Colts training camp: 5 hot topics

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Andrew Luck speaking at Colts training camp in 2015

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The anticipation ramps up as each player arrives on the Anderson University campus Tuesday morning, carrying boxes stuffed with personal items, laptops/iPads and anything that might make the next three weeks more comfortable.

A dorm room is home-away-from-home until camp breaks Aug. 11 and the Colts complete their preseason preparation at their Indianapolis headquarters. Until then, the schedule calls for just 11 practices, all of which are open to the public free of charge. Players are on the field for the first time Wednesday.

As we head into yet another summer in Anderson, here are five hot topics we’ll be especially monitoring:

Who’s ready?

Several prominent players missed most or all of the team’s offseason work while recovering from surgery or an injury. The list includes defensive tackles Henry Anderson (knee) and Art Jones (ankle), wide receiver Donte Moncrief (toe), cornerback D’Joun Smith (knee), guard Hugh Thornton (unknown) and rookie linebackers Antonio Morrison (hamstring) and Curt Maggitt (hip).

A few of those, including Anderson, probably will open training camp on the physically unable to perform list while they complete the rehab process. But it’s important for Thornton and Smith to be ready ASAP. Thornton must mount a serious challenge to be the starting right guard. Smith’s rookie season was limited to four games by knee surgery and he encountered some type of setback during the offseason.

It will be interesting to see how the team handles Jones, who missed all of 2015 after undergoing ankle surgery in September. He has been suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing substances policy, but is allowed to participate in all preseason activities, including games.

Summer rerun:

Yet again, no area will be under more scrutiny than the offensive line. And for good reason. Owner Jim Irsay made quarterback Andrew Luck the highest-paid player in NFL history with a five-year, $123 million extension, and he’s tired of watching the franchise’s most indispensible player getting roughed up behind a shoddy and ever-changing line.

Management took steps to ease the concerns of Irsay and the abuse of Luck by using four of its eight draft picks on offensive linemen. The last time one draft produced four offensive linemen: 1983, when the Colts still called Baltimore home.

Ryan Kelly was inserted into the center slot the second the team snatched him with the 18th overall pick in the draft. He’ll be Luck’s sixth starting center, and must provide interior stability.

The left side of the line is set with Anthony Castonzo at tackle and Jack Mewhort at guard, and Joe Reitz is the starting right tackle. But what of right guard? Thornton? Denzelle Good? Jon Harrison? And how quickly can the other three draft picks – Le’Raven Clark, Joe Haeg and Austin Blythe – get up to speed?

Stay tuned.


Making progress?:

A player normally makes his biggest jump from year 1 to year 2. That in mind, the Colts are expecting better things from members of the 2015 draft class: wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, safety Clayton Geathers, nose tackle David Parry, Anderson, Smith and Good.

Dorsett figures to draw the most attention. The first-round pick had a quiet debut (18 catches, 225 yards, one touchdown) while missing time with a broken leg and learning the system, but everyone is expecting so much more. The Colts likely will transition from a two-tight end offense to one featuring more three-receiver sets, but that will require Dorsett to handle a much heavier load while complementing T.Y. Hilton and Moncrief.

We’re most interested in whether Smith, a third-round pick, is full-go at the start of camp. Vontae Davis and Patrick Robinson are the starting cornerbacks, but Smith needs to push Darius Butler for the No. 3 spot.

Where’s the rush?:

At the risk of really angering Robert Mathis, we’ll keep asking that question until the Colts adequately answer it.

Even at 35 and in his 14th season, we expect Mathis to tack up a double-digit sack season. He’s another year removed from the Achilles injury, and motivated to once again prove his doubters wrong. But after that, we wonder. The list of pass-rush threats includes Trent Cole, who equaled a career-low with 3 sacks last year; Erik Walden, whose primary responsibility is holding the edge against the run; seventh-round pick Trevor Bates; and Curt Maggitt and Ron Thompson, a pair of undrafted rookies.

Again, where’s the rush?

Depth concerns:

A few areas catch our eye.

Of the 12 receivers on the camp roster, five are rookies, one (Josh Stangby) has never played in an NFL game and another (Quan Bray) has yet to catch an NFL pass.

Hilton, Moncrief and Dorsett could be an exciting trio. But it’s going to take four or five legitimate receivers if coordinator Rob Chudzinski is going to make liberal use of three-receiver sets.

At safety, Mike Adams’ resume includes 175 games and 102 starts. The other six share 66 games and seven starts. Three are rookies.

At tight end, Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle sit atop the depth chart. Behind them: Erik Swoope, who’s been marinating on the practice squad the past two seasons and has appeared in one game; undrafted rookies Mike Miller and Darion Griswold; and recently-signed Emil Igwenagu, who might be a fullback prospect.