Top 5 Indianapolis Colts Players with Something to Prove at Training Camp
The current Indianapolis Colts roster contains several players who need to show some urgency at training camp. A number of players on both sides of the ball are expected to step up this year, and that starts by showing up big in training camp. Dwayne Allen, Trent Richardson and Delano Howell head the list.
With holes along the offensive line, starters returning from injury and new faces who haven't impressed so far, the coaches in Indy have a lot of work to do.
Players appearing on this list are ranked in terms of importance to overall team success. The more the Colts are relying on a player to succeed, the higher on the list they will be ranked.
Let's see some question marks.
Just because they didn't make the top five doesn't mean they don't have something to prove. Here are the honorable mentions:
- Ahmad Bradshaw, RB—Had a solid start to 2013 before suffering a season-ending neck injury. Will be needed to relieve Trent Richardson or replace him, depending on T-Rich's performance.
- Da'Rick Rogers, WR—It's time for Rogers to put it together on the field. He is struggling for a roster spot at the moment but has talent for days. Doesn't make the list because the Colts will be fine with or without him.
- Bjoern Werner, OLB—Whenever a first-round pick has 2.5 sacks in his rookie year, there will be doubts cast. Werner needs to show more consistency in rushing the passer, especially with Robert Mathis suspended for the first four games of 2014.
- Josh Chapman, NT—The third-year defensive lineman out of Alabama is ready to become the "wrecking ball in the middle." Could be a huge boon for the D.
And now, our feature presentation.
Hakeem Nicks, Wide Receiver
You want to hear what the coaches are saying? Per Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk:
"I don’t know if I can say that I’ve seen enough,” Hamilton said. “I think he is still working to get himself in game shape. His talent is well documented and his ability to be a productive receiver in the league is without a doubt something that we are not questioning, he’s a special talent."
Hamilton, of course, referring to Indy's offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
If you want to hear what fellow fans think, simply check out the comments section of that same article.
The three words I noticed most frequently: lazy, entitled and heart.
As in lack of it.
Coming off a 2013 campaign in which he tallied only 896 yards and no touchdowns, it's baffling to see a report like this. Nicks signed a one-year deal with the Colts to come prove he deserves a gaudy payday in 2015, but so far he's not doing himself any favors.
With Reggie Wayne returning from a torn ACL suffered in 2013, Nicks may be relied on to spell the 35-year-old receiver in two-receiver formations.
And if he isn't up to the task, the Colts will have to rely on either Da'Rick Rogers or Griff Whalen to fill the void.
Delano Howell, Safety
Replacing an established veteran and leader can be tough, but that's exactly what Delano Howell is trying to do.
Indy let its two-time Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea walk in free agency then decided not to address the position in the 2014 NFL draft. It did add former Denver Broncos safety Mike Adams, but at 33 he's likely too old to be a full-time player for the Colts defense.
That essentially leaves Howell as the only man for the job. And according to George Bremer of The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, IN, Howell is running with the ones at camp.
Bethea recorded 100-plus tackles in five of the last six seasons and hasn't missed a game since becoming a starter in 2007. He was a huge asset to a defense that has historically been shallow on assets. Howell will have to first secure the starting job beside LaRon Landry then raise his game to a new level if free safety isn't going to be a weakness for the Colts D in 2014.
Dwayne Allen, Tight End
When the Colts drafted Dwayne Allen in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft, they were setting up an offense that utilized multiple tight ends, similar to the one Andrew Luck commanded in his days at Stanford.
Despite being drafted a round later than fellow tight end Coby Fleener, it was Allen who broke out as a rookie. The Clemson product was fourth on the team in catches (45) and receiving yards (521) and finished tied for third in TDs (3).
After Fleener's productive sophomore season, the Colts are once again poised to unleash their dual-tight end attack on the NFL.
That is, if Allen is truly back to 100 percent.
With a physical mismatch like Allen on the field, Luck will have a much easier time getting rid of the ball when facing added pressure from the defense.
Jack Mewhort, Offensive Guard
When the Colts drafted Jack Mewhort in the second round of this year's NFL draft, they were adding some depth to a line that needed help.
With last week's injury to starting guard Donald Thomas, Mewhort has been thrust into the starting lineup. Mewhort needs to figure out how to compete at the highest level and he needs to do it quickly.
Fans of the Colts can find some solace in the fact Mewhort has garnered praise from all the right people.
Head coach Chuck Pagano had this to say on Mewhort, per Josh Wilson of Stampedeblue.com:
He's big, he's tough, he's smart, he loves football, fits our culture, fits our environment, he'll be great in our locker room, he's a horseshoe guy, and what I love is he's got nasty, he's tough, and you know you gotta have that on the offensive line. Extremely excited to have him on board.
And Luck had some encouraging words for his young teammate, too. Per George Bremer of The Herald Bulletin, "I think he's doing very, very well. He's very conscientious, works his butt off. He's a sharp, sharp guy, and he plays a little angry, which is fun to be around. A little fire to what he does, which is fun."
As Luck goes, so go the Colts, so any and all added protection Mewhort can provide is a plus. It's going to be a warzone in the Colts' backfield this season, with Luck seeing plenty of pressure.
Trent Richardson, Running Back
You already knew, though.
Trent Richardson is on trial right now, and it won't end until he either proves he can be a successful NFL running back or he proves his critics right. His 2.9 yards per carry average for the Colts last season is categorically dreadful, and another comparable season could signify the funeral knell of his career.
Luckily, things seem to be coming together for T-Rich in Indy.
Per Mike Wells of ESPN, "The comfort level is so much better now,” Richardson said. “I know the plays, and I'm not playing so tight. I'm really comfortable with the offense, and the timing with the offensive line is coming. I know all my cuts and reads before the snap.”
Coach Pagano has a positive outlook for the still-young (he's only 23) tailback, too:
He’s getting back to 100 percent, so I think some of those runs you’re starting to see, the hard work, the full offseason, the comfort with the scheme, the terminology, being around the offensive guys, the guys that are lined up in front of him blocking and seeing him starting to put a foot in the ground, see a hole, burst through the line of scrimmage, all that stuff is coming,” Pagano said. “It’s only going to get better, too, as he gets closer to 100 percent health-wise. Again, he’s on track, he’s on track.
If Richardson can carve out some yards on the ground, the entire offense could reach new heights. A truly balanced offense can place the Colts among the Super Bowl contenders in the AFC.