WEEK 5: AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Date: Sunday, Oct. 7. Time: noon. TV: Fox.
2011 record: 2-14. Points scored: 243 (28th). Points against: 430 (28th).
Noteworthy: It's a strange sight without Peyton Manning, Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett, Melvin Bullitt and Joseph Addai in the locker room. Rather than two locker stalls reading "Manning 18" it's "Harvey 54" and "McGlynn 75," for linebacker Mario Harvey and guard Mike McGlynn. The series: The Packers and Colts are tied 20-20-1. Manning, who led the Colts to nine consecutive playoff berths, went 1-2 against Green Bay. The Colts will be coming off of their bye.
TRAINING CAMP GOALS
1. The Colts have plenty of work to do when training camp commences on July 28 at Anderson University. With a new general manager, new head coach, new offensive and defensive coordinators and most of a new coaching staff, there's also the matter of installing new offensive and defensive systems. A lot of work has already gone on during spring OTAs and minicamps in that direction. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, even while attending classes at Stanford during voluntary workouts, has gained a pretty good read on the playbook. Luck will be given free rein with the offense this season, and it will be interesting to watch his learning curve develop. The Indianapolis defense is a work in progress due to the shift from a 4-3 alignment to a new 3-4 hybrid scheme.
2. In addition to all the changes in the front office and the coaching staff, there was a massive roster shift during the offseason. The Colts have gone from one of the most experienced teams in the NFL to one of its youngest in a short period of time. So, coming together as a team, finding that chemistry on both sides of the ball, will be paramount during training camp. Coach Chuck Pagano thinks the groundwork for a new Colts franchise was set during the offseason. Pagano came away from the spring workouts impressed with the work ethic and drive displayed by the team's returning players. He liked the tone that was set by veterans such as wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie, Defensive end/linebackers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and safety Antoine Bethea.
PLAYER TO WATCH
In the case of the Colts, it's probably more appropriate to say persons to watch. Both are rookies. Tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen are expected to produce big results in 2012. With the loss of veteran tight ends Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme, Fleener and Allen are expected to give the Indianapolis passing attack a lift. They should prove tough to defend, both down the seam (Fleener) and in goal-line/short-yardage situations (Allen). Fleener has size and speed. Allen has bulk and speed. Both are athletic. New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians liked to use a double tight-end alignment when he was in charge of Pittsburgh's offense, so look for the combination of Fleener and Allen to get plenty of work this fall.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Dwight Freeney. With the change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 hybrid defensive alignment, Freeney will get a chance to play outside linebacker. That means he'll be dropping back in pass coverage on occasion, something he did occasionally earlier in his Colts career. But Freeney hasn't done it on a regular basis during his NFL career. To his credit, the Pro-Bowl veteran has — publicly at least — welcomed the change and was a regular at the team's offseason OTA sessions. New Indianapolis defensive coordinator Greg Manusky understands Freeney's limitations as a pass defender. But he also thinks that Indianapolis' former No. 1 draft pick can fill the same role that Terrell Suggs did for Chuck Pagano in Baltimore. How much Freeney will be dropping back into coverage remains to be seen.
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