NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - INSIDE SLANT
So are the Colts a better team than the one that posted an 11-5 record in 2012? Most likely yes.
But will the Colts be able to equal or better last year's won-loss record? Maybe not.
Indianapolis' youthful roster rallied behind ill head coach Chuck Pagano in 2012 and that bond helped to propel the Colts to far exceed anybody's expectations. But now that Pagano has returned to his duties and his health looks good, the onus is on Indianapolis to show everyone that last year was not a fluke.
As general manager Ryan Grigson said at the end of the team's OTA practices, the Colts are bigger, faster and probably more athletic than at this time a year ago due to an influx of new talented players.
Nearly half of the roster has been flipped as Indianapolis was busier than normal during the veteran free-agent signing period. As many as seven new starters could emerge from that group of newcomers.
And that's not taking into account the addition of several rookies who could work their way into prominent roles during the 2013 season.
Strengths: Talented play-making youth on offense. Starting with quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts will be able to utilize talented players like wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, and running back Vick Ballard. Luck had a very good rookie season, as did Hilton, Fleener, Allen and Ballard. But there is still plenty of room to improve.
There is a new offensive system, but it's one in which Luck, Fleener and backup receiver Griff Whalen are all very familiar with. First-year offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton coached Luck, Fleener and Whalen two years ago at Stanford.
Weaknesses: The offensive line and special teams play. Three starters on the offensive line return -- center Samson Satele, guard Mike McGlynn and offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo.
There will be two new starters in guard Donald Thomas (New England) and tackle Gosder Cherilus (Detroit). There is also a new offensive line coach in Joe Gilbert, who was promoted from assistant offensive line coach in the offseason.
Indianapolis also brought in a new special teams coordinator in Tom McMahon, who previously led Kansas City's special teams unit. There has to be steady improvement in kickoff and punt coverage as well as in kickoff and punt returns.
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Colts officially released its training camp schedule. Indianapolis players and coaches will report for training camp at Anderson (Ind.) University on Saturday, July 27 and the first practice will be at 9:30 a.m. (closed) and 1:50 p.m. (open) on Sunday, July 28. Camp will wrap up on Friday, August 16 with a 10:30 a.m. practice. There will be only one public evening session on Tuesday, August 6 at 8:30 p.m.
--Colts coach Chuck Pagano on his parting comments to his team at the conclusion of OTA workouts: "You got to stay in the mental part. You got to stay in the physical part. You can't just stop. As coaches and as players, if you get totally away from it, you're going to come back and you're going to be lost. You don't want to come to training camp and use training camp as a means to get in shape. You don't want to use training camp as a means to relearn the playbook.
"So the big thing was No. 1, make great choices. This time off, spend time with family, recharge, do what you have to do mentally, physically, but make great choices. Don't put yourself in a bad situation because really the only thing that will derail us from having a successful training camp and the start of a great season is a distraction, having something bad happen. We see it all the time, we read about it all the time, so those are the things we emphasized."
--Pagano on the Colts' many offseason roster moves: "Every decision we make is based on what's best for the team and what gives us the best chance to win. I think it's just part of the landscape in today's NFL. It's just the way it is. There's going to be turnover. Some years you don't want to, you'd love continuity. But like we said last year, when you do win and you have success and you put your ego aside, good things are going to happen. There's going to be enough credit to go around. Bruce (Arians) getting a job and other guys getting jobs and other players getting contracts, that's just a byproduct of winning. You go out and try to find as good players as you can, but better people, guys that are going to fit your locker room and fit your culture and make that an easy transition."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Real good, I thought it was good. Obviously, any time there's change, there's going to be some rough spots to it. But I saw progress. I think everybody saw progress as we went. We really, I think, took off those last three days of OTAs - eight, nine, and 10. Then minicamp (was) outstanding. And again, we challenged them. The whole offensive staff challenged them. They threw a lot of information at them. Obviously having the quarterback that understood a lot of that but Matt (Hasselbeck) and Chandler (Harnish) did a great job of picking up, were able to run the second and third group. So I think it went well and it'll continue to get better as we go to training camp." -- Colts coach Chuck Pagano on how the installation of new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's system progressed during OTA workouts.
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Cause for concern: Second-year wide receiver LaVon Brazill has been suspended for the first four games of the 2013 regular season. Brazill was suspended for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. He will be eligible to return to the Colts' active roster on Monday, September 30 following the team's September 29 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Brazill is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.
Breakthrough star: Second-year nose tackle Josh Chapman missed his rookie season after undergoing offseason knee surgery. The surgery was required after he was hurt during his final season at the University of Alabama. Chapman finished up the year for the Crimson Tide, but the rehabilitation process took longer than expected. Rather than risk having him reinjure the knee in a rush to return to the practice field, the decision was made to sit out the full season. Now, according to team officials, Chapman is at 100 percent and is expected to make a major contribution to the Colts' defense, especially against the run.
Position battles: Inside linebacker. Pat Angerer and Jerrell Freeman figure to be the starters heading into training camp. Angerer, however, missed most of the Colts' OTA workouts as he recovered from his second surgery on his right foot in a year. He was initially injured during Indianapolis' preseason opener with the Rams. Angerer returned to the field midway through the regular season but was not at 100 percent. The Colts added former Buffalo inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard during the offseason and Sheppard worked with the No. 1 defense during OTAs. Angerer, if healthy, will face tough competition from Sheppard at the start of training camp.
Defensive tackle. Fili Moala and Ricky Jean Francois figure to battle for the starting defensive tackle position. Both Moala and Jean Francois are versatile enough to play both at defensive end and defensive tackle. Moala missed most of the OTA workouts as he nursed an injury that he incurred during the 2012 season. Jean Francois came over as a veteran free agent from San Francisco and is very familiar with the Colts' 3-4 hybrid defensive scheme from his days working with Indianapolis defensive coordinator Greg Manusky when both were with the 49ers.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: P Pat McAfee (tendered at $2.977 million; signed tender April 2).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--WR Austin Collie(not tendered as UFA).
--OG Tony Hills (not tendered as UFA).
--OT Winston Justice (not tendered as UFA).
--RB Mewelde Moore (not tendered as UFA).
--LB Jamaal Westerman (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--G Hugh Thornton (3/86); $2,735,380/4 yrs, $545,380 SB.
--C/G Khaled Holmes (4/121): $2,580,108/4 yrs, $420,108 SB.
--NT Montori Hughes (5/139): $2,361,972/4 yrs, $201,972.
--S John Boyett (6/192): $2,260,300/4 yrs, $100,300.
--RB Kerwynn Williams (7/230): $2,209,824/4 yrs, $49,824.
--TE Justice Cunningham (7/254): $2,205,896/4 yrs, $45,896.
DRAFT CHOICES UNSIGNED
--LB Bjoern Werner (1/24).
--CB Darius Butler: UFA; terms 2 yrs, unknown.
--CB Josh Gordy: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--OG Jeff Linkenbach: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation); $1.323M/1 yr.
--P Pat McAfee: FFA; $2.977/1 yr.
--DE Fili Moala: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--G Joe Reitz: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--NT Martin Tevaseu: ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
--CB Cassius Vaughn (RFA; tendered at $1.323M with no compensation); $1.323M/1 yr.
--RB Ahmad Bradshaw: FA Giants; terms unknown.
--T Gosder Cherilus: UFA Colts; $35M/5 yrs, $10M SB/$16.5M guaranteed.
--NT Aubrayo Franklin: UFA Chargers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck: FA Titans; $8M/2 yrs.
--FB Stanley Havili (trade Eagles).
--WR Darrius Heyward-Bey: FA Raiders; $3M/1 yr, $1.5M guaranteed.
--DT Ricky Jean Francois: UFA 49ers; $22M/4 yrs, $8.5M guaranteed/$6.5M fully guaranteed.
--S LaRon Landry: UFA Jets; $24M/4 yrs, $14M guaranteed.
--LB Kelvin Sheppard (trade Bills).
--LB Lawrence Sidbury: UFA Falcons; terms unknown.
--G Donald Thomas: UFA Patriots; $14M/4 yrs, $1M SB.
--CB Greg Toler: UFA Cardinals; $14.25M/3 yrs, $5M guaranteed.
--LB Erik Walden: UFA Packers; $16M/4 yrs, $8M guaranteed.
--WR Donnie Avery: UFA Chiefs; $8.55M/3 yrs, $2.25M SB/$2.55M guaranteed.
--LB A.J. Edds: Not tendered as RFA/Dolphins; terms unknown.
--LB Moise Fokou: UFA Titans; $2.8M/2 yrs.
--LB Dwight Freeney: UFA Chargers; $8.75M/2 yrs, $3.25M SB/$4/75M guaranteed.
--DE Clifton Geathers (traded Eagles).
--LB Jerry Hughes (traded Bills).
--NT Antonio Johnson: UFA Titans; $850,000/1 yr, $250,000 guaranteed.
--RB/KR Deji Karim: Not tendered as RFA/Texans; terms unknown.
--G Seth Olsen: Not tendered as RFA/Vikings; terms unknown.
--CB Jerraud Powers: UFA Cardinals; $3M SB.
--C A.Q. Shipley (traded Ravens).
--QB Drew Stanton: UFA Cardinals; $8.2M/3 yrs, $3M guaranteed.