Colts Blog: 8/12

How's rookie tight end Gijon Robinson doing so far?...Why the nickel back competition is heating up...Will last year's fifth-round pick Michael Toudouze make the 53-man roster this year?...Observations on safety Scott Ware, cornerback Marlin Jackson, linebackers Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler and more in today's Colts Blog!

Rookie tight end Gijon Robinson has looked sharp in short-yardage situations and has made some nice short catches in goal-line drills. To date, he appears to be more effective working as an H-back than a true tight end. Overall, the depth chart from last year appears to be intact at this point with Dallas Clark and Ben Utecht as the top two tight ends with Bryan Fletcher rotating into the action periodically. Robinson appears to have an edge over Brigham Young's Jonny Harline at this early stage of camp.

The battle for the nickel back position, which many assumed would fall to 2006 second-round draft pick Tim Jennings, is clearly up for grabs. Rookie draft picks Dante Hughes and Michael Coe are showing rapid development and will push for the position. And as noted before, returns specialist T.J. Rushing is also making a serious push for consideration. This competition is going to be a great one to watch in the coming weeks.

Third-round pick Quinn Pitcock saw some action against the Cowboys, but he's still getting into playing shape. Limited by injury, Pitcock's loss of camp time combined with the inability to stay in playing shape while recovering has put him behind the curve. He took reps primarily with the second-team defensive linemen this past week with some limited exposure to the first-team rotation. But that mix of time will certainly change as camp progresses.

Tony Ugoh (AP)
Last year the Colts selected offensive tackle Michael Toudouze in the fifth-round of the draft. But he found himself relegated to the practice squad while sixth-round selection Charlie Johnson made the roster. Then, undrafted free agent Dan Federkeil was called up to the active roster. Will this year be any different as the Colts evaluate their offensive tackle depth chart? As of right now, it doesn't look like it. Tony Ugoh's showing enough progress that he's the likely starter at left tackle opposite veteran Ryan Diem at right tackle. Johnson, who played roughly three quarters in the Super Bowl at right tackle is nipping at Diem's heels as his backup. And it's Federkeil who is most likely to start the year as Ugoh's backup if the team decides to keep four offensive tackles on the active roster. That leaves Toudouze battling with rookies Joe Lobdell and Gabe Hall. Luckily for Toudouze, Hall is working through a camp injury right now, because the 6-foot-4, 293-pound rookie out of Texas Tech has great pass-blocking technique and is the most likely candidate to take away the former TCU lineman's practice squad spot.

The Colts added two cornerbacks after training camp started -- Cedrick Holt and Duane Coleman -- and as expected with their late arrival, neither one has been very noticeable so far.

Three players who had been bouncing back from injury were spotted back on the practice field during Saturday's brief practice, including starting defensive end Robert Mathis who was dealing with a sore knee. Also back in action were international development practice squad player Ben Ishola and rookie linebacker Clint Session.

During Thursday night's game against the Cowboys, reserve safety Scott Ware put a few good pops on receivers and runners, but his style was a bit unorthodox. At least on those plays, he was purely throwing himself at his opponent, leading with his shoulder. While it was effective on those specific plays, you can't help but wonder if the Colts are going to try to get him to wrap-up his opponent rather than just pop him. If Ware would try that technique with a bigger ball-carrier, like Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew, he'd likely be the only one laying on the turf after the collision.

You've got to feel good about the Colts' kickoff return situation this year with T.J. Rushing and Cro Thorpe both pushing the 30-yards per return threshold Thursday night. If Terrence Wilkins was expecting his phone to ring after the team's first preseason game to inquire about bringing him back, he better change his strategy and call his agent instead, urging him to find him a new team.

(Getty Images)
Marlin Jackson sure looked good against the Cowboys, not only in pass coverage, but particularly with his hitting and tackling against the run. That one open-field tackle to keep Marion Barber from getting around the edge was a real beauty. After the initial impact, which had to be scored slightly in Barber's favor, Jackson contorted his body to grab a hold of the Cowboys runner with every appendage available while knocked off balance. The coaches should make all the defensive backs repeatedly watch that play on film.

Weakside linebacker Freddy Keiaho got off to a solid start in his debut at his new position. After working behind Gilbert Gardner and Rob Morris last year at strongside linebacker, the second-year player is in the spot that he's built to play. While he got locked up a few times by offensive linemen who flew out of their stance and into the second-level, Keiaho overall did a good job of keeping himself free to roam and made some nice plays both as a tackler and as a pass defender. As he sees more game action at this position, he's going to thrive.

Speaking of linebackers, how about he effort from Tyjuan Hagler on Thursday night? In his third season with the team, he's now learning the strongside linebacker role after studying at middle linebacker during his rookie season while on the PUP list and then switching to weakside last year. Hagler is really maturing and is showing the speed and physical style of play that he had at the University of Cincinnati that made him so attractive to the Colts. A relatively quiet and modest guy off the field, Hagler is now displaying a level of confidence and a good command of what's going on around him -- and that's going to make it hard for the Colts to keep him out of the starting lineup much longer.

Everyone is buzzing now about the prospects of undrafted rookie Ed Johnson stepping into the starting rotation at defensive tackle, and he performed well enough to deserve it, making five tackles and registering two sacks. A strong run-stuffer while at Penn State, his pass rush results were probably more surprising than anything else. He could be one of the rare undrafted free agents who actually makes the 53-man roster if he can keep the confidence of the coaches and not let the early success go to his head.

It was great to see -- even in his limited time on the field against Dallas -- Marvin Harrison in action again. Come on, admit it. You got a little shot of adrenaline when he caught that 28-yard pass from Manning, didn't you? For anyone thinking that his productivity will drop off this year, you only had to watch him run that route to know that he's ready for another big season.


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