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Lessons learned from three weeks of Colts camp

Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he believes the team improved over the course of training camp. (Photo by the Associated Press)
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he believes the team improved over the course of training camp. (Photo by the Associated Press)

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For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Offense looks good on paper, but line is paper-thin

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 12:01 am
ANDERSON – The Indianapolis Colts will pack up their stuff, say goodbye to dorm rooms and get down to serious business-as-usual Wednesday afternoon. Will they leave Anderson better or worse for the wear?Off-site training camp serves as a prelude to the season, the time to iron out the initial kinks and see what you have and where you stand.

After three weeks at Anderson University, the Colts have learned plenty about their team. Some good, some bad.

Here are my primary takeaways from camp:

This is not necessarily an encouraging notion for fans of the idea of quarterback Andrew Luck remaining upright. But facts are facts and the injuries to guard Donald Thomas and center Khaled Holmes made an unproven line even thinner. Add the fact that rookie guard (and possible center) Jack Mewhort has had knee issues, and we're talking major area of concern.

Tackles Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherlius and guard Hugh Thornton have stayed healthy – knock on wood – so at least some hope of staving off J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney remains intact. Holmes' ankle injury appears to be one that could heal in a couple weeks time, so maybe he's ready to go by the opener at Denver. If he is, then maybe Mewhort can move back to left guard. That's two too many maybes if we're still talking about this in three weeks.

The lack of depth and experience on the Colts line threatens to be an ongoing storyline that could overtake the positives of having plenty of weapons at the skill positions.

We won't know until Wayne gets into a game with actual contact, but he has shown no signs of lingering issues after suffering the severe knee injury and surgery last season. Even if Wayne plays in a preseason game, which seems to remain open to debate, that still might not be enough to get a real barometer on where he stands.

The Colts saw what they needed from Wayne at Anderson: He's moving well, cutting well, bouncing back from practices with good energy and little soreness. Those are all good signs, but I go back to the fact that Anderson is the prelude to the real deal. Wayne still needs to show he can deliver in games and his body can still do what his mind tells it to.

“I have not forgotten how to play,” Wayne said, in response to a tongue-in-cheek question from coach Chuck Pagano during a media interview.

Landry took awhile to get into the full mix of practice, causing casual observers to wonder if this will end up being another season of dealing with on-again, off-again health issues. There's no question he has a body built for the next "Expendables" sequel. Whether that makes him an effective safety remains to be seen.

The Colts have invested significant money and faith in Landry being a playmaker in the secondary. He didn't show anything at camp to confirm or deny that's what he'll be when this season starts. He could have a great season. There's just no way to tell from his play during camp.

Taking into consideration that chemistry and its cousin camaraderie can be overrated – you still have to make the plays – this Colts defense seems to have a nice dose of cohesiveness.

The Colts have Cory Redding up front and he is always talking, always motivating, always exhorting his teammates. They've added Arthur Jones, who has an infectious and upbeat personality. D'Qwell Jackson at linebacker brings experience and the excitement that comes with joining a contender. Jerrell Freeman walks softly and carries a big tackling stick. Bjoern Werner and Jonathan Newsome seem like young players with drive, willing to soak in what the vets have to say but confident enough to try to make things happen.

The secondary is more of a mystery. It's great that Greg Toler has remained healthy through camp. I've always felt Colts fans have underrated his skills. Vontae Davis expects to do big things. If Landry's healthy, he's at one safety with Delano Howell, Sergio Brown or Mike Adams stepping into the mix, too. Camp did not provide an obvious taste of where the secondary stands.

There's nothing quite as exhilarating in the NFL as a quarterback hungry to tap into a new level of production. As good as Luck has been in his first two seasons, particularly in his comeback-guiding skills, he has hardly been a finished product.

He has stated more than once how nice it is to be in offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's offense for the second-consecutive seasons. Hamilton, in fact, said he trusted Luck to help install some of the offense as a quasi-coach on the field.

Luck is the firm leader of the offense, with the younger guys having come into the franchise alongside him and the veterans having recognized that he's the type of leader every team needs: confident without being cocky, willing to defer to older players for their input but unafraid of taking charge. He throws a nice deep ball, too, in fairly effortless manner.

No player, not even Luck, has more pressure on them than Richardson. An amateur psychologist would say his trade to the Colts shook his confidence a bit. Here he was, the franchise pick by the Browns, and they ditched him a little over a year later. Never underestimate the fragility of the pro athlete's ego. Richardson ran like a back second-guessing himself too much last season and he seems to have shaken that during camp.

Richardson has attacked camp with vigor. He's had some nice bursts on runs and displayed skills as a pass protector and receiver. I'm not sure what Richardson has to do to be considered successful (3.5 yards per carry? 1,200 total yards rushing?), but it's evident the desire is there if his body can deliver.

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For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1


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