old offensive coordinator.
Will the 7th-Round Picks Fight Their Way onto the Roster?
Kerwynn Williams is expected to make a splash on special teams in 2012.
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Two of the Colts' draft picks in 2013 will have to earn their ways onto the roster on special teams as depth players: seventh-round picks Kerwynn Williams (RB) and Justice Cunningham (TE).
WIlliams was in the mix as a returner during rookie minicamp, but the Colts didn't do much to test him. OTAs may offer a better opportunity to test his skills. With Vick Ballard, Donald Brown and Delone Carter on the roster, Williams likely will have to break his way onto the roster via special teams first.
Cunningham is looking to beat out Weslye Saunders and Dominique Jones for the third tight end spot behind Allen and Fleener. Cunningham flashed surprisingly good hands during rookie minicamp and could be a better option than expected.
How Will Defensive Line Shake Out?
The Colts have signed a plethora of players on both offensive and defensive lines and hope to have a productive competition in camp.
With 12 defensive linemen competing for three spots, there are a lot of options for the Colts' starting lineup come September.
According to my quick straw Twitter poll, the most desirable lineup would include Josh Chapman at nose tackle and Ricky Jean-Francois and Cory Redding at defensive ends.
Those three will certainly compete for time, but Drake Nevis, Fili Moala and Ricardo Mathews will definitely add some competition as well, along with fifth-round draft pick Montori Hughes and free-agent addition Aubrayo Franklin.
The Colts defensive line should be improved over the 2012 version, but exactly what the rotation will be has yet to be seen.
How Will the Inside Linebackers Stack Up?
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One of the Colts' deeper positions this offseason (although not necessarily the one with the highest level of talent) is inside linebacker.
Jerrell Freeman was a gem last season, turning out to be one of Ryan Grigson's best 2012 moves, and should be a starter in 2013.
However, the second ILB spot is a bit more complicated.
On one hand, Pat Angerer had a great season in 2011 and fought through injuries in 2012. He should look much better in 2013 if completely healed. On the other hand, Kavell Conner is arguably the best linebacker against the run and should have a compelling case to start on early downs.
Among the three, the scenario would be complicated enough, but with newcomer Kelvin Sheppard (who excels in coverage) on the scene now, more snaps will have to be shared.