Indianapolis Colts: 2014 NFL Training Camp

Most significant move: Safety Delano Howell's neck injury isn't severe enough to force him to retire, but it is bad enough that he won't play this season. Howell was waived-injured. He'll revert to the Indianapolis Colts' injured reserve list if he clears waivers. The past few months have not been good for Howell, who spent most of the offseason as the leading candidate to replace the departed Antoine Bethea at safety. The Colts signed veteran Mike Adams in June and then Howell spent the final portion of training camp on the sideline watching because of his neck problems. A source told ESPN.com on Aug. 22 that Howell's neck injury isn't career threatening.

Trade that didn't work out: The Colts sent defensive end Jerry Hughes to Buffalo for linebacker Kelvin Sheppard in 2013. Sheppard eventually replaced starter Pat Angerer at inside linebacker and ended up starting seven games last season. But Sheppard got caught up in the numbers game and was released. He lost his starting job when the Colts signed veteran D'Qwell Jackson. The Colts have high expectations for inside linebackers Josh McNary and Henoc Muamba. Sheppard won't be out of a job long because he'll likely end up being signed by another team.

What's next: The Colts will form their 10-man practice squad that likely will include several of the players they released. The most notable player likely to end up on the practice squad is tight end Erik Swoope, a former University of Miami basketball player who never had played football prior to signing with the Colts in May. The Colts are intrigued by Swoope's athleticism. He has to learn how to do the little things better. Players such as linebacker Andrew Jackson, the team's sixth-round pick, and center FN Lutz will also likely end up on the practice squad along with several others the Colts waived.

Colts moves: Released DE Gannon Conway, RB David Fluellen, QB Chandler Harnish, DE Tyler Hoover, OLB Phillip Hunt, ILB Andrew Jackson, WR Ryan Lankford, WR Josh Lenz, C FN Lutz, S Dewey McDonald, DT Nnamdi Obukwelu, CB Sheldon Price, ILB Rob Ruggiero, TE Weslye Saunders, ILB Kelvin Sheppard, TE Erik Swoope, NT Brandon McKinney and G Josh Walker. Waived-injured OT Matt Hall and S Delano Howell. Placed OLB Robert Mathis on reserve-suspended list.
INDIANAPOLIS -- After three weeks of training camp, four preseason games and more than a handful of practices at their facility, it’s time for the regular season to start for the Indianapolis Colts.

Holmes
And just like when they reported to training camp at Anderson (Indiana) University on July 23, the Colts head into the regular season with legitimate concerns about their offensive line outside of starting tackles Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus.

The projected starters on the interior of the offensive line -- center Khaled Holmes, guard Hugh Thornton and guard Jack Mewhort -- only played a few snaps together because of injuries.

Holmes sprained his ankle on the first series in the preseason opener against the New York Jets on Aug. 7. He has yet to practice and the Colts are "hopeful" that he will be ready for the Sept. 7 game in Denver. It’s not like Holmes has an an upper body injury that would allow him to work on his conditioning while injured. He will need some time to work himself back into shape.

The youth and lack of practice time for the interior part of the offensive line is a scary thought when you take into account the Colts are about to face the team that represented the AFC in the Super Bowl last season. It's definitely not good for quarterback Andrew Luck and the running backs.

That is only the start of the problems for the offensive line.

Jonotthan Harrison, Xavier Nixon and Joe Reitz were also injured in the preseason. It got so bad that defensive end Tyler Hoover played 56 snaps at tackle against Cincinnati on Thursday.

"We’ve got a lot of injuries," coach Chuck Pagano said. "We don’t have a lot of time. And you know what? Nobody really cares, and nobody really feels sorry for us. So, it’s next man up."

Don’t get too excited about the 53-man roster once the Colts release it this weekend. The moving parts on the roster won’t stop after that because GM Ryan Grigson will be paying attention to the waiver wire so he can add some more bodies to the offensive line.

It has gotten to that point for the Colts before they have even played one regular-season game.

The Colts have plenty of playmakers at quarterback, receiver, tight end and potentially at running back. But none of that will matter if the five guys up front can’t run block or pass protect. And right now, you have to wonder if they will be able to do those things.

Indianapolis Colts' projected roster

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
10:00
AM ET
Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts' running game took a hit when Vick Ballard was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Chris Rainey, who had the inside track on being the No. 3 running back, was released after violating team rules. Harvey makes the team as a fullback after playing linebacker his entire career.

RECEIVERS (5)

You got an indication of where things stood with Whalen when the coaches allowed him to sit out with the rest of the veterans in the preseason finale at Cincinnati on Thursday. Then Da'Rogers, his prime competitor for the final receiver spot, showed his immaturity when he punted the ball into the stands after scoring a touchdown. There is the possibility that the Colts could keep six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus, especially with Donald Thomas (quad) out for the season and Mewhort, Thornton, Nixon and Holmes dealing with injuries at different times in the preseason.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

The Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he is on the field. Kerr clearly outplayed Brandon McKinney in the preseason. Jeris Pendleton's season-ending ACL injury allows Kerr to make the roster.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Robert Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner will start in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It will be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary. The Colts will have to release a player once Mathis returns from his suspension.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It is anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It is anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell early in the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June and Howell has a neck injury that has kept him out the lineup for the past few weeks. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST (3)

This only changes if an injury occurs.
The Indianapolis Colts made four roster moves Tuesday afternoon to get down to 75 players.

Most significant move: Running back Vick Ballard was expected to be a part of the Colts’ backfield that also features Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. The three were supposed to team together to help complement the Colts’ passing game. Ballard barely had a chance to show what he could do because his season ended before it really started. He tore his Achilles during a running back passing drill early in training camp last month. This is the second straight season that Ballard’s season ended because of an injury in practice. He tore his ACL in practice prior to Week 2 last season.

Harvey at fullback: With fullback Stanley Havili being placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which means he has to sit out at least the first six weeks, Mario Harvey will be the Colts’ lone fullback if they decide to keep one. Harvey is in his first season playing fullback after being a linebacker his entire career. The other option would be for the Colts to release Harvey when they have to get down to 53 players by Saturday and use one of their tight ends in situations in which a fullback is needed, as they did at times last season.

Colts’ cuts: RB Vick Ballard (injured reserve), OT Ulrick John (injured reserve), RB Deji Karim (injured reserve), FB Stanley Havili (reserve/physically unable to perform), CB Johnny Adams, CB Qua Cox, G Andre Cureton, G Marcus Hall, CB Kameron Jackson, WR Nu'Keese Richardson, LB Jonathon Sharpe, S David Sims, WR Eric Thomas, WR Tony Washington and FB Cameron White
Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts' running game took a hit when Vick Ballard was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Chris Rainey, who had the inside track on being the No. 3 running back, was recently released after violating team rules. Harvey, who has made the switch from linebacker, has moved ahead of Stanley Havili to be the team's fullback because Havili is on the physically unable to perform list.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he is familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There is also the possibility the Colts keep six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus, especially with Donald Thomas (quad) out for the season. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he is on the field. McKinney makes the roster now that Jeris Pendleton is out for the season with a torn ACL.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It will be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It is anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It is anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell early in the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST (3)

This only changes if an injury occurs.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts have gone from facing quarterback Geno Smith of the New York Jets in the first preseason game to facing Eli Manning of the New York Giants in the second preseason to now being truly tested in a game.

Brees
The Colts' defense, which has played well in the preseason, faces the New Orleans Saints on Saturday. Saints quarterback Drew Brees will be making his preseason debut in the game.

"It’s going to be a great barometer to see just how far we’ve come defensively," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "We’re off to a good start defensively when you look at the numbers from the first two ball games ... From an individual standpoint, position standpoint and then collectively as a unit, those guys are all excited to play an outstanding team, an outstanding offensive unit and see exactly where we’re at."

Brees and the Saints’ offense averaged almost 26 points and nearly 400 yards a game last season, which means the Colts will have their hands full defensively. The Colts’ starting defense held the Giants to 53 yards on 20 plays in fours series last weekend.

This won’t be a game where the starters barely break a sweat and then sit down. Both teams are expected to play their starters to at least halftime.

"That third game is usually the vital one," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "The majority of the time they play the first half, a little bit into the third. They’re a good football team. Brees is a good quarterback. It’ll be a good test for us."
Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts' running game took a hit when Vick Ballard was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Chris Rainey, who had the inside track on being the No. 3 running back, was recently released for violating team rules. Harvey, who has made the switch from linebacker, has moved ahead of Stanley Havili to be the team's fullback because Havili is on the physically unable to perform list.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus, especially with Donald Thomas (quad) out for the season. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field. McKinney makes the roster now that Jeris Pendleton is out for the season with a torn ACL.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST (3)

This only changes if an injury occurs.

Colts Camp Report: Day 16

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
5:40
PM ET
ANDERSON, Ind. -- A daily review of hot topics coming out of Indianapolis Colts training camp:
  • The players didn’t waste any time loading up their cars and speeding out of the parking lot at Anderson (Indiana) University to head back home after spending the past three weeks in training camp. “Offense, defense and special teams, individually, I think we’ve seen everybody make strides,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “We’ve seen everybody get better. I think as long as we stay on track and avoid the injury bug. If we stay healthy ... I think this team has the potential to do some great things this year."
  • Quarterback Andrew Luck will play against the visiting Giants on Saturday (7 p.m. ET). How much he plays will likely depend on how successful the offense is, according to Pagano. “That's the plan right now, and then we'll see how that goes,” the coach said. “If we have two drives like we had in the first ballgame, you've got a 10, 12-play drive and you've got a couple scores, then it might be time to pull him if that happens before the first quarter. So we'll just play it by ear." Receiver T.Y. Hilton will play despite not practicing the previous two days.
  • Pagano had hoped for rookie offensive lineman Jack Mewhort to practice Wednesday after not practicing the previous three days. That didn’t happen. Mewhort had offseason knee surgery and was pulled from practice early last Saturday. "He could have went, but I held him,” Pagano said. “I was just making sure that thing's all right." As far as other key players go, the Colts are going to take a wait-and-see approach with running back Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw didn’t play against the New York Jets last week and he’s wearing a red no-contact jersey in practice. “We'll see where he's at from a physical standpoint (Friday), see how he's feeling and then make a decision if we want to play him or not," Pagano said.
  • There were a lot of nervous players standing on the field late Wednesday morning. They had put the final 40 minutes of practice in the hands of special teams coaches Tom McMahon and Brant Boyer. Catch the kickoff off the Jugs machine and Pagano would end training camp early. Drop the ball and the final practice continues. Two tries, one catch. That's all it took for the celebration to take place. Practice ended -- and the celebration began -- after the first kick. “(McMahon’s) a gamer,” Pagano said. “I found out he's a gamer, so good job Tommy."
ANDERSON, Ind. -- The Indianapolis Colts wrapped up training camp at Anderson (Indiana) University 40 minutes early Wednesday when special-teams coordinator Tom McMahon caught a kickoff. McMahon was immediately mobbed by the players because it meant they were able to head back to their homes in Indianapolis.

With that said, here are my training camp awards:

Bush
Wayne
Best Comeback: The only question really remaining with receiver Reggie Wayne is how he’ll handle being tackled for the first time since tearing his ACL last October. That will happen at some point in the preseason. Throughout camp, Wayne was on the field making sharp cuts, catching passes in the middle of the field and being that security blanket quarterback Andrew Luck was used to prior to the injury. Will Wayne be the same player who had 1,000-yard seasons earlier in his career? That likely won’t happen because he’s almost 36 years old and the Colts don’t need him to be with the offensive weapons they have -- Hakeem Nicks, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. But just know that Wayne will be ready to make a play when the ball comes his way. Allen is a close second with this award because his return gives the Colts one of the best young all-around tight ends in the league. The Colts missed Allen’s blocking ability last season.

Ballard
Tough Luck: Unfortunately, we’re not talking about how tough Andrew Luck is on this one. This is all about running back Vick Ballard and guard Donald Thomas. Both players were supposed to be significant players on offense this year, but their seasons ended -- again -- before they could even get tired of eating cafeteria food or looking at each other in their dorm rooms. Ballard tore his Achilles during a running back pass-catching drill and Thomas tore the same quad that cost him the 2013 season during practice.

Most Impressive Rookie: You can argue it’s Jack Mewhort because he has moved into Thomas’ starting position at guard, but I’m going with receiver Donte Moncrief. Moncrief, the Colts’ third-round pick, had a reputation for dropping passes while at Mississippi. That wasn’t the case during camp. He has deceptive speed, he’s tough and he often found a way to come down with the ball in traffic. Moncrief is positioning himself to be the Colts’ fourth receiver this season.

Toler
Most Motivated: Cornerback Greg Toler knows not many people believe he can stay healthy. Why should they? Toler has yet to play a full season in his five-year career. That’s why while cornerback Vontae Davis and safety LaRon Landry missed minicamp in June and the first part of training camp nursing injuries, Toler practiced every day except when coach Chuck Pagano gave his veteran players days off to rest. Toler’s aggressive style of play sets the tone for the secondary.

Thomas
Biggest Question Mark: It’s the same question the Colts had entering camp -- the interior part of the offensive line. First Thomas goes down with his season-ending injury. Then center Khaled Holmes sprains his ankle on the first series against the New York Jets, putting him on the sidelines for a couple weeks. And then Mewhort didn’t practice the final three days of training camp because of an issue with his knee, which he had surgery on during the offseason. With that said, there’s no doubt there’s still legit concerns about the interior part of the offensive line.

Nicks
Best Catch: Tight end Weslye Saunders can thank Nicks for taking this award from him. Nicks beat undrafted rookie free agent cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and made a one-handed catch on a fade pattern in the corner of the end zone. Saunders, in that same corner of the end zone, beat Landry -- on a fade, too -- during practice. Saunders added a little flavor to things by tossing the ball to Landry after the play.

Biggest Knucklehead: You didn’t really think Chris Rainey was going to get a pass? First Rainey was waived by the Colts for violating team rules. Then he went to Twitter and drew more attention to himself during the Colts’ preseason opener last week. He said he didn’t break a team rule and then added another tweet where he claimed fellow running back Daniel “Boom” Herron was playing around with the fire extinguisher, too, the night Rainey got in trouble. Rainey likely won’t have the trust of his teammates -- if he gets another shot in the NFL -- after he broke an unwritten rule of airing dirty laundry that's meant to stay in house. Oh yeah, Rainey also pulled the “Somebody else tweeted it” line that we’re accustomed to seeing when people tweet foolish things. Now do you see why he gets this award?

Colts Camp Report: Day 15

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
7:15
PM ET
ANDERSON, Ind. -- A daily review of hot topics coming out of Indianapolis Colts training camp:
  • You would have thought the Colts were taking part in a fall practice and not one in the second week of August on Tuesday. The temperature was in low 60s and it rained the majority of their afternoon practice. That didn’t stop receiver Hakeem Nicks from having the best play of the day. Nicks beat undrafted rookie free agent cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and made a one-handed catch on a fade pattern in the corner of the end zone. Nicks’ catch gives further proof that he’ll be an additional weapon for quarterback Andrew Luck to go with fellow receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.
  • Coach Chuck Pagano said he still hasn’t made up his mind on whether Wayne will play in his first game since Week 7 of last season against the New York Giants on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Wayne has said since the start of training camp that he wants his first tackle in a game to come in the preseason, not in the season opener against Denver on Sept. 7. "That’s the mindset, but at the same time if the big dog tells me to sit it down, I am going to sit it on down,” Wayne said. “Like I said, I am just here to serve. I am just a servant. I am Semmi in "Coming to America." I’m just here to do my job, and when it’s time and the time comes, I am going to be ready. Ready to perform the way I have been performing.”
  • On Monday, Pagano wore a T-shirt with “Kelly Tough” on the front in honor of Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly, who is battling cancer. Pagano, who battled leukemia in 2012, wasn’t done wearing T-shirts to honor those in a health fight. He wore a T-shirt that read “Indianapolis for DQ” -- Houston Texans offensive tackle David Quessenberry is battling non-Hodgkins T Lymphoblastic lymphoma. Pagano always talks about brotherhood inside the Colts organization. He continues to show there’s also a brotherhood when it comes to those having to battle off the football field, too.
  • Here’s your rundown of players who did not practice: center Khaled Holmes (ankle), linebacker Josh McNary (shoulder), guard Jack Mewhort (knee), linebacker Andrew Jackson (hamstring), receiver Nu'Keese Richardson (concussion), safety Delano Howell (neck), linebacker Jerrell Freeman (thumb), receiver T.Y. Hilton (rest) and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (rest).
  • The Colts wrap up their three-week stay at training camp at Anderson (Indiana) University by practicing from 10:25 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Colts Camp Report: Day 14

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
6:30
PM ET
ANDERSON, Ind. -- A daily review of hot topics coming out of Indianapolis Colts training camp:
  • Colts coach Chuck Pagano had former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly in front of him Monday. Pagano wore a t-shirt that had "Kelly Tough" on the front along with the No. 12, the number Kelly wore during his Hall-of-Fame career. Kelly is fighting cancer for the second time. Pagano knows all too well about battling cancer. He missed most of the 2012 season while dealing with leukemia. "Jim, as you know is going through some tough times," Pagano said. "Just to be able to support Jim and his family and circumstances and adversity that he's been through, not only battling cancer right now and fighting that, but everything he's been through. He's one tough cookie. We think of Jim all the time and he's always in our thoughts and prayers. I know he's got the right mindset and will power to get through this thing."
  • The Colts had more than a handful of players sit out of practice. Some of it was because of scheduled rest, some because they're dealing with injuries. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman missed practice for the second time in three days because of a sore thumb. Rookie guard Jack Mewhort was held out. He was taken out of practice early Sunday and had his left knee, which he had surgery on during the offseason, wrapped up. Pagano hopes to have Mewhort back at practice Wednesday. Safety Delano Howell is dealing with soreness in his neck. Receiver Nu'Keese Richardson suffered a concussion and is going through the league's protocol. Veterans LaRon Landry, Cory Redding, Robert Mathis, Gosder Cherilus and Reggie Wayne didn't practice as part of the two days on, one day off routine Pagano is using with them.
  • Running back Ahmad Bradshaw said not too much should be read into why he's wearing a red non-contact jersey in practice the past three days. Bradshaw's 2013 season was cut short in Week 3 because of neck injury that required surgery to repair. "There are not a lot of guys who have been through neck surgeries and a year later they're playing football again, especially in my position," he said. "Right now as we speak, I'm confident. I don't think about my neck at all." Bradshaw plans to play in the preseason at some point. It'll likely be this weekend against the New York Giants or the Aug. 23 game against the New Orleans Saints. "That's the plan," he said. "I've played long enough to understand the game, getting out there and playing in game-time speed."
  • The Colts cut practice short Monday because of thunderstorms in the area. They'll have a walk-through practice that's closed to the public from 9:30 to 10:50 a.m. and an afternoon practice that is open to the public from 1:50 to 4:25 p.m. Tuesday.
ANDERSON, Ind. -- It was anybody’s guess how Indianapolis Colts second-year linebacker Bjoern Werner would do starting in place of the soon-to-be-suspended Robert Mathis.

Werner
Werner made his first start in the preseason opener against the New York Jets last week. His final stat line wasn’t a headline grabber, as he played 25 snaps and finished with two tackles. Werner had several plays where he came off the edge to force Jets quarterback Geno Smith to step up in the pocket.

“From the first game last year? It’s just slowed down a little bit,” Werner said. “I played a little more free; just all the calls I had, I didn’t have to think about it. It was really more like, ‘OK, I’ll do my job, and then from there try to make a play,’ instead of just being in my own thoughts during the game and playing slow. It’s real slow right now. Everything’s slowed down and it’s just a lot of fun.”

One of the areas of concern for the Colts while Mathis serves his four-game suspension is whether they can get a good enough pass rush in his absence. Indianapolis’ first two games are against the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles, who have two of the better offenses in the league.

So Werner’s ability to get pressure on the quarterback needs to turn into sacks.

"I think Bjoern, where he left off last year and continuing to grow through the preseason, training camp and OTAs, he had a good start for the first time he was out there in live action from last year. But usually the transition for those outside linebackers usually take about two years, and right now he is in the process of still learning the system, got a little calls here and there that are a little different,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “So far for his first outing, he did a pretty good job."

Mathis, who led the NFL with 19.5 sacks last season, sat out the game against the Jets, but he’s expected to play at some point in the preseason before beginning his suspension. He’ll return to the team Sept. 29 and his first game will be Oct. 5 against the Baltimore Ravens.

“I'm really, really happy he's around and I can learn from him so much and it's just, ‘Be confident in yourself and trust your moves, try to this play like that,’” Werner said. “It's just amazing this guy that has been doing it for 12 years and is really successful and just trying to spread his wisdom. Just because I'm not a rookie anymore, I'm still going to be like last year and just try to get everything out of him. He's willing to help me and we talk the whole time in the meeting room. There is just great communication going on."
Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts' running game took a hit when Vick Ballard was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Chris Rainey, who had the inside track on being the No. 3 running back, was recently released for violating team rules. Harvey, who has made the switch from linebacker, has moved ahead of Stanley Havili to be the team's fullback because Havili is on the physically unable to perform list.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus, especially with Donald Thomas (quad) out for the season. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field. McKinney makes the roster now that Jeris Pendleton is out for the season with a torn ACL.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST (3)

This only changes if an injury occurs.

Colts Camp Report: Day 13

August, 10, 2014
Aug 10
8:00
PM ET
ANDERSON, Ind. -- A daily review of hot topics coming out of Indianapolis Colts training camp:
  • Remember the Colts' first offensive series against the New York Jets last week? Here’s your refresher. The Colts went 12 plays for 59 yards with the drive ending with an Adam Vinatieri 39-yard field goal. What was impressive about that drive was how the Colts used the hurry-up offense and quarterback Andrew Luck was in the shotgun for most of that series. “We’ve said that all along, we want to dictate, not just the tempo of the game, but we want to present the conflicts of, ‘Okay, what do we defend defensively when we face the Colts offense?,” offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. “They have really good backs, good tight ends, good receivers, a quarterback that can make plays, and then they have some tough, physical, smart guys up front that enjoy knocking people off the ball.’” One of the downsides to the hurry-up offense is if the Colts can’t extend drives, forcing the defense to get back on the field sooner than expected. “Overall, I think we’ll do a great job of doing whatever we see fit to the move the ball, and ultimately score touchdowns, and hopefully wear our opponent down along the way,” Hamilton said.
  • The Colts don’t currently have a frontrunner for the starting safety position alongside LaRon Landry, according to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Manusky added that they likely won’t name a starter until the end of training camp. Delano Howell, Sergio Brown and Mike Adams are the top candidates for that position. "I think they are all in the same battle and it’s hard to just say okay after one game this guy is the starter,” Manusky said. “You want the body of work going through training camp and that is why at the end of training camp, we will announce the starters where they are. From a standpoint, this guy might have a good game, one guy did, the other guy might pick up the next three games. It is a body of work that these guys have to do during training camp and we will make a decision at the end."
  • Starting linebacker Jerrell Freeman was back at practice Sunday after sitting out Saturday with a hand injury. Rookie guard Jack Mewhort was pulled out of practice and had ice placed around his right knee about 40 minutes before the end of the full-padded session. Mewhort had offseason surgery on his right knee. Howell didn’t practice because of a sore neck.
  • Former Colts Edgerrin James, Gary Brackett and Bill Brooks were guest at practice Sunday.
  • Colts owner Jim Irsay donated $10,000 each to five charities in the town of Anderson, Indiana, where the Colts are having training camp.
  • The Colts will have a walk-through practice that's closed to the public from 9:30 to 10:50 a.m. and an afternoon practice that is open to the public from 1:50 to 4:25 p.m. Tuesday.
ANDERSON, Ind. -- Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was in the middle of the team’s offensive meeting the night before last week's preseason opener against the New York Jets when he tried to remind his players that playing in MetLife Stadium is no different than playing football in little league, middle school or high school.

It’s just football. That was Hamilton's message.

Hamilton continued and asked all the players who played football growing up to raise their hands.

You’d think every offensive player in the meeting room would have raised his hand since they're in the NFL.

Wrong. And tight end Coby Fleener made sure to let Hamilton know.

Fleener got Hamilton’s attention and pointed to tight end Erik Swoope. This is the first time Swoope has ever played organized football. He played basketball at the University of Miami.

“I was caught off guard, it was an honest mistake,” Hamilton said. “Even so, that’s more of a reason that you have to commend Swoope and (tight ends) coach Alfredo Roberts for the progress that he’s made to get to this point where he was able to go out and give us a few good snaps in a pro football game. That was his first time of playing contact football.”

Swoope played five snaps and didn’t have a catch against the Jets, but the fact that he’s reached this point is a step in the right direction for him. Swoope didn’t play football growing up in Southern California because he was too big to play with his friends. He needed somebody to show him how to put pads on after the Colts signed him as an undrafted free agent in May.

“At the point of attack he was physical. He didn’t shy away from contact,” Hamilton said. “He didn’t have an opportunity to catch a pass, but there was a play where he released and he ran downfield and ran a seam route. He looked like he knew what he was doing.”

The Colts are set at tight end with Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Weslye Saunders and Jack Doyle, but Swoope is a prime candidate to be a practice squad player because he has the necessary tools to potentially play in the NFL.

“We’re still in the process of molding Swoope, but he has all the things that you can’t teach, and that’s amazing athleticism, phenomenal strength and balance and hand-eye coordination, and it’ll be fun to watch him grow and progress,” Hamilton said.

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