The Indianapolis Colts’ anticipated announcement that training camp will return to Anderson University this summer for a seventh consecutive year got me thinking.
There’s a lot to think about between now and late July (official practice dates will be announced later but the Colts play Green Bay in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 7). Here’s what’s on my mind when thinking about the Colts these days:
* Coby Fleener’s parting shots — The tight end openly questioning the commitment of some of his Colts teammates will be written off by many as sour grapes because the team didn’t re-sign him and stuck by Dwayne Allen. There’s no doubt Fleener was upset about being unwanted, but look at the bigger picture.
Fleener isn’t a dummy. In fact, he’s rather calculated when he speaks. He’s a Stanford guy, just like quarterback Andrew Luck. Fleener wouldn’t open his mouth out of respect for Luck unless he thought it needed to be said. I wouldn’t be surprised if Luck agrees with him. Based on what I’ve heard from a few Colts (nobody mentioned by name), there’s no doubt in my mind Fleener was being truthful.
Moving forward, we’re going to wonder about head coach Chuck Pagano’s locker room, how much or how little he’s in touch with what’s going on as well as how committed the guys will be to sticking together especially during tough times.
To be honest, those concerns have been there for a couple of years now. And they won’t go away any time soon.
* Is new corner a solution? — It’s amazing how quickly many rush to judgment about how recently signed cornerback Patrick Robinson will be an upgrade over Greg Toler. Too many people are ignoring the obvious on this.
Although Robinson got paid Toler money, $14 million for three years, that doesn’t mean he’s any better than the previous starter. In fact, don’t be surprised if he proves to be about the same as the guy who got picked on and humbled too many times.
Robinson was a first-round draft pick in 2010. If he makes enough plays for New Orleans, he’s never moving on elsewhere. He’s started 43 out of 74 games in his career, which sounds more like a nickel back than an outside corner. Nobody pays him what he wants in free agency, so he settles for a one-year run with San Diego. He started 10 of 16 games for the Chargers. Yeah, a team that didn’t have much of a defense didn’t start him every game. Think about that.
If he’s that good, he wouldn’t be available again on the open market. An old colleague always reminded of that. There’s a reason someone is available. Colts general manager Ryan Grigson spoke of how Robinson was on the team’s radar, but it’s more like Robinson fell in their lap after contract talks hit a snag in Dallas. NFL teams don’t sit around hoping a guy doesn’t sign somewhere else, not if they really want him.
* Addressing O-line — That the Colts have been relatively quiet in free agency means the upcoming draft will need to provide help for bolstering the O-line. As of now, and this opinion could change, my pick for No. 18 is Alabama center Ryan Kelly. The pass rushers expected to be available are reaches who might need time to develop. Kelly fixes a problem the Colts have had for too long.
As for offensive right tackle, forgive the lack of faith but it comes with the job. The Colts will want second-year pro Denzelle Good to be the guy. It’s telling that Grigson, Pagano and owner Jim Irsay have spoken in the offseason about needing to upgrade center and offensive guard. They obviously think right tackle isn’t an issue.
Joe Reitz is probably considered more valuable as a fill-in at guard or tackle when somebody gets hurt. But don’t be surprised if Reitz is pressed into duty at right tackle. Good made the jump from a small school to the NFL last year. Grigson will want to see his “find” succeed. Question is, how long will Good get to prove himself?
Should the Colts draft a tackle, many mocks have suggested Ohio State’s Taylor Decker, he might start out at guard as a rookie needing to learn the ropes.
* About that pass rush -- We're going to keep asking questions about if the Colts can get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Outside linebacker Robert Mathis is 35 and in the final year of his contract. Outside linebacker Trent Cole took less money in a restructured deal because even he knew his value on the open market wouldn't be much. The Colts kept him because they were unconvinced about pass rushers they could add in free agency, which so far has been nobody.
As stated before, the pass rushers expected to be available when the Colts are on the clock with the 18th overall pick sure seem like reaches. And after the Colts missed on Bjoern Werner in the first round, they're not going to be anxious to take a similar chance with another risky pick.
This much is clear: If the Colts can't rush the passer, don't expect enough defensive improvement. This 3-4 defense must get pressure or we're going to see a lot of high-scoring games which require the offense to carry the load. Have we not seen that enough already?
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.