Fear not sports fans, the NFL season is fast approaching. Training camp starts at the end of the month and soon we’ll have real news stories to consume.
For the Colts, players will report to camp in Anderson on July 27th. The first practice of the year will be on Sunday the 28th.
Practices are open to the public and the schedule can be found here.
The Colts have been extremely active in the offseason and it is exciting to imagine the possibilities for this team. There has been a lot of speculation on what the ceiling is for the 2013 Colts.
If you believe NFL Live on ESPN, the Colts are due for a massive sophomore slump (but the Redskins can win their division, how does that work?). This team overachieved in a big way last season. Chuck Pagano will be back to hopefully coach his first full season with the Colts. The team rode an emotional wave last season into the playoffs. Stability in the coaching staff will be key for the team this year, and having Pagano involved with game planning (specifically on defense) will make the Colts better.
The schedule is much more difficult this season and the Colts will need a balanced approach to make the playoffs once again.
Here are a few things we want to see early in camp:
- Better protection. Andrew Luck is the franchise. For years fans, and analysts, talked about what would happen if Peyton Manning got hurt, and we found out in 2011. The same can be said about this team with Luck at the helm. Luck was hit and knocked down (83 and 122, respectively) far more times than any other QB in the league. Keeping him upright won’t just limit injury but also improve production on the field.
- Productive run game. New offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has promised a more balanced attack on offense. The addition of Ahmad Bradshaw will instantly improve the ground game, provided he stays helpful. In 2012, Bradshaw was very inconsistent, he only topped 100 yards a game four times, and had six games with less than 50 yards. Vick Ballard showed flashes of being a very good running back, and given a better line could do big things on the field. A better rushing attack means less passing attempts for Luck, who set a rookie record in attempts at 627, and less opportunities for him to get hit.
- Something resembling a defense. The Colts are still trying to transition to a 3-4 defense, and this season have much better personnel to fit the scheme. Indianapolis had the 31st ranked defense in 2012, so there is no where to go but up. Adding LeRon Landry is a solid addition to the secondary and he brings the sort of physical presence that fans haven’t seen since Bob Sanders. But also like Sanders, Landry has a history of injury problems. Fans will also finally see Josh Chapman at nose tackle. The former Alabama player was sidelined his rookie year with a knee injury, but he has the potential to be a monster clogging up the middle.
- Less is more on defense. The Colts also won’t have players playing out of position. Dwight Freeney is gone (single tear rolls down cheek) but he was really bad at the outside linebacker. Jerry Hughes is also gone (fans cheer). Hughes never developed into the next Robert Mathis like he was supposed to. More often than not, he simply didn’t show any effort. The Colts drafted Bjoern Werner in the first round, and there is a feeling that he might go down a road similar to Hughes. Werner played in a 4-3 system at Florida State as a defensive end, and he’ll have to transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Hughes did the opposite and it didn’t work out.
The AFC is wide open. The only lock, as I see it, is Denver. If the Broncos don’t make the Super Bowl, something went seriously wrong. The Colts have a shot at winning the AFC South, which really isn’t all that strong this season. If Houston really wants to accomplish something this season, they should start by beating the Colts in Indianapolis (a feat they have yet to do, even in 2011).
We’ll be looking at every facet of the Colts until training camp starts.
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