Indianapolis Colts' Training Camp Check List
For the Indianapolis Colts, the 2013 training camp brings with it the most important decisions of the season.
After an active offseason of adding, subtracting and mixing talent, the Colts have what Ryan Grigson would refer to as a "cauldron of competition" ready to brew.
Now with the carefully tweaked 90-man roster comes the task of cutting down to 53, as well as building cohesive units with those players (many of which are brand new to Indianapolis). This is the time when "building the monster" happens.
So to build that monster, there are countless things that need to be done and decisions that need to be made while the Colts spend their training camp in Anderson, Indiana. Here are three things on the Colts' to-do list that we'll be keeping an eye on throughout August.
1. Find a fifth cornerback
The Colts will keep at least five cornerbacks, if not six, on their final 53-man roster. The first four are fairly certain: Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Darius Butler and Cassius Vaughn. After that, however, things are a complete question mark.
Competing for the spot include these players: Josh Gordy, Teddy Williams, Marshay Green, Allen Chapman, Sheldon Price and Daxton Swanson.
Gordy played for the Colts last season as the fifth cornerback, but the Colts have brought in three new UDFA corners as well as Green and Williams, two fringe players from last season. While the team clearly wants to improve on the spot, the fact is that Gordy has a very clear advantage over the other five corners: experience. Gordy was a key player in 2012 for Indianapolis after the rash of injuries at cornerback and was a starter for St. Louis in 2011, while none of the other cornerbacks in this competition have more than 30 career snaps.
Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that Gordy will win the job; Williams, Price and Swanson all have intrigued me throughout the offseason and should put up a fight for the spot. Swanson could possibly make the roster as a safety as well. While he played cornerback in college, he's been running with the safeties in offseason activities.
In the end, the spot will be up for grabs and each of the prospective corners should get a long look in training camp and preseason games. As Colts fans saw last season, those depth corners can turn into regular rotation members as the season goes on, especially when you have a starting duo like Davis and Toler, who have significant injury histories.
2. Install a new, more efficient offense
As much as fans loved Bruce Arians' downfield, attack-focused offense, there were plenty of aspects that hurt the offense and Andrew Luck's performance.
One of Arians' biggest shortcomings throughout his career has been his inability (or perhaps unwillingness) to adapt his offense to his roster's strength and weaknesses. For the Colts, this was most apparent in the ways that the Colts protected, or didn't protect, Andrew Luck.
Despite being one of the worst teams at pass-blocking (second-worst in the league, according to Pro Football Focus), the Colts ran an offense that often put the line in poor situations. For example, according to the 2013 Football Outsiders Almanac, the Colts ran empty-back sets 14 percent of the time in 2012, the second-highest percentage in the NFL. Why a team that needed to help its offensive line as much as possible would run so many plays without a running back to aid in pass protection is beyond me.
It's not like holding the running back back to block hurt Indianapolis. Football Outsiders also found that when the Colts used max protect schemes (seven-plus players blocking), Indianapolis had a DVOA of 47.2 percent, the third-highest DVOA in the league in such a scheme (trailing only Denver and Seattle).
When the Colts protected Luck, good things happened, but unfortunately we didn't see Arians put an emphasis on doing that. Other areas where Arians failed to take advantage of his team's talent included things like Luck's ability to excel outside of the pocket.
Meanwhile, Pep Hamilton brings in an offense that focuses more on the run game and play action while being extremely familiar with Luck and his strengths. He should focus more on protecting Luck and giving him optimal opportunities to succeed and be more efficient.
It is, however, paramount that the 2013 offense keeps some element of Arians' downfield offense. While it hurt his efficiency numbers, Luck was actually a pretty good deep passer in 2012. While having more attempts than any other quarterback that traveled 20-plus yards down the field, Luck was ninth in the league in accuracy percentage on such throws, and it was a key element in his success.
The trick for Hamilton will be to unify his protection and play-action concepts with Luck's ability to create big plays. If he can, the Colts offense will reach its potential to be elite as Luck becomes more efficient while retaining the ability to go the distance on any play.
3. Solidify the trench starters and rotation
After focusing on skill players in last year's offseason, the Colts put a primary emphasis on the offensive and defensive lines in the 2013 offseason, improving the depth dramatically at both, but not adding proven, top-end talent.
On the offensive line, the two tackle starters are set with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus, but that's about it. The interior is one big camp competition, outside of Donald Thomas and Joe Reitz as the starting and backup left guards, respectively. Rookies Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton will be trying to unseat 2012 starters Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn, while the second-stringers across the board will be competing for a roster spot.
Meanwhile, on defense, the starting lineup is not yet confirmed, although a Cory Redding, Josh Chapman/Aubrayo Franklin, Ricky Jean-Francois line seems likely. There is an inordinate amount of depth behind those players, and somebody talented at both nose tackle and defensive end very likely could get cut.
While we certainly have our predictions about who will be making the final 53-man roster, the rotations here are arguably the biggest mystery as Indianapolis heads into camp.
The Colts brass wanted to increase the level of competition in the trenches this year, and it certainly has done that. Now, however, comes the task of sorting through the competition and selecting the winners.
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