We are just a little over a month away from the starting of Colts training camp in Anderson, Indiana. Since the Pacers took a dump to the Miami Heat, Indianapolis sports are looking for just about anything sports related to their favorite teams. I felt the need to put something out there for people to start talking about as this is a very important season coming up for the Colts. This will be Luck, Hilton, Allen, Fleener, Ballard, Brazill and Grigson’s 3rd year with this franchise. I don’t have worries about most of those players, except for Brazill, but the GM is something that I have questioned a lot since last season. Can he put a championship caliber team together or was his first NFL draft as a GM a fluke??
During training camp we are all going to get to see the guys that he has brought in over the last three years. We are going to see who is going to sink or swim. There are quite a few battles that are going to take place this summer at AU and many of them have significant meaning to them. Here are a the battles that I think will be the most crucial for this team to succeed.
Left Guard and Right Guard
Last year, many thought that Grigson had something to stop the leaks along the offensive line. Well, as the season progressed we all saw that wasn’t the case. Normally I would talk about the center position here as well but as Costa retired and the only real candidate is Holmes then I see no reason to beat a dead horse.
Starters Going Into Camp: Donald Thomas and Hugh Thornton
Competition: Jack Mewhort, Lance Louis, Joe Reitz and Xavier Nixon
Thomas and Thornton will be the starters going in but I’m not to sure that one of them won’t be unseated. Mewhort was the Colts 2nd round pick and you don’t select an offensive lineman with your first pick in the draft if you don’t think he can start, or should start right out of the gate. Thomas was supposed to be an anchor for the interior of the line but got injured early last year and missed the rest of the season, leaving rookie Hugh Thornton to take over there. Thornton didn’t play well at all. Here is my question for most of the critics out there. What did you expect? If you expected Thornton to be a Bruce Matthews-type guy then yes, you were let down. If you looked at it as he was a rookie and did the best he could under the circumstances then he still didn’t play well but you understood.
From what I have read, Thomas is coming along nicely and should be ready for camp. If not the beginning he should be able to get a ton of work in before the first regular season game. He will be the starting left guard this year. However, I can’t say the same for Thornton. Mewhort was brought in to play right away. I don’t think Mewhort is the next center in Indy either. The tackle positions are pretty solid so there is one spot left. Thornton will have to have the best camp he has ever had or Mewhort is going to have to tank or get injured for Thornton to keep the right guard spot to himself.
Lance Louis and Joe Reitz are good at certain things but they aren’t starters in my book.
In the end, Thomas and Mewhort give the Colts the best two in the middle to help bring this power run game to fruition and keep the pressure off of Luck up the middle.
Starters Leaving Camp: Donald Thomas and Jack Mewhort
There is one player in the middle linebacker stable that is secure in his spot and that’s Jerrell Freeman. However, the same can’t be said for the other inside position. There are quite a few guys that could walk out of camp as the starter opposite of Freeman.
Starters Going Into Camp: Jerrell Freeman and D’Qwell Jackson
Contenders: Kelvin Sheppard, Josh McNary, Henoc Muamba, Andrew Jackson
Freeman is solid and a tackling machine. He has his rough spots but all around he is a solid middle linebacker. Question is who is going to be starting next to him. D’Qwell Jackson was brought in through free agency and he seems to be the favorite but I’m not so sure. D.J. is a very productive player but is getting older and entering a new defensive system. Whereas guys like McNary and Sheppard have a year under their belt here and have the “upper hand” on D.J. Now I’m not saying that these guys are better than D’Qwell but they sure can give him a run for his money.
Rookie Andrew Jackson also plays into this as he is a very good downhill middle linebacker. Fills the hole quickly and can deliver a shot to the ball carrier. Jackson doesn’t yet possess the skill to cover though so that is where he will fall off the competition wagon and land, at the very least, on the practice squad. McNary made strides last season and showed well when given the chance. Sheppard made some bonehead plays but has better covering skills than McNary. When it’s all said and I done I think Sheppard has the edge over McNary.
When all is said and done, I don’t think the coaching staff can go with another duo than D.J. and Freeman. Both are great tacklers and have the veteran mindset.
Starters Leaving Camp: Jerrell Freeman and D’Qwell Jackson
Starting Running Back
This is possibly the biggest battle that I will be watching throughout camp. Can Bradshaw’s neck allow him to be the quick bruiser that he has always been? Can Ballard bounce back from a season ending knee injury to be the breakout rookie we all saw two years ago? The biggest question is can Trent Richardson finally turn in a season showing his worth and that Grigson didn’t screw the pooch to much when he traded a first round pick for him?
Starter Going Into Camp: Trent Richardson
Contenders: Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard
Richardson gets the starting nod going into camp in my mind just because he is the healthiest of the three. Guys like Dan Herron and Chris Rainey don’t have much of a chance against these three to get many carries to make a difference. But Richardson isn’t the solid number one. I mean come on now, there aren’t many solid number one running backs in the NFL anymore. It will be by committee for sure. However, starting out T-Rich will get the bulk of the carries until Ballard and Bradshaw are ready to go.
Bradshaw has been known to be bitten by the injury bug often but still has a ton of value as a committee running back because of his running style and his fantastic ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and do something with it. Richardson can as well but showed that he seemed lost when it came to doing something with the ball other than taking it a couple of yards and falling down. Ballard showed many great attributes in his rookie season. It was a shame to see him go down last year but he will have his chance to push for the #1 spot on the depth chart.
When it all comes down to it and the dust has settled I see T-Rich being the “starter” but only if he can show that he has finally got a grasp on this offense and not seem like a girl whose prom date bounced on her like he was last season. Hurt and disinterested for the majority of the season is what sums up T-Rich’s 2013 campaign. If he wants to keep the starting spot he will have to improve drastically or the B & B Boys will be looking to run over him to get the bulk of the carries.
Starter Leaving Camp: Trent Richardson
#2 Ahmad Bradshaw
#3 Vick Ballard