Stock Up, Stock Down for Indianapolis Colts Training Camp
Training camp is nearly a week old in Indianapolis and demand for Colts' news has not lessened. Everybody wants to get the latest scoop and predict who will make the final squad.
However, it's important to remember what training camp really is all about.
Not only is it practice, but it's a light practice and often without pads and a very small sample size. The 2013 performance of certain players isn't going to be determined by how they look in training camp where pads are only used periodically, full-tackling is extremely rare and there are no distractions off the field.
That's not to say that there is no value in training camp, but the true value comes in evaluating the lower-tier players who are trying to stick out so they'll make the final roster.
So, who is making an impression so far, either good or bad?
Stock Up: Griff Whalen
Arguably already the most talked-about undrafted free-agent wide receiver in Colts' history, Griff Whalen entered 2013 with high expectations despite being picked up as an undrafted free agent last spring and not playing a down in 2012.
Whalen, who was Andrew Luck's teammate at Stanford and his former roommate, showed a strong connection with Luck during last year's preseason with 12 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown in two preseason games. A foot injury, however, put Whalen on injured reserve, ending his season before it even began.
So far this year, however, the start of training camp has treated Whalen quite well. Whalen has been "catching everything", according to Mike Chappell of The Indianapolis Star. The former Stanford Cardinal has been so impressive that head coach Chuck Pagano described Whalen as making himself "necessary."
Stock Down: Rookie Offensive Linemen
Rookie guard Hugh Thornton and center Khaled Holmes were supposed to come in and compete with incumbent starters Mike McGlynn and Samson Satele to improve an interior offensive line that was one of the Colts' biggest weaknesses in 2012.
There is another level of concern for each player as well. Thornton is supposed to return to practice next week, but as Tom James of The Tribune Star explained, Thornton is now playing from behind in regards to competing for a starting position.
For Holmes, there's significant concern about his long-term health. Holmes' right ankle was the same ankle that gave him issues during his senior season at USC and caused him to take a step back on the field.
If Holmes continues to be bothered by the ankle, not only will it keep him off the field, but it also may hinder his progress as a player.
Stock Up: Kavell Conner
When the Colts traded for Kelvin Sheppard earlier this offseason, the first person I thought of was Kavell Conner.
With Pat Angerer and Jerrell Freeman slotted to start and Sheppard looking like the potential nickel linebacker, it seemed like Kavell Conner might lose a lot of snaps in 2013.
Conner impressed early on with one of the first big hits of camp and he's the most physical inside linebacker on the roster. He is a strong run defender and has seemingly improved in his pass coverage, knocking down several passes over the last few days.
Stock Down: C.O. Prime
What a wild ride it's been for undrafted free agent C.O. Prime.
Signed by the Colts after the draft in April, Prime not only made it through OTAs, but impressed veteran defensive end Cory Redding as well. That was something that made him stick out more than any other undrafted free agent at the time to seemingly setting himself up to be among the potential UDFA surprises.
That hot start hasn't translated into training camp performance. Prime was cut to make room for former Army lieutenant Josh McNary earlier this week. The waiving of Prime was rescinded later in the day after Brandon McKinney was put on injured reserve, but Prime's odds to last past the first cuts seem slim, at best, at this point.
Stock Up: Tight Ends
One of the Colts' most promising positions going into training camp was tight end with Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener entering their second seasons and rookie Justice Cunningham joining the group.
Through the first week of training camp, the group looks as good as advertised. Both Fleener and Allen have both been impressive through the first few days of camp, catching the eye of both local beat writers and national columnists.
Fleener is due for a big improvement in 2013 under his former offensive coordinator and Dwayne Allen was already one of the league's most well-rounded tight end in his rookie year.
Meanwhile, Justice Cunningham has showed an athletic ability that has surprised many and should be a solid addition along with the two sophomores.
Stock... Cautious: Greg Toler
Greg Toler received a concussion late during Wednesday's practice, which has unsettling implications for the Colts.
It's too soon to say whether Toler's stock is down, as Toler doesn't have another concussion in his NFL injury history, but any injury to Toler is one that should be cause for concern. Toler has had trouble staying on the field, missing 26 games over the last four years.
The defensive backfield will rely on staying healthy in 2013 and Toler is one of the most important players in that backfield. Without Toler, the Colts' cornerback group is Vontae Davis, Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler—the same group that ended the season together last year.
While the Colts' defensive backfield has potential, it hinges on players' ability to stay on the field.
Stock Up: Josh Chapman
Since being drafted in the fifth round in 2012, nose tackle Josh Chapman has been hyped by fans and analysts alike.
At times, he's been given near-superhuman expectations, even without ever seeing the field.
Now, Chapman has actually been able to take the field and the results have been impressive. Chapman has impressed throughout camp, culminating in the play of the day during Wednesday's practice. After being double-teamed by center Samson Satele and guard Mike McGlynn, Chapman pushed the two linemen into Gosder Cherilus and Dwayne Allen, completely ruining a running play.
That was just one play, but it's an indication of what Chapman is capable of doing. He has also drawn praise for his strong play in pass-rushing drills, something that wasn't billed as one of his strengths coming out of college.
Stock Down, Then Up: Darius Heyward-Bey
After three days of Colts training camp, Darius Heyward-Bey was the most loathed man in Anderson, Ind.
After five days of camp, Heyward-Bey was the first-week MVP.
At first, Heyward-Bey seemed to be a bit behind, dropping passes and garnering concern over his hands from everybody. Tom James of The Tribune-Star described it to me as Heyward-Bey "playing nervous."
But, after a couple of downfield, impressive catches, Heyward-Bey's confidence seemed to improve, and he bounced back with two straight days of impressive performance. If he can be a consistent pass-catcher, Heyward-Bey's speed will make him a critical weapon in the Colts' offense, stretching the field and creating big plays as well as opening up room for others.
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