Indianapolis Colts: Coby Fleener

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 will have a solid running combination if -- and we’re saying if until proven wrong -- Richardson can bounce back from a poor first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw and Ballard can stay injury-free. Havili, a fullback, gets the edge over Mario Harvey, who switched from linebacker to fullback during offseason workouts.

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. 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.

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

This only changes if an injury occurs.
Mike Wells: The Colts will be fine at receiver. Hakeem Nicks had a "down" year last season and he still ended up with almost 900 yards receiving. Those numbers would have been good enough for second on the Colts by almost 300 yards last season. T.Y. Hilton had his first 1,000-yard receiving season and Reggie Wayne might not be the same Reggie Wayne from a few years ago, but he'll still be productive. You also can't forget about Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener at tight end. Wells: General manager Ryan Grigson is always looking to make roster moves, but it's highly unlikely that he'll do anything substantial between now and when the Colts report for training camp on July 23. Wells: I wouldn't call it Plan B, but they have other players on the roster that can play center. The plan is for Khaled Holmes to team with quarterback Andrew Luck for years to come. Grigson is very high on Holmes' potential. As far as a replacement for safety Antoine Bethea on the roster, it appeared Delano Howell would start alongside LaRon Landry early on, but now I'm starting to think it'll be veteran Mike Adams, whom the Colts signed in the middle of June. Wells: Bjoern Werner has the best chance to start at outside linebacker in Robert Mathis' absence, so it's up to Daniel Adongo, who worked his way up from the practice squad to being on special teams last season, to push Werner for snaps. Wells: The addition of Arthur Jones will help the defensive line. The Colts were 26th in the league in stopping the run last season. The offense as a whole will be significantly better. Three running backs will likely end up sharing the load, Allen is back at tight end with Fleener and the receivers have potential with the return of Wayne and addition of Nicks. Wells: He's coming along. Vick Ballard, like Wayne and Donald Thomas, didn't participate in offseason workouts. The real test for Ballard will be once he puts his pads on in training camp, cuts hard in practice or takes a hit on his knee. That's why I put Ballard behind Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw on the depth chart right now. Wells: You can't really judge Thomas yet because he hasn't even played two full games as a Colt. His season ended in Week 2 against Miami with a torn tendon in his quad and bicep. You can say Thomas is behind Jack Mewhort and Lance Louis because he didn't take part in the offseason workouts and he's still working his way back. Mewhort ended offseason workouts working with the first unit at guard. Wells: Richardson will get the first shot at starting, but don't sleep on Bradshaw. It only took one game for Bradshaw to be the Colts' most productive running back last season when he rushed for 95 yards against San Francisco in Week 3. Richardson had production issues last season, but Bradshaw (neck) and Ballard (knee) have health questions.

Projecting Colts starters

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
3:30
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INDIANAPOLIS -- A lot can happen for the Indianapolis Colts between now and Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. Injured players become completely healthy. Healthy players get injured. Projected starters get beat out by a teammate.

But that hasn't stopped fans from asking about what the Colts' depth chart will look like this season. It's July and players, coaches and front office officials are taking one last vacation before reporting for the start of training camp in Anderson, Indiana, on July 23. So for the next two days I'll take a shot at who I think the starters will be.

We'll start with the offense today. We'll do the defense on Tuesday.

Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck

Comment: This is self-explanatory. Go ahead and keep Luck's name there as long as he's healthy.

Running back: Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, Stanley Havili

Comment: As I mentioned last week when I did position battles, Richardson will be given the first shot at starting because of his talent and the last thing the Colts want to show is that their trade for him last September was a failure.

Receiver: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks

Comments: The pressure isn't on Wayne to be the Reggie Wayne of a few years ago because he has help with Hilton and Nicks at the position, but Wayne is out to prove that he can still produce at the age 35 and after tearing his ACL.

Tight end: Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen

Comment: Allen is a better all-around tight end than Fleener, but he missed all but one game last season because of a hip injury.

Offensive line: (LT) Anthony Castonzo, (LG) Jack Mewhort, (C) Khaled Holmes, (RG) Hugh Thornton, (RT) Gosder Cherilus

Comment: The only position really up in the air at the moment is left guard. Mewhort currently has the edge because Donald Thomas didn't take part in offseason workouts and he moved ahead of Lance Louis during organized team activities (OTAs).
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts rookie tight end Erik Swoope didn't know what to expect when he put pads and a helmet on for the first time ever last month during the team's rookie minicamp.

Football as a whole is a different sport for Swoope.

He didn't play it in any youth leagues growing up in Southern California. He didn't play it in high school. And he definitely didn't play it at the University of Miami, where he averaged 5 points per game as a senior on the school's basketball team.

[+] EnlargeErik Swoope
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesErik Swoope played basketball for the University of Miami, but not a down of football.
Swoope made it through rookie camp, offseason workouts and the Colts' mandatory minicamp constantly learning something new every day.

"Learning football terminologies has been the biggest challenge," Swoope said. "It's a different language. Trying to get myself, I'm not going to say forget about basketball, but take the terminology and set it to the side so I can really hone into the different languages used in football."

As improbable as it might seem with his lack of experience, there was the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Swoope catching passes from quarterback Andrew Luck during offseason workouts.

"Andrew makes it so easy," Swoope said. "You just have to make sure you do your stuff correct because he'll put the ball in the right place."

The road to making the Colts has just started for Swoope. He's considered a project player who will likely spend the season on the practice squad if the Colts decide to keep him. The Colts already have established tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen on the roster. It's all about progress with Swoope, who hopes to join San Diego's Antonio Gates and New Orleans' Jimmy Graham in making the transition from college basketball to NFL tight end.

"It's been a pleasant surprise just to see how he's been able to acclimate himself to the game of football," Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. "His natural-born talents show every day in practice. He does an amazing job of going up and catching the football, making difficult catches. He has a catching radius that's off the charts. It'll be interesting to see how he comes along during training camp when we put the pads on and actually start practicing football."

Swoope will spend the rest of the offseason working out in Miami with former Hurricane players preparing for his first training camp.

"I just know that will come with reps and practice and just trusting my own abilities," he said. "I feel like I'm making steady progress every day. I just need to continue to do that once we get to training camp."
Here's Part II of the Colts Mailbag.

 
INDIANAPOLIS -- The thought of playing football had always crossed Erik Swoope's mind. He wanted to be out there tackling and catching passes with the rest of his friends while growing up in Southern California.

But there was a problem with Swoope’s desire to play. He only wanted to play if he could do it with his friends. That wasn’t possible because Swoope stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 200 pounds at the age of 12. And while he was already dunking a basketball by then, his friends were 50 and 60 pounds lighter than him, eliminating any chance of being teammates with them since Swoope didn’t meet the weight requirement.

[+] EnlargeErik Swoope
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesErik Swoope, a former four-year basketball player at the University of Miami, is trying his hand at football for the first time -- and with the Indianapolis Colts.
"I was taller and bigger than all my friends and it wouldn’t have been possible for me to play with them," Swooped said during the first day of the Indianapolis Colts' rookie minicamp.

Swoope continued to think about playing football during his four-year basketball career at the University of Miami, but the opportunity to do both was too much to ask because of the overlap of the seasons, and he went to the school to play basketball.

The chance to play football finally came about when the Colts signed him as an undrafted free agent earlier this week despite Swoope not knowing what it feels like to get hit on the football field. Playing football for Swoope is like a kid learning how to ride a bike for the first time.

"The main thing to me between football and basketball is that I just love being an athlete," Swoope said. "In the weight room, trying to get as strong as you can, as fast as you can, as quick as you can. And in basketball, it’s kind of a game of tempo. That’s what I’m learning also in football, but it’s more of an opportunity to be an athlete and for me, I’m enjoying it."

This isn’t the first time the Colts have signed a player who did not play college football. Marcus Pollard played basketball at Bradley University before the Colts signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1995.

Patience is key for Swoope because of his lack of football experience. He’s confident because he feels he’s capable of picking up the game. He’s also curious how quick he can learn it.

One of the good things going for Swoope is that there haven't been any expectations put on him. The Colts are set at tight end with Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener and serviceable backups Weslye Saunders and Jack Doyle. Swoope is able to learn slowly.

The first thing Swoope did right was get together with former University of Miami football players Jimmy Graham and Jonathan Vilma a few weeks ago. Graham, who played basketball for the Hurricanes and spent his fifth year as a tight end on the football team, worked with Swoope on route running. Vilma would tell him what he was looking for from the linebacker position.

Elsewhere in the NFL, Green Bay’s Julius Peppers played basketball at the University of North Carolina and played defensive end on the Tar Heel football team.

So why tight end for Swoope?

Tight end translates well from the basketball court to the football field, he said.

"I played power forward and I played on the wing, so I got use to playing a variety of parts on offense and defense," Swoope said. "That's one of the key carryovers, the size, the weight, the athleticism. It’s a quicker carry over because you’re use to studying a variety of things all at once."

Swoope doesn’t know what to expect when it comes to getting hit for the first time. All he knows is that he needs to run with his 6-foot-5 frame low.

"My brother played football and he told me I’m going to get hit and I’m going to quickly learn to get down and get the pads down," Swoope said. "I’m looking forward to this experience."

Here’s your draft day Reading the Coverage for the Indianapolis Colts, who do not have a first-round pick:

--Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star writes about the Colts general manager Ryan Grigson will spend the first day of the draft watching and not trying to figure out who they’ll select with the No. 26 pick since they don’t have it anymore. The Cleveland Browns have the No. 26 pick courtesy of the trade for running back Trent Richardson.

--The Star has a photo gallery highlighting some of the Colts' second-round picks. The list includes safety Bob Sanders, tight end Coby Fleener and cornerback Tim Jennings.

--Conrad Brunner of 1070thefan.com writes about how teams looking to draft a quarterback, the most critical position on offense, could possibly lead to a player of need falling to the Colts by the time they pick at No. 59.

--Craig Kelley of Colts.com writes about draft-day trades that have worked in the Colts’ favor. The Colts traded up to the third round to acquire receiver T.Y. Hilton in 2012. Hilton has made Grigson look pretty smart for moving up. Hilton has 132 receptions for 1,944 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL draft is 3 1/2 weeks away. The Indianapolis Colts won’t pick on the first day -- May 8 -- they’ll have their first pick in the second round on Day 2. Trading into the first round is highly unlikely for the Colts because draft experts say plenty of talent will be available in each round.

Here’s a look at several notable second-round picks for the Colts over the years.

2012 TE Coby Fleener

Comment: 78 receptions, 889 yards and 6 touchdowns in two seasons. Had an increased role in 2013 because of the absence of fellow tight end Dwayne Allen. Fleener had 52 catches for 608 yards last season.

2010 LB Pat Angerer

Comment: Had a career-high 148 tackles during the 2011 season. Too bad the Colts were 2-14 that season. Injuries slowed Angerer down the past two seasons. He’s a free agent and won’t be back.

2006 DB Tim Jennings

Comment: Jennings recorded four interceptions in his four seasons with the Colts. Those four INT’s turned out to be not much because he had nine interceptions in 2012 while with the Chicago Bears.

2005 DB Kelvin Hayden

Comment: Spent six seasons in Indianapolis. He returned a Rex Grossman interception 56 yards for a touchdown in the Colts 29-17 victory over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI.

2004 DB Bob Sanders

Comment: Sanders won NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. But like Angerer, injuries impacted Sanders. He only played in eight games in his final two seasons with the Colts.

2003 DB Mike Doss

Comment: Started 15 games and had 102 tackles and an interception during his rookie season.

1999 LB Mike Peterson

Comment: Had two seasons with at least 137 tackles and another season with 96 tackles to go with seven total interceptions during his four seasons with the Colts.

1995 TE Ken Dilger

Comment: Spent seven seasons with Indianapolis, with his rookie year being his best season when he caught 42 passes for 635 yards and four touchdowns.
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INDIANAPOLIS - Will Reggie Wayne not participating in minicamp impact the Indianapolis Colts' chemistry?

Bush
Wayne
That was one of the questions that came up after the receiver said he probably won't take part in the team's minicamp.

No.

Wayne tore his ACL in Week 7 last season. Holding him out until the start of training camp at the end of July is the right thing for the Colts to do.

Wayne is a veteran, he doesn't need to work on his timing with Luck. He's simply excited to be out there with his teammates again even if he'll be limited on what he does.

The fact that 35-year-old Wayne is ahead of schedule is another indication that there's little doubt he'll be able to fully recover from the injury.

Of course there will be questions about how comfortable Wayne will be running sharp routes and making hard plants on his surgically repaired knee.

Don't get me wrong, Wayne wants to be out there during minicamp. He told me he's always been "kind of hard headed," but waiting until training camp is the best thing for him to do.

"It's only natural to think about it, but that's why I'm going to slowly work my way back out there," Wayne said by phone earlier this week.

Wayne has high expectations for the offense now that they've added Hakeem Nicks to join him, T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The two-tight end formation was supposed to be a significant part of the Indianapolis Colts' offensive package last season.

Allen
Dwayne Allen, the all-around tight end, on one side. Coby Fleener, the pass-catching tight end, on the other side. Both were going to be used in the passing game and also help block for what was supposed to be a power-running game.

But the ability to use Allen and Fleener together ended less than a full game into the 2013 season because Allen suffered a season-ending hip injury.

That left Fleener and a number of different players trying to fill Allen's void.

Jack Doyle. Dominque Jones. Justice Cunningham. Weslye Saunders.

The Colts hope they won't have to do the same thing next season with the tight ends. Allen recently told Colts.com, the team's official website, that he feels like he's “almost to 110 percent” healthy.

“We love using tight ends like everybody else,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “But (Fleener) took a big step in Year 2 and played really good football for us and will continue to do that. Getting Dwayne back, we're going to have great options there. You get that inline blocker in Dwayne but don't forget that Dwayne is a heck of a pass receiver, too. So we can create a bunch of mismatches with those guys and get them out in space and get the matchups that you want. It's going to be a great situation.”

Having Allen back gives offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton the flexibility with different formations. Allen played on the line of scrimmage, off the line of scrimmage and he played in the backfield during his rookie season.

"Pep and those guys do a great job of putting those guys in position to make plays and be successful and try to create the matchups that you want," Pagano said. "You have two guys there that have position flexibility and can do a lot of things for you. We're going to ask (Fleener) to do some of the heavy lifting. Having both those guys in the lineup and having them healthy gives us a lot of flexibility there.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- Stanley Havili was the only true fullback on the Indianapolis Colts' roster last season.

Havili
He was used in short-yardage blocking situations, rarely carrying the ball (seven carries for 7 yards). He did catch the ball out of the backfield (18 catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns). Colts coach Chuck Pagano also used some tight ends in the backfield as fullbacks when Havili was injured.

"There are certain situations where you're short yardage, you're goal line, the 4-minute offense when you're trying to take the air out of the game and you've got a lead, you want to get in a two-back formation, having a guy like Stanley is very valuable,” Pagano said. “Not only is he a good blocker and a threat out of the backfield to catch the ball, but he plays on (special) teams.”

The fullback is somewhat of a dying breed in the NFL, but the Colts plan to continue to use it, which means there remains a spot on the roster for Havili.

“There's not many being developed and used at the college level anymore,” Pagano said of fullbacks. “So it's always nice to have one of those guys so you don't have to take a Dwayne Allen or Coby (Fleener) or somebody else and stick them in the backfield -- a guy who's not built for it. We all know how fullbacks are built like fire hydrants. They're short-necked, thick guys who love running into things. So they're hard to find.”
 
Andrew LuckElsa/Getty ImagesWith an improved running game, the Colts won't have to rely on Andrew Luck to save each game.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- It was one of those moments that could easily send chills up your spine or cause you to break out in goose bumps as the words came out of Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano's mouth early Tuesday morning, as the sun was still making its way up in Central Florida.

The Colts have a quarterback -- a pretty a darn good one, I must say -- who has consistently proven in just two short seasons that he has everything it takes to lead a team that has dealt with on- and off-the-field adversity.

Arm? Check.

Mobility? A hidden talent of his.

Mental toughness? There's no question he has that.

The results prove it. Twenty-two regular-season victories. An AFC South division title. A playoff victory.

Enter Pagano.

"From a mindset standpoint, it all starts with running the ball and stopping the run," the coach said in between sips of his coffee. "We do have a great quarterback, with a great arm and he has weapons to throw to. Certainly we understand that and we know that."

Pagano also added that they'll continue to emphasize running the ball, "until they run me out of there."

The Colts will run the ball, especially with three running backs -- Trent Richardson, Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw -- who have all been starters at some point in their careers. But don't be mistaken about what Pagano said, Luck will still drop back in the pocket and fling the ball downfield more than he hands it off. That's their best chance to win.

There are legitimate question marks about the Colts' top three running backs next season.

Ballard is coming off a torn ACL. Bradshaw needs to prove he can stay healthy. Richardson, well, simply put, he's still a work in progress after being traded to Indianapolis early last season.

The Colts tried to run the ball in 2013. But the thought of them having anything close to a ground game came to a halt in Week 3 when Bradshaw's season ended because of a neck injury. Richardson and Donald Brown simply didn't get the job done -- partially because of offensive line problems and partially because of a lack of production from the two running backs.

That left Luck using his arm to bail the Colts out of deficits. They threw the ball 582 times compared to 409 rush attempts last season.

The NFL is a copycat league. What the Colts and 27 other teams saw was the final four teams playing -- New England, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco -- all mixing in the run to go with their talented quarterbacks.

The Colts experienced it firsthand, as the Patriots ran for 234 yards against them in their AFC divisional playoff matchup -- a 43-22 loss.

A successful run game is what Indianapolis wants. Not Luck strapping on his cape to lead the Colts back from constant double-digit holes.

Also, Luck could have his best arsenal of weapons to throw to in his young career with the addition of receiver Hakeem Nicks to go with fellow receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Coby Fleener and the hopeful healthy return of receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen. Throw in a consistent running game -- cross your fingers the offensive line can block better -- and it's the type of offense that will allow the Colts to be successful.

"We're not going to try to do things to make us lose," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "...All that matters at the end of the day is that you make the playoffs and if you can win in the playoffs. We don't want to make it all on Andrew. We want to give him help with our stable of running backs and [with] our offensive line creating those lanes to open up the play-action pass, so it takes the pressure off of him."

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