Good, bad and ugly from Colts camp
With the players getting a day off, the first week of camp in the books and a little more than one week until the first preseason game (next Thursday on the road against the Jets), this seems an opportune time to take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly – so far – as the Colts tune up for the 2014 season.
Keep in mind, in all of these evaluations: it’s very, very early. But it’s all we have for the time being, so let’s make the most of it, shall we?
>> Reggie’s Return: That Wayne was ready to go on the first day of camp was remarkable. That Chuck Pagano has managed his practice time carefully has been important, although difficult for Wayne to accept. He is moving fluidly and without hesitation. What remains to be seen is if he can still run his routes with the usual sharp precision and gain separation from opposing DBs once the games roll around so far, so good.
>> Comeback Kids: Having Donald Thomas back in the middle of the offensive line has proven of huge benefit because he is an extremely physical player capable of stepping in at all three interior spots. He’s still a bit rusty after all the downtime after surgery to repair a ruptured quad, but that’ll come. Dwayne Allen’s return from hip surgery has really put the offensive pieces back in place, both in terms of his help as a blocker in the run game and his ability to create mismatches as a receiver. And Ahmad Bradshaw, a player most of us thought would not be back after his neck surgery last year, has showed no ill effects.
>> Bjoern Ready: Lance is gone, so the nickname’s available, right? In his second camp, Werner looks like a first-round talent, consistently flashing into the backfield to disrupt plays. “I think that he might be the best German defensive end in the NFL,” Andrew Luck said with a laugh, but he was only partly kidding.
>> Getting Defensive: It would be only a mild stretch to suggest the defense has dominated most of the scrimmage time, and that’s not unusual in the early stages of camp. But indications are the additions of Arthur Jones and D’Qwell Jackson, and the growth of Josh Chapman are stabilizing the middle of the front seven, a major trouble spot for the team last season.
>> Weapons at WR: Much of this hinges on Wayne’s comeback sticking, but the wide receiver corps could be the best in years. T.Y. Hilton makes the tough catches look easy, Hakeem Nicks has been sure-handed and solid and rookie Donte Moncrief looks like not only a keeper, but a player fully capable of cracking the rotation.
>> Ground to a halt: A sore hamstring has kept Trent Richardson out most of camp thus far, so there has been no opportunity for him to develop much-needed timing and trust, not to mention confidence, within the structure of the offense. Mix in Vick Ballard’s injury and Chris Rainey’s release and the backfield is perilously thin. Even in-camp pickup Davin Meggett already has missed practice time. Bradshaw’s reps are necessarily limited, meaning plenty of opportunity for Boom Herron and Zurlon Tipton, which is great for them but not so much for the Colts.
>> Secondary primaries: It’s been tough to gauge the battle at free safety because strong safety LaRon Landry has yet to clock in (after missing all of the team’s offseason work, as well). He has the physique of an action figure, as well as the inflexibility. Vontae Davis likewise has yet to join the fray after signing his $36 million deal, so there has been a lot of shuffling going on in the defensive backfield as the coaches await the participation of the two purported leaders of the group.
>> If not for bad luck, Ballard would have no luck at all: Seriously, two years in a row with season-ending injuries in non-contact drills? Last year it was his right knee, this year his left Achilles tendon. You have to wonder if the taltned young running back will ever be able to come all the way back from two such significant surgeries.
>> Disappointing but not surprising: Staring at the best opportunity of his life to not only make a team but be a significant contributor both on special teams and in the run game, Rainey managed to get himself cut for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Arrested (stalking) once in college and twice (defiant trespassing and simple batter) while with the Steelers, Rainey just may have cost himself a career with this one, although the NFL seems awfully forgiving when it comes to talent.
>> Chipped beef: The timing of the off day was good for the Colts, who had three separate altercations in their previous two practice days. Some coaches like seeing that sort of competitive fire while others, including Tony Dungy, considered it a major breach of team discipline.