Colts Camp Insider: 8/3

What's the latest on Cro Thorpe's chances with the team? ... How's fourth-round pick Brannon Condren look in the early days of camp? ... Two players that are absolutely hot ... One to watch at the middle linebacker spot on the depth chart ... and much more in today's Training Camp Insider Notes!

Quick Hits

If Cro Thorpe is going to make the roster, it'll likely have to be as a returns specialist. He's been a bit inconsistent in a crowded field of receivers, so that's not helping his case at that position. While handling kickoffs and punt returns, he's getting average marks so far. He dropped a couple of kickoffs during the special teams practice on Thursday afternoon.

Safety Brannon Condren is showing a real aggressive streak for a rookie that has helped him stand out during his first week in camp.  That said, his aggression and emotions have led to him taking himself out of plays at times, something that can be disastrous in Tony Dungy's Tampa 2 scheme that counts on players to keep the ball carrier contained when he's in their area. It'll be interesting to watch Condren's progress in the coming weeks since he appears to have the physical tools and attitude to be successful at this level.

Shane Andrus, who spent the early part of this year in NFL Europa, is back for his second camp with the Colts. Special teams coach Russ Purnell got a good look at him during Wednesday night's practice, resting Adam Vinatieri, as Andrus hit field goals of 43 and 52 yards. And the 52-yarder had enough behind it to have been good from at least 55 yards out.  Andrus is showing good leg strength and nice hang time on his kicks.

Anthony Gonzalez pulls in a pass
(AP Photo)
Tyjuan Hagler's been getting some work with the first-team defense when Rob Morris is filling in for Gary Brackett at middle linebacker. From an overall skill set perspective, Morris continues to look like a great match for the Colts' strongside containment role in this defense, and really seems to be enthusiastic about playing on the outside after his success there towards the end of 2006 season. Hagler is definitely in transition, getting used to doing more reading of the plays so that he can hold containment rather than reacting right away at the snap of the ball as he was able to do from the weakside. But he's another player that you can tell is really maturing in the defensive scheme and continues to show the ability to be a serious hitter.

Speaking of the middle linebacker spot, it's obvious at this point that if Brackett would have to miss time, the Colts' first choice at this juncture would be to move Morris back to the middle as their confidence in Hagler being able to handle the strongside would undoubtedly be higher than they would have in the reserves behind Brackett on the depth chart. The one guy to watch though is Brandon Archer, who has taken some reps from the middle linebacker spot and has successfully gotten right in the mix of the plays pretty consistently.

Defensive end Josh Thomas sat out the morning session, but had a good practice session that evening. He put a good lick on backup quarterback Jim Sorgi that forced a fumble.

It's obvious that offensive guard Rick DeMulling is happy to be back in Indy and working in offensive line coach Howard Mudd's system again. He worked with the first team earlier this week while Ryan Lilja sat out. DeMulling got a bad rap in Detroit, falling out of the starting lineup after establishing a strong track record as a starter in Mudd's system. Look for him to possibly bump Dylan Gandy to the primary backup role as center behind Jeff Saturday while still providing depth at the guard position as well.

With Saturday under contract through 2008 and entering his ninth season, the Colts need to start developing his eventual replacement. And it could certainly be Gandy, who is in his third season with the Colts and who has shown his ability to be a reliable member of the starting front five while filling in for Ryan Lilja last season.

Who's Hot

Harvard running back Clifton Dawson has been consistently showing off nice running instincts and burst that could help him land the power-back, short-yardage role. If he can step up, the Colts would have three dangerous, young backs that would allow them to match up to the down-and-distance situations nicely. Dawson is really making a good impression with his pass-blocking skills as well.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of camp so far is that T.J. Rushing has not only looked good as a returns specialist -- which the team obviously counted on -- since the team didn't re-sign Terrence Wilkins -- but he's been looking sharp as a cornerback. And while he was a solid contributor at that spot at Stanford, some questioned if he'd be able to play the position at the pro level. In his second training camp, Rushing is making the statement that he can hold his own out there as a pass defender.

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