Indianapolis Colts Training Camp: Week 2 Stock Report
Having now been underway for over a week, the Indianapolis Colts training camp has been full of injuries, news and notes in Anderson, Indiana.
The Colts, who are full of undrafted free agents and young, potential-heavy position battles, have put together quite the group of talent, even if it's not established itself in the NFL just yet. The Colts, along with the rest of the league, will be looking at the other 31 teams for potential waiver-wire pickups while attempting to hold on to each of their own.
With an addition of more media presence at this year's camp, more heavily covered camps and faster Pro Football Focus grades, we could be looking at the preseason with the most information in recent memory. We'll be on top of how each player is being viewed by the coaching staff and their potential for making the roster as the Colts' first preseason game approaches.
All observations from training camp were observed firsthand by the reporter, unless otherwise noted.
Stock Up: WR Donte Moncrief
The third-round pick out of Ole Miss was supposed to be a project player. Donte Moncrief was regarded as a player with raw potential but a very high ceiling. According to Mike Mayock of NFL.com: "This is a big height/weight/speed guy. He needs some development but looks the part. He runs extremely well, but just has to get more consistent as a route runner and more consistent with his hands."
With that thought in mind, I expected Moncrief to seem a little overwhelmed in camp at first. But instead, what I saw was a player who looked like he belonged in an NFL camp. His routes were crisp, he attacked the ball in the air and he's worked past a few drops early in training camp.
But Moncrief has also caught the eyes of the coaches and has worked his way to the fourth wide receiver spot on the depth chart as well as the starting kick returner position. He's seemed to be a key piece in the Colts offense already, especially when T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne or Hakeem Nicks has taken a rest day.
"Donte Moncrief has been outstanding." Pep Hamilton— Steve Andress (@ColtsReporter) August 1, 2014
According to head coach Chuck Pagano, via The Tribune-Star's Tom James, the Colts moved Moncrief from the "X" receiver to the "Z," and he has transitioned very well.
Stock Down: CB Qua Cox
Former Jackson State cornerback Qua Cox was one of the more popular undrafted free agents signed by Indianapolis and was a common candidate to surprise in the preseason.
Unfortunately, Cox has been buried on the depth chart throughout most of training camp, getting on the field only with the very bottom of the roster. With the first four cornerback spots all but locked up (Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Darius Butler and Josh Gordy), there's really only one spot that's open for competition, two at most.
Based on the first unofficial depth chart, Cox is fourth-string at best, behind Marcus Burley and Sheldon Price. Fellow undrafted free agent Loucheiz Purifoy has gotten more opportunties with the second team as well, making things a bit more difficult for Cox. If he wants to make the roster, he'll need to make a big impression in the Colts' preseason games.
Stock Up: CB Marcus Burley
Prior to training camp, former undrafted free agent out of Delaware Marcus Burley was considered not much more than a camp body. Burley bounced from practice squad to practice squad as a rookie last season, spending time in Jacksonville, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Indianapolis.
While highly-touted undrafted free agents from this year's class like Cox and Purifoy were being discussed as potential fifth-cornerback possibilities, Burley was overlooked.
But when camp began, it was Burley who was getting mixed in with the second team, and it was Burley and fellow second-year corner Sheldon Price who were listed as the fifth and sixth cornerbacks on the team's unofficial depth chart. That chart can, and will, change, but for now it seems that Burly is making a hard run at making the team's 53-man roster.
Stock Down: WR Hakeem Nicks
Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton turned heads this week when asked about free-agent acquisition Hakeem Nicks:
Hamilton on Nicks: "Yeah, I don’t know if I can say that I’ve seen enough. I think he is still working to get himself in game shape...— Tom James (@TribStarTJames) August 3, 2014
Hamilton's quotes are concerning for a number of reasons. First, it's unusual for a coach to say anything negative about players in training camp, a notorious time of unbridled optimism. Second, it's odd to see Hamilton pass it off as Nicks not being in game shape.
Nicks should have arrived to camp in shape, a camp in which he's laying the groundwork for a season that will determine his long-term worth. Quite simply, Nicks was expected to work very hard to earn a long-term contract. For a coach to indirectly question that work ethic is astounding.
Now, let's not overreact. Nicks is still the third receiver on the roster for now, and he's been involved with the first-team offense in camp. He's quite clearly better than all but two or three of the Colts receivers, and not making the final roster would be shocking. But don't be surprised if Nicks' role in the offense is more subdued than some have expected, especially if Moncrief continues to impress.
Stock Cautiously Up: RB Trent Richardson
The player that will be more heavily scrutinized than any Colt is, of course, Trent Richardson. The oft-maligned back had a difficult year in 2013 but is looking to bounce back in 2014.
While camp analysis of Richardson's decisiveness improving should be tempered (it's easy to be decisive when you know that there isn't going to be any contact), the coaches and Richardson himself have been very vocal about his comfort level in the offense rising.
According to Mike Wells of ESPN.com, Richardson feels more comfortable and healthy going into the 2014 season:
The comfort level is so much better now. 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.
Of course, it's difficult to judge any bit of the running game in training camp, with minimal contact and few full-speed exercises. The first real test for Richardson will come Thursday against the New York Jets. But for now, it appears that having a full offseason with the team has helped Richardson, as expected. All that's left now is for that improvement to produce results on the field.
Stock Tentatively Down: OT Xavier Nixon
Really, this slide could include the entire second-team offensive line, but Xavier Nixon is the one that stands out, as he's missed practice throughout the last week.
The Colts desperately need their second and third-string offensive linemen to get work in, as the depth at the position will be critical. The Colts have just three linemen who played more than 200 snaps last season (Hugh Thornton, Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus), and given the team's injury history on the offensive line, the lack of depth is currently an enormous concern.
Nixon and veteran Joe Reitz are the only two reserves that return from last season, and both are versatile enough to play both tackle and guard, although both are significantly more effective on the interior.
The Colts will need both of them at some point this season, and Nixon not practicing for an extended amount of time only sets him back.
Stock Up: WR T.Y. Hilton
There had been some concerns over T.Y. Hilton's production this season, mostly driven by national fantasy football analysts. Worried about Hilton's role decreasing with Wayne returning and Hakeem Nicks coming into the fold, many have turned their attention from Hilton to other young receivers.
But the first two weeks of training camp have left us remembering where Hilton left off in last year's playoffs. Throughout camp, Hilton has both gotten the most snaps and the most targets from Luck. The chemistry between the two stands out, even compared to the connection between Luck and Wayne.
With that combined with Nicks' relative struggles, it seems that Hilton shouldn't be slept on.
Stock Down: FB Stanley Havili
Stanley Havili, the Colts' 2013 fullback, has been on the physically unable to perform list throughout the entirety of camp thus far and is currently listed as the third fullback on the depth chart.
Havili was already in danger of losing his spot to Mario Harvey, a former linebacker turned fullback. Now, Harvey is on the top of the depth chart and has gotten to work with the first team throughout the last two weeks.
Harvey isn't quite as athletic as Havili, but if the latter can't get on the field, it may not matter.