It’s finally time for Andrew Luck. It’s finally time for a new era.
The season really doesn’t get underway until July 28, when the players report to training camp at Anderson University. Nevertheless, mini-camp, which starts today, is the first chance we’ll get at seeing the entire 2012 roster (for now) together, with Andrew Luck at the helm.
As the team embarks on three days of work, all eyes will be on Andrew Luck, the obvious choice for “Biggest Storyline of Colts’ Camp.”
He’s replacing an incredibly successful legend in Peyton Manning, and will be the face of the new regime and it’s place in history. If Luck turns into a superstar, the Steve Young to Manning’s Joe Montana, then he will forever be the face of the second era of greatness in Indianapolis. If he flops, just ok, or even slightly above average, he will forever be associated with the loss of Manning, and likely the failed regime of GM Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano.
But, Luck isn’t alone. He has help, and not only in the few aging but proud veterans who stuck around (Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney, Reggie Wayne, Antoine Bethea, Jerraud Powers, Austin Collie, etc.), but in new talent as well. Stanford teammate Coby Fleener will be a familiar and (hopefully) potent target at tight end, and third round draft pick Dwayne Allen offers skills as a well rounded tight end. The offensive line is remade on the right side, and looks to be the best it’s been in at least three years.
Coach Pagano is a rookie head coach, but has potential to be a very good one, especially if he’s not afraid to listen to new theories and trends in today’s NFL (such as going for it more on 4th down, something Jim Caldwell never grasped). Ryan Grigson is also green when it comes to being a GM, but he’s made some very smart moves this season, most notably the aggressive manner in which he committed to wiping the slate clean.
But Luck will be the primary focus of many members of the media, for obvious reasons. There will be no shortage of storylines, even outside of the number one overall pick.
1. How does the cornerback depth chart shake out?
The secondary is easily the weakest group of the team, with the cornerbacks being the primary soft spot. Jerraud Powers is a solid corner, but the Colts will need him to play a full season in 2012, something he’s never gotten to do. The rest of the unit is full of unknowns, nobody has a proven starting record. Can one of the young defensive backs, such as Kevin Thomas, Terrence Johnson, or Chris Rucker, surprise us? Will one of the free agent signings, either Cassius Vaughn or Justin King step up in a new town and scheme to be a valid second cornerback? This development is critical for success in 2012, and will be a primary focus for me during mini-camp, not to mention training camp in August.
2. How cohesive is the offensive line, especially a revamped right side?
The left side of the line should end up as Anthony Castonzo at tackle and Joe Reitz at guard, two players who played well together last season, when healthy. With both of them only having a year under their belts, they should improve. The right side is more interesting to me, as we have three unknowns at those spots. Can Samson Satele become consistently dominant at center? Does Benjamin Ijalana or Mike McGlynn start at right guard? Ijalana won’t be playing until training camp, due to his on-going recovery, but we can get a look at McGlynn. Can Winston Justice be a viable starting right tackle? There seems to be good leadership coming from the free agent pick ups on the line, from Satele, McGlynn, and Justice, but that leadership won’t mean a whole lot if they can’t be contributors.
3. How will the new offensive scheme look?
We know the offense will rely on tight ends, but how much? I would guess that the Colts will likely model their use of the tight ends like New England did last year, with Dwayne Allen being the better all-around player (a la Rob Gronkowski), but Fleener being a more receiver/tight end hybrid (Hernandez). This would lead to Fleener being split out a lot of the time. What kind of passing offense will we see? What kind of focus will the running game have? We should see some hints of this at mini-camp.
4. How are the linebackers and linemen transitioning?
The biggest transition for the defense will be the scheme change for long time 4-3 players in the front seven. Not only is the transition for long-time defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis a big change, but the responsibilities for inside linebackers Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner are much different in this defense than they were in the Tampa-2. Not to mention the defensive line changes for Drake Nevis, Fili Moala, and Antonio Johnson. How will they respond to a completely different situation?
These are just four of many different storylines, and I know that everyone has their personal focuses during this time.
So, what is your interest as we look ahead to the 2012 Indianapolis Colts? What’s your pressing question?