Around this time every year, all of the NFL experts are talking about depth charts.
Everybody wants to know who'll be the starter for their favorite team (with good reason), and the Indianapolis Colts are no exception.
Sure, Indy doesn't have any really "sexy"position battles to worry about—like quarterback (the entire universe knows that Peyton Manning will be the starter).
But, Coach Caldwell isn't just going to sit back and let all of last year's guys (automatically) get the snaps with the first team.
Guys like Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne (when he shows up for camp) will definitely be on the first team, but whose going to have to fight for his chance to get on the field?
In 2007 SS Bob Sanders was the Defensive Player of the Year, but 2008 was a huge disappointment for Sanders and the Colts.
In the second game of that season (against the Minnesota Vikings) Sanders suffered a high ankle sprain, that (eventually) was labeled a season ending injury.
The injuries didn't stop there. In 2009, Sanders was bothered by a nagging knee injury at the beginning of the season—and when he finally did get on the field he tore a bicep tendon (November 6, at home against the 49ers).
As a former All-Pro, Bob Sanders should be a lock to win the starting strong safety job—especially if he's healthy.
Except that SS Melvin Bullitt has played exceptionally well in his absence. Statistically, Bullitt's 2008 season (72 tackles, 4 interceptions, and a forced fumble) was every bit as good as Sanders's 2007 season (96 tackles, 2 interceptions, and no forced fumbles).
When Bob Sanders is on the field, the Colts defense (especially the Colts run defense) is better.
But, it's hard to take a guy like Bullitt off the field when all he does is...is everything he's supposed to.
Last year, WR Anthony Gonzalez was penciled in as the starter opposite Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne. Gonzalez was even the fashionable pick by fantasy guys to be the late round stud to take a chance on.
Sadly, the Colts lost Gonzalez in the season opener (a 14-12 home win over the Jacksonville Jaguars).
The Colts have promised Gonzalez a shot to compete against WR Pierre Garcon as the starter opposite Reggie Wayne, but with a new injury (hamstring) that kept him out of OTAs (organized team activities), that seems really far-fetched.
It's more reasonable that Gonzalez competes against second year playmaker WR Austin Collie for the slot job. IF he can stay healthy, the job is likely his (although Collie was sensational as a rookie and probably should have received consideration for Rookie of the Year).
That's a big "if," since Gonzalez has yet to play a full season.
Indy's offensive line is in turmoil, and with good reason.
The last few years the Colts running game has been virtually non-existent. With a pair of first round picks carrying the ball, the most likely weakness is the offensive line.
The left guard position will definitely have a new starter in 2010, since last year's starter, Ryan Lilja was cut in March.
There are easily three or four guys who could take over the job, but the main position battle will probably take place between disappointing left tackle, Tony Ugoh, and underachieving G/C Mike Pollak.
Some people think that left guard is Ugoh's last chance to prove himself as a Colt (or even an NFL player), but this may not be his year to do it.
Last year Mike Pollak was the starter at right guard, but was benched after seven games (although he made a beautiful block for Pierre Garcon on a trap play in Miami).
He may have hit a sophomore slump last year, but he was a pretty impressive rookie. He could bounce back in a big way and win the starting left guard job.
Don't be surprised if free agent pickup G Andy Alleman wins this job.The way the Colts signed him is almost identical to the way they picked up Ryan Lilja in 2004.
On one side of the field, you have All-Pro tight end Dallas Clark coming off the best season of his career. His starting job certainly is not in jeopardy.
But on the other side you have TE Gijon Robinson, and with the Colts depth at tight end he would be very foolish to feel comfortable with his position.
The Colts run a lot of two tight end sets, so the No. 2 tight end is practically a starter, and the Colts may have stolen a pretty good complement to Dallas Clark in the fifth round.
Last year Brody Eldridge was the only BCS player to start at three different positions (center, tight end, and left guard). He has rare athleticism and uncanny blocking ability (on just 301 snaps he had 66 knockdowns—20 against BYU).
In rookie camp he showed that he was a capable receiver, but he'll probably see a lot of action as a point of attack blocker in the running game.
The left tackle job should be Charlie Johnson's to lose. Last year he played reasonably well, but many people are concerned that he's not a natural left tackle.
With Howard Mudd gone, Tony Ugoh (with the help of new offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars) might finally be able to live up to his potential and win the starting job protecting Peyton Manning's blind side.
He has all of the "tangibles," but he lacks the focus and drive to be elite.
It's too bad, because the Colts could really use a solid starter at left tackle.
As of right now, Ugoh is listed as the backup behind Charlie Johnson and RT Ryan Diem.