1. Get healthy, stay healthy.
The Colts were hit hard by injuries to key players a year ago. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison (knee), defensive end Dwight Freeney (foot) and defensive end Robert Mathis (knee) went down and Bob Sanders — the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year — had offseason surgery on his shoulders.
Add to that list linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, who suffered a torn pectoral muscle while lifting weights in June. Harrison, Freeney, Sanders and Hagler are expected to begin training camp on the Colts' physically unable to perform list.
If all goes well, three of those players — Harrison, Freeney and Sanders — should be given the green light to begin the regular season against Chicago. Hagler, though, may miss the first couple weeks of the regular season.
Second-year wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who missed playing time early in his rookie year, and wide receiver Roy Hall are also expected to be healthy this season. Hall spent most of his first year in the league on the Colts' injured reserve squad after suffering a shoulder injury early in the 2007 season.
2. Coach up the young offensive linemen:
The Colts invested three draft picks on offensive linemen, bringing Mike Pollak, Steve Justice and Jamey Richard on board. All three are expected to add to the team's overall depth as rookies. All three are former collegiate centers, but the Colts' coaching staff — most notably veteran offensive line coach Howard Mudd — loves their versatility. Pollak, Justice and Richard will see work at both offensive guard spots, as well as at center.
Pollak is in contention — along with third-year veteran Charlie Johnson — for a starting role as the team looks to replace former right offensive guard Jake Scott, who signed with the Tennessee Titans as an unrestricted free agent.
Mudd has done well in past seasons in getting young offensive linemen prepared for the rigors of an NFL season. Pollak, Justice and Richard could end up giving the Colts quality depth (as well as some much needed insurance) for several years down the road.
3. Improve the pass rush:
The Colts have two of the league's best pass rushers in defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. But when both guys were hurt last year, the pass rush slowed considerably.
Backup defensive ends Josh Thomas and Jeff Charleston did a nice job against the run but neither possesses the athleticism and speed off the edge of Freeney or Mathis. Thomas comes closer than Charleston, but he has been bothered off and on by a sore knee in recent seasons.
To that end, Indianapolis drafted former University of Georgia pass-rush specialist Marcus Howard and signed undrafted free agent Curtis Johnson in an effort to bolster the team's depth. Howard and Johnson both fit the template of what the Colts look for in a defensive end — speed, speed, speed. Team president Bill Polian and head coach Tony Dungy will give up the prototypical size of what most NFL teams may be looking for in a defensive lineman in order to be able to improve Indianapolis' overall team speed and athleticism.