New Colts Could Keep Defenses Off Balance

Kyle WinslowCorrespondent IMarch 3, 2017

Two of the Indianapolis Colts' predicted training camp battles are turning out to not be battles at all.

The competition that has garnered the most offseason attention is the battle for the third wide receiver spot that opened up with the release of Marvin Harrison.  Before camp, it was widely assumed that the position would be won by either second-year player Pierre Garcon or fourth-round draft pick Austin Collie.  Now it appears that the third wide-receiver has been won by both players.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated's Peter King, Peyton Manning said that Collie is practicing exclusively in the slot and Garcon is strictly playing on the outside.

"He [Austin Collie] can run," Manning said. "He can really run. He is working the slot only. We haven't had anyone since Brandon Stokely to work the slot only. That's all he practiced. He doesn't have to worry about anything but the slot."

Manning also expressed his confidence in Garcon's abilities.

"Pierre Garcon can run, too. He's an outside receiver only. What we're doing a better job of with the young guys is we're saying, 'This is your position. You don't have to learn everything.' Garcon is like Marvin; after he takes five steps, he's so fast, you'd better let it go," Manning said.

Using both receivers in different packages could be a clever way for the team to keep opposing defenses off balance.  The Colts don't substitute many players during an offensive drive, especially since they have a propensity to run a hurry up offense at any stage of a game.  But if both of these packages are equally as potent, the Colts could start a game with one package and then switch to the other as soon as their opponent attempts to make adjustments.

The running back battle that was expected after the Colts spent their first-round draft pick on Donald Brown also appears to be non existent.  ESPN's John Clayton reports that Joseph Addai is firmly entrenched as the starter.

"It's not much of a battle this year," Clayton said. "Joseph Addai is the starter, but Donald Brown looks great on some of the inside runs. They should be a great 1-2 punch as long as the offensive line can stay healthy and grow together.

"Brown is noticeable when you watch him in practice. He's got an explosive first couple of steps and is hard to stop on first contact. Addai is the elusive runner and better on the stretch plays, which set up play-action passes for Peyton Manning. Next year will be more of a battle for playing time, but I think Brown could get five to 10 carries a game this season."

Since the two backs specialize in different running styles, the Colts' new combination could be very useful when game planning.  Against teams that feature a stout interior defensive line, the Colts could use Addai to run outside. Against teams with greater team speed, they can feature Brown with a higher percentage of inside trap plays and draws.

The Colts can also make adjustments in the middle of a game depending on the defensive schemes and matchups, and also to keep defenses from keying in on particular plays.  Against the Vikings, most teams would likely plan to run plays away from their two pro-bowl caliber defensive tackles.  However, Donald Brown's 38-yard run, which almost broke for a touchdown, came on a draw play.