Training camp is two weeks of workouts, 11 practices in a span of 13 days, so it’s fair to say the Indianapolis Colts’ position battles probably won’t be decided until the end of preseason.
Until then, here are positions worth watching closely at Anderson University and during preseason games as well as a few educated guesses, let’s call them hunches, on how these battles will play out.
Center — The competition is between Khaled Holmes, who finished last season as the starter, and Jonotthan Harrison, who started 10 games as a rookie last year. Holmes, a 2013 fourth-round choice, wasn’t in the equation for much of last season. But when the undrafted Harrison hit the rookie wall, Holmes was thrust into the lineup for the last five starts, including three playoff games.
Everyone remembers Harrison for having some botched snaps, but the Colts stuck by him because they saw promise in his physical play at the point of attack. The team said Holmes continued to work hard and earned the chance to start late in the season. He evidently wasn’t good enough before then, so it’s only human nature to have some doubts about him.
Hunch: Harrison beats out Holmes.
Safety — Mike Adams was re-signed for two years after making the first Pro Bowl of his 11-year career. He’ll again quarterback the secondary. Question is, will free-agent addition Dwight Lowery or rookie Clayton Geathers play alongside Adams?
The Colts drafted Geathers in the fourth round and liked his physical skills enough to plug him into the defense as a linebacker in some pass packages. Head coach Chuck Pagano conceded during offseason training activities that Geathers is raw, but praised his skill set and suggested he could see the newcomer making an immediate impact.
Hunch: Lowery starts out, but Geathers eventually earns a shot.
Offensive guard — Presuming Jack Mewhort moves to right tackle to replace Gosder Cherilus, that leaves Todd Herremans, Donald Thomas, Joe Reitz, Hugh Thornton, Ben Heenan or Lance Louis for the two guard spots. Herremans is a proven NFL starter with 127 games of experience. Thomas was supposed to be the answer at left guard but tore his right quadriceps twice, translating to just two games in two years.
Reitz was re-signed because he’s a versatile backup who knows the offense and can play either tackle or guard. Thornton, a former third-round pick, has started 20 of 24 games with mixed results. Heenan is a relative unknown as a former Canadian Football League star, but was coveted by many NFL teams. Louis was plugged into the lineup last season when injuries continued to mount, constituting this team using 11 different O-line starting combinations.
Hunch: Thomas starts at left guard and Herremans at right guard, but any setbacks, be it due to injury or ineffectiveness, and the team won’t hesitate to give any of the other guys a serious look.
Third wide receiver — The obvious spots are T.Y. Hilton, who made his first Pro Bowl last season, and newcomer Andre Johnson. Question is, who will play slot in three-wide formations, rookie Phillip Dorsett or second-year pro Donte Moncrief? And another question, will rookie Duron Carter, Vincent Brown or Griff Whalen get many, if any, snaps?
The Colts love Dorsett’s speed and fearless nature, the latter a necessity if running patterns over the middle from the slot. Dorsett was drafted in the first round, which means increased expectations and an immediate return on the investment (the front office doesn’t want to look like it made a mistake in not drafting a defensive player in the opening round). Moncrief showed as a rookie he can beat coverage deep as well as make difficult catches in the clutch. Expect the latter three to get their share of preseason snaps and make strong cases for sticking around.
Hunch: Dorsett starts in the slot, but splits time with Moncrief.
Reserve running back — Frank Gore gives the Colts their most established runner since Edgerrin James. Daniel Herron proved he can be a productive reserve when he got his shot last season. That leaves Vick Ballard, second-year pro Zurlon Tipton and rookie Josh Robinson fighting it out to decide the pecking order.
Ballard is coming off season-ending injuries in back-to-back seasons. He was solid as a rookie but hasn’t been able to stay healthy since. Tipton was an undrafted unknown who spent time on the practice squad and eventually earned snaps by season’s end. Robinson, a sixth-round pick, has impressed coaches with his energy and physical running style.
Hunch: A healthy Ballard earns a spot as does Robinson with Tipton starting off back on practice squad. But don’t be surprised if that changes quickly.
Colts Training Camp schedule
Saturday, Aug. 1st — Players arrive (no practice), Colts City closed.
Sunday, Aug. 2nd — 1:55-4:40 p.m. practice, 12:30-5 p.m. Colts City, Kids Day, Presented by Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.
Monday, Aug. 3rd — 1:55-4:40 p.m. practice, 12:30-5 p.m. Colts City.
Tuesday, Aug. 4th — 1:55-4:40 p.m. practice, 12:30-5 p.m. Colts City.
Wednesday, Aug. 5th — 6:25-9:10 p.m. practice, 5-9:30 p.m. Colts City, BBQ Bash at Training Camp.
Thursday, Aug. 6th — Players’ day off, Colts City Closed.
Friday, Aug. 7th — 1:55-4:40 p.m. practice, 12:30-5 p.m. Colts City.
Saturday, Aug. 8th — 1:55-4:40 p.m. practice, 12:30-5 p.m. Colts City, Armed Forces Day presented by BOSE.
Sunday, Aug. 9th — 1:55-4:40 p.m. practice, 12:30-5 p.m. Colts City, Community Take Back Day presented by the Indiana Prescription Drub Abuse Task Force.
Monday, Aug. 10th — 1:55-4:40 p.m. practice, 12:30-5 p.m. Colts City.
Tuesday, Aug. 11th — Players’ day off, Colts City Closed.
Wednesday, Aug. 12th — 1:55-4:40 p.m. practice, 12:30-5 p.m. Colts City.
Thursday, Aug. 13th — 1:55-4:40 p.m. practice, 12:30-5 p.m. Colts City.
Friday, Aug. 14th — 1:55-4:40 p.m. practice, 12:30-5 p.m. Colts City.
Saturday, Aug. 15th — BREAK CAMP, no practice, Colts City closed.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.