After a flurry of activity in training camps and the first preseason NFL game, excitement is starting to build for football season. Here are some notes from the last few days in Colts’ camp at the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology in Terra Haute.
Deep Depth Chart
The team released the first depth chart yesterday with the most surprising move being Tony Ugoh’s replacement as the starting left tackle. Charlie Johnson took over the starting spot, but Ugoh already stepped back into the starting rotation today when right tackle Ryan Diem left practice with an injury.
As predicted, Ed Johnson and Antonio Johnson are listed as the starting defensive tackles. One interesting change is that Raheem Brock is listed as the second string right defensive end behind Dwight Freeney, as opposed to previous seasons in which he was the starter at the left defensive end position (primarily for running downs).
Robert Mathis is listed as the starter on the left now. Keyunta Dawson is listed as the backup LDE. With the increased size and talent in the middle of the defensive line, the Colts may choose to keep the speedy, pass-rushing Mathis in the game even in early-down running situations.
One aspect of the depth chart appears to be particularly impressive: the overall depth. Last year the Colts suffered through several setbacks that left the team thin on the offensive and defensive line, as well as in the defensive backfield. This year, thanks to strong showings from rookies and the return of several injured starters, the team has a glut of talent at all three positions.
The team looks much more prepared to handle injuries at every position except for quarterback. The battles for the third running back position and third wide receiver position are so close that, no matter the outcome, the reserves will be extremely capable.
The Colts currently have nine defensive backs on the depth chart that have made major contributions to the team in recent seasons. The linebackers are equally as deep; 2008 starter Freddy Keiaho is currently listed as the third string middle linebacker.
In a post-practice interview new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer, confirmed our suspicions about schematic changes for the defense. Coyer said that the most significant change for the defense is “the mindset of stopping the run game.”
Coyer emphasized that nothing about the defense will be different “structurally.” He also said that the Colts will not be blitzing significantly more, like his “Blitzburgh” teams did with the Denver Broncos.
“We were Blitzburgh because we couldn't rush with four,” Coyer said of those Bronco defenses.
He affirmed that blitzing so much would not be necessary for the Colts since the defensive line can apply plenty of pressure to opposing quarterbacks on its own.
Wide Receiver Battle
Pierre Garcon is listed as the third WR on the Colts depth chart, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be playing in the slot. In an interview on Colts.com, Peyton Manning said that Garcon has been working primarily on the outside on both sides of the formation.
Manning also said that the offense has been trying to move Reggie Wayne into the slot more because it’s harder for opposing defenses to double the slot receiver. Anthony Gonzalez is also comfortable at that position, having played in the slot for most of his professional career.
If Pierre Garcon does win the third WR position, he will likely be used as an outside deep threat and either Wayne or Gonzalez will move inside. However, in the Colts’ first scrimmage of training camp, fourth round draft pick Austin Collie came out with the starting unit and started in the slot in three wide receiver sets.
Garcon definitely doesn’t have a spot in the starting rotation locked up, and since the Colts utilize a variety of different formations it’s very possible that we’ll see both Collie and Garcon get regular season playing time in different offensive packages.
Every year it seems the Colts find a rookie who makes such a big impact in training camp that he is immediately awarded a starting position. Antoine Bethea was drafted in the sixth round and won a starting safety position in his rookie season. Ed Johnson was an undrafted free agent and immediately made the starting rotation on the defensive line.
This year’s breakout player may be defensive back Jerraud Powers, the teams third round draft pick from Auburn. Powers has made several interceptions in practice and played exceptionally well in the Colts’ scrimmage. He made some great plays in coverage against the first team offense and excelled as a punt returner.
Powers probably won’t beat out Marlin Jackson or Kelvin Hayden for a starting spot, but it looks like he might give Dante Hughes and Tim Jennings some competition for the nickel cornerback position. Powers is currently listed behind Hughes and Jennings on the depth chart, but if he continues to play well he very well could win the position outright.