Indianapolis Colts: Delano Howell
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.
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)
- Khaled Holmes
- Hugh Thornton
- Jack Mewhort
- Anthony Castonzo
- Gosder Cherilus
- Donald Thomas
- Joe Reitz
- Lance Louis
- Xavier Nixon
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.
- Robert Mathis
- Erik Walden
- D'Qwell Jackson
- Jerrell Freeman
- Bjoern Werner
- Andrew Jackson
- Jonathan Newsome
- Daniel Adongo
- Henoc Muamba
- Josh McNary
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)
- Greg Toler
- Vontae Davis
- Darius Butler
- LaRon Landry
- Delano Howell
- Mike Adams
- Sergio Brown
- Josh Gordy
- Colt Anderson
- Loucheiz Purifoy
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.
This only changes if an injury occurs.
NFL Nation’s Mike Wells examines the three biggest issues facing the Indianapolis Colts heading into training camp.
Khaled Holmes: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson took a big gamble in the offseason by not heavily pursuing a veteran center. He signed Phil Costa, who was beaten out by a rookie in Dallas, only to have the veteran suddenly retire before ever playing a snap for the Colts. Even with Costa on the roster, the plan all along for the Colts was for Holmes to start. This is the same Khaled Holmes who managed to play a total of 12 snaps as a rookie, despite poor play by Samson Satele at the position last season. Grigson has constantly defended Holmes ever since, pointing out that the second-year player would be his starter. The goal is for Holmes to team with franchise quarterback Andrew Luck for years to come. Holmes needs to have good chemistry with Luck and control the line of the scrimmage, all while making sure the rest of the offensive linemen know the correct calls. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a player who is basically a rookie, especially when you think about the expectations the Colts have this season.
Safety: Similar to his decision at center, Grigson didn’t look far outside the organization to address a position of need. Veteran Antoine Bethea left Indianapolis to sign with San Francisco, and it appeared Delano Howell was the frontrunner to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety. Things seem to change in the middle of June, when the Colts signed veteran Mike Adams. Adams has started 73 games in his 10-year NFL career, but even though he says he feels like he’s 26 years old, he’s actually 33. Howell has started only four games in his career. And speaking of Landry, he didn’t exactly ease anybody’s mind about whether he’ll be able to rebound from a disappointing first season with the Colts. He didn’t attend any of the voluntary offseason workouts, then showed up at the mandatory minicamp with what was described as a soft-tissue injury. While the offseason workouts are voluntary, it would have helped Landry if he had at least attended a few of the sessions. Grigson and Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn’t criticize Landry for not showing up, but they did point out their preference of wishing he was in attendance. If anything it would have showed that Landry cared about working on chemistry with the rest of his defensive teammates. There are too many questions surrounding the safety position on a defense that was way too inconsistent last season.
Trent Richardson: The excuses are no longer available for Richardson in the Colts organization. The ready-made line of, “Richardson is still learning the offensive system,” is in the trash on the curb. Richardson, who the Colts acquired from Cleveland just days before Week 3 last season, has had an entire offseason to learn the playbook. Now he can use his natural instincts when he’s on the field, instead of constantly trying to remember the plays. The Colts clearly are trailing the Browns in the who-got-the-better-of-the-trade race. Cleveland turned the No. 26 pick into hotshot quarterback Johnny Manziel after using it to trade up to No. 22. The Colts? All Richardson gave them was 2.9 yards a carry and a demotion to the second unit last season. Richardson and the Colts have to hope this season is different. The pressure is on Richardson, because Grigson said earlier this year he would make the trade again if put in the same position. Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, had offseason shoulder surgery and will head into training camp as the starter, with Ahmad Bradshaw ready to take some snaps from him if he struggles.
The same can’t be said about some other players on the roster.
With the start of training camp less than two weeks away, we’re going to take a look at a number of players who are under pressure to step up this season.
Why he needs to step up: Toler joins safety LaRon Landry and linebacker Erik Walden as free agents signed by general manager Ryan Grigson in 2013 who underachieved last season. Toler’s reason is different than Landry and Walden’s: a hamstring injury kept Toler on the sidelines. The secondary fed off Toler’s play when he was on the field -- when he was aggressive, the rest of the secondary followed. It started in training camp and continued into the first part of the season. But Toler went down with an injury and the secondary seemed to go down with him. He missed seven weeks after injuring his hamstring in the Colts’ Week 7 victory over the Denver Broncos.
What he has to do: Stay healthy and continue to be a trendsetter for the secondary. Seems simple, right? Not for Toler. He’s yet to play a full season in his five-year career. He even missed the entire 2011 season. Toler tried to return to the lineup late last season, but he was nowhere close to being 100 percent. The Colts finally shut him down for the season after he re-injured his hamstring in their wildcard playoff win against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Outlook: Of all the secondary players, Toler (yes, Greg Toler) was the only one of the four possible starters -- the others being Vontae Davis, Delano Howell and Landry -- to take part in mandatory minicamp. The others missed the camp with injuries. So that’s a start for Toler. Now he has to remain healthy during the regular season. Everybody is waiting on that to happen.
Quotable: “Sometimes you ask why you have to go through situations. It only made me stronger. I have a lot to prove this year. I know my 16-game stack will stack up to any 16-game stack. I just have to be healthy. That’s the biggest thing.” -- Toler
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.
@MikeWellsNFL With Luck improving his overall game each year, can our receiving core keep up with his progress and not become a liability?- Luke Spilman (@Buffaloukie) July 3, 2014
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. 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.
@MikeWellsNFL Do you see Grigson signing any more FA's/making a trade before camp? If so, which players/positions might he be targeting?- Ben (@ShaneBen) July 3, 2014
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.
@MikeWellsNFL Will Daniel Adongo get a serious look in training camp with Mathis out?- Kenny Garner (@kengyank) July 3, 2014
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.
@MikeWellsNFL watching Super Bowl 44 right now on NFL Network. How are we different from that team now? I would say receivers are better.- Mason Ross (@Sauce_Ross) July 3, 2014
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.
@MikeWellsNFL How is Ballard progressing?- Michael A. Purichia (@mikea826) July 3, 2014
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.
@MikeWellsNFL Has Donald Thomas lost his luster with Grigs? Or are Jack Mewhort & Lance Louis actually better than him?- Josh McMillan (@joshwmac) July 3, 2014
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.
@MikeWellsNFL who is the starting RB is Indy this year?- Josh Essig (@Josh_EssigNYC1) July 3, 2014
The options were:
- Running back
I thought having Khaled Holmes at center would be the biggest concern for the Colts because he only played 12 snaps his rookie season.
In fact, it really wasn't even close.
Safety is the biggest concern.
Fifty-two percent of the fans are more about the safety position compared to 30 percent concerned about Holmes at center.
The Colts plan to start LaRon Landry at one safety spot, but it's easy to understand why there would be questions surrounding the position.
The Colts still don't have a starter at safety to replace Antoine Bethea and Landry is a question mark himself.
It appeared that Delano Howell would have the inside track to take Bethea's spot in the starting lineup, but things changed when the Colts signed veteran Mike Adams in the middle of June.
Adams has started 73 of the 146 games that he's appeared in during his 10-year career.
This is a big season for Landry after a disappointing first season with the Colts. He missed four games with an injury and he too often got caught up in trying to make the big play rather than the simple play. Landry, as expected, didn't take part in the team's offseason workouts because of his preference to work out on his own. But then he showed up for the Colts' mandatory minicamp with what the team referred to as a “soft tissue” injury.
So while center is a concern when you consider Holmes is snapping the ball to quarterback Andrew Luck, fans are more worried about what type of production the Colts will have at safety.
How did the Colts address the loss of Bethea?
Draft? Didn't use any of their five picks on that position.
Free agency? Not until recently.
Delano Howell appeared to have the inside track to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety. That changed last week when the Colts signed veteran Mike Adams.
Here's Day 4 of the look at the most competitive position battles for the Colts.
Primary candidates: Howell, Adams. Sergio Brown and Colt Anderson are in the mix, but this appears to be a two-player race between Howell and Adams.
Howell: 19 tackles and 1 pass defended
Pro: Howell stepped in and started four games for the injured Landry last season and did a decent job. He did well enough that Colts GM Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano were still talking about his play in those games while defending why they didn't select a safety during their draft press conference last month.
Con: The experience factor. The Colts defense, which was inconsistent last season, is trying to close the gap between them and the offense. It doesn't help that there will be even more pressure on the secondary since they won't have linebacker Robert Mathis pursing the quarterback in the first four games of the season. You have to believe the Colts aren't sold on Howell as their starting safety since they went out and signed Adams instead of signing a younger player to back Howell and Landry up.
Adams: 64 tackles, 1 interception, 6 passes defended
Pro: Adams has plenty of experience, something Howell is lacking. Adams was part of a Denver team that went to the Super Bowl last season. He has started 73 games in his 10-year career. The Colts need veteran leadership in the secondary to make up for the loss for Bethea.
Con: There's a reason why Adams was still unsigned in the middle of June. He's 33 years old and you have to wonder how much he has left in his legs despite saying he feels like he's 26 years old.
Wells: Second-round pick Jack Mewhort. The offensive lineman is capable of playing all five positions on the line. A positive for Mewhort is that he moved ahead of Lance Louis and was working with the first unit by the end of offseason workouts. The competition for that starting spot will intensify in training camp once Donald Thomas starts practicing. It'll be Louis and Thomas as the two primary players pushing Mewhort for that starting spot. Wells: The Colts have about $13.7 million in salary cap space left. Colts GM Ryan Grigson said a number of times earlier in the offseason that they didn't plan to use all their salary-cap space because they'll have to pay players like Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton at some point down road.
@MikeWellsNFL biggest impact from a rookie this year?- Nate Walton (@realnatewalton) June 20, 2014
Wells: That's strictly up to Daniel Adongo. Practice well and play well in the preseason and he'll have a chance to get on the field in a game. The opportunity will definitely be there early in the season when linebacker Robert Mathis is serving his four-game suspension. Playing time at Mathis' position is far from set. It's up to Adongo to prove he deserves to get snaps. Wells: It's way, way too early to tell if Ahmad Bradshaw can stay healthy. Teams don't wear pads during offseason workouts, and even then, Bradshaw joined the quarterbacks and fellow running back Trent Richardson by wearing a red non-contact jersey. Bradshaw's health was the only thing that stopped him from being the Colts' starting running back last season. Bradshaw and Richardson were the only two running backs of three expected to push for the starting spot to take part in offseason workouts. Vick Ballard, the third, is still working his way back from a torn ACL.
@MikeWellsNFL What is the likelihood that we see Daniel Adongo playing on defense this season?- Steve Mosley (@SMosley21) June 20, 2014
But Landry was not on the field for the first day of minicamp Tuesday.
He hadn't undergone the required physical yet. This isn't a new physical that's being required, but it's the same physical veteran players are required to take before minicamp every year.
“(Monday night) we had an administrative meeting,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “(You) can't do any football first day. Every single vet on the football team, except the rookies have to go do physicals.”
Landry, by the way, was the only veteran player who did not take part in minicamp Tuesday because he didn't take his physical. He's also the only player not to be in facility during the offseason. Landry doesn't work out with the team during the offseason because he prefers to work out on his own. He's one of the more fit players in the NFL, but it's more than about being in shape.
Landry's about to have a new starting safety playing alongside of him, the Colts struggled as a defensive unit last season and Landry didn't have a great first season with the team. He missed four games with an ankle injury while finishing with 96 tackles and no interceptions.
“LaRon works as hard as anybody, wished it was here most of the time,” Pagano said. “I know that he's working. He probably does too much.”
As far as other players who missed Tuesday's session, defensive lineman Cory Redding was excused to tend to a family matter. Cornerback Vontae Davis has a groin injury and Pagano said safety Delano Howell is dealing with a soft tissue injury without going into specifics.
As expected, receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), running back Vick Ballard (knee) and offensive lineman Donald Thomas (quad, bicep) also didn't take part.
But there Adams sat, waiting for a team to sign him during the offseason. He waited. Waited some more. He waited so long that anxiety started to set in. Adams, 33, had never been out of work this long during his 10-year NFL career.
Adams’ phone finally rang last week when the Colts put safety Corey Lynch on injured reserve.
Adams has gone from being unemployed to having a chance to be one of the Colts' starting safeties when they take on his former team, the Broncos, in the season opener on Sept. 7.
"Bottom line is I want to compete for a job," Adams said. "I want to earn these guys' respect. I’m going in (Year 11). Its’ a different locker room, new system I have to learn. I want to earn that. I don’t want it given to me. I told coach and I told the (general manager Ryan Grigson), 'I appreciate you telling me I don’t have the job. I appreciate that.' I was the underdog my whole career. I love competing and proving people wrong."
Safety has been a legit concern for the Colts since long-time fixture Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco on the first day of the free agent signing period in March.
The Colts didn’t address the position during free agency or the draft. They constantly talked about having confidence in Delano Howell, who has been working with the first team during the offseason workouts.
But Howell lacks experience on a defense that was too inconsistent last season. The same goes for Sergio Brown, David Sims and Colt Anderson.
He has started 73 games in his 10-year career. The question about Adams is how much does he have left in his tank at the age of 33. He admits his age might have caused teams to shy away a little bit.
"I feel like I’m 26,” he quickly says. "You're going to see the way I move. Once guys see my film. I was talking to the GM and he said, 'I had to watch your film' and he said, 'You’re 33?' and I was like, 'yeah I am 33,' but when you watch the film it doesn’t look like I’m 33."
Adams is versatile. He can also play cornerback, nickelback or be the dime.
Now he has to see if he’s versatile enough to get the number he wants. Adams, who currently has No. 42, has worn No. 20 throughout his career, but cornerback Darius Butler has that number.
"I’ll have to sweet-talk him," Adams said. "Have to take him out to dinner; wine and dine him."
Let's take a look at several things to pay attention to during the camp:
Running back competition: Just like the battle for the starting guard position, we won't get full competition for the starting running back position because Vick Ballard (knee) isn't expected to take part, as he's still working his way back from ACL surgery. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, the other two primary candidates, both wore red non-contact jerseys during OTAs. So this is another competition that won't pick up until training camp. All three players will get playing time, but keep in mind that coach Chuck Pagano said earlier in the offseason they want a workhorse in the backfield.
Landry sighting: Safety LaRon Landry has been the most significant healthy player missing during OTAs. It's not required for players to attend OTAs and Landry prefers to work out on his own during the offseason. But it still would have been good if he would have popped in for some of the workouts because of the need for improvement for the defense, the transition from a seasoned veteran in Antoine Bethea to possibly Delano Howell, who lacks significant experience, and Landry simply didn't have a great first season with the Colts. The offense, as long as Andrew Luck is the quarterback, will be fine. He's shown he can be effective even without good blocking. The same can't be said about a defense that finished 20th in the league last season.
The Bjoern factor: The fact linebacker Robert Mathis (suspension) won't be with the Colts the first four games of the season has definitely sunk in. Now it's up to second-year player Bjoern Werner, who gets the first shot to start in Mathis's absence, to prove he was worth the Colts selecting him in the first round after an inconsistent rookie season. "This year it's just knowing the defense and to feel comfortable in the defense," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "Now it's just his ability to get to the passer, which it's kind of you want him to do that in these OTAs, but he's never really going to get there because you don't have the pads on. But he's been doing a great job at least from the calls and signals and getting everything lined up and knowing exactly what he's supposed to do. It's a great situation for him."
Can Adams help: The Colts signed veteran safety Mike Adams over the weekend to take Corey Lynch's spot on the roster after placing him on injured reserve. Howell is leading the race to start, but Adams has started 73 games in his career. The question about Adams is: Does he have enough left in his 33-year-old body to help the Colts and possibly supplant Howell as the starting safety alongside Landry?
Who won't be there: Barring a sudden change of events, here are the players -- not including those on injured reserve -- you won't see taking part in minicamp. Receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), Ballard (knee) and Thomas (quad, bicep).
Who knows how Corey Lynch would have fit into the competition for the starting safety spot next season, but his season-ending injury intensifies the battle for that starting spot.
The Colts signed veteran safety Mike Adams over the weekend to take Lynch’s spot on the roster.
Adams, 33, is past his prime, but he has something Delano Howell, Colt Anderson, David Sims and Sergio Brown don’t have: experience.
Adams has started 73 of the 146 games he’s appeared in during his 10-year career. Howell, Anderson, Sims and Brown have combined for 13 starts in their career. Adams played in all 16 games for a third straight season last season while with the Denver Broncos.
It's unclear how much Adams has left because we’re in the middle of June and he just now got signed. Adams told Sirius XM NFL Radio recently, “This is the longest I’ve ever waited to get picked up, so the anxiety is starting to pick up now.”
Howell has the inside track to start alongside LaRon Landry at the safety, but the Colts now have some added insurance in Adams in case Howell can’t lock down the position.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus doesn't believe the Colts' roster is as bad as some tend to think. Monson recently wrote that the Colts have the 12th-best roster in the NFL. To narrow it down even more, the Colts have the fifth-best roster in the AFC.
Monson breaks the starting units based off six major categories, ranging from elite down to a poor starter. There are also two additional categories -- not enough information and rookie.
Monson thinks the Colts have three players who are "below average" starters, and they are three players Grigson spent money on to acquire in free agency in the past two offseasons -- linebackers D'Qwell Jackson and Erik Walden and cornerback Greg Toler.
And to no surprise there are two players Pro Football Focus doesn't have enough information on, and one they believe is a poor starter. Center Khaled Holmes and safety Delano Howell are the two players they don't have enough information on and guard Hugh Thornton is the poor starter.
Holmes only played 12 snaps last season as a rookie and Howell is the frontrunner to replace Antoine Bethea, who signed with San Francisco, at safety.
Safety is an area of concern for the Indianapolis Colts since Antoine Bethea calls San Francisco home now. The player who is currently available has a history with the head coach.
Ed Reed and Chuck Pagano spent time together at the University of Miami and with the Baltimore Ravens. Pagano respects Reed. Pagano was the Hurricanes' secondary coach from 1995-2000, the Ravens' secondary coach from 2008-10, then their defensive coordinator the following season.
The question about them possibly being reunited was asked by fans when the Houston Texans released Reed last season.
It was asked again by fans after Reed told reporters he plans to play next season during a charity softball game in Baltimore over the weekend.
And just like last November, don't expect the Colts to have any interest in Reed. He's a nine-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl winner, but his best years are clearly behind him. He didn't struggle and eventually get benched and released from the Texans for no reason.
The Colts would have signed a safety during free agency or selected one during last month's draft if they were really concerned about the position.
The starting safety spot is right there for Delano Howell. It'll stay that way until he somebody else beats him out for it.
"Delano Howell has played some really good snaps for us," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said last month. "We feel good about Delano and we're hoping some of these other guys rise to the occasion. We signed Colt Anderson. We've got some guys that have had some starts in this league. Corey Lynch has played 12 starts in this league. Someone is going to emerge."
- USA Today's Nate Davis gives his prediction for every team next season. Davis will be a favorite of Colts fans because he has them finishing with a 13-3 record and the top seed in the AFC. That means the road to the Super Bowl goes through Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, according to Davis.
- In light of Dallas's Sean Lee suffering a torn ACL during organized team activities, Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star writes there really is no such thing as non-contact during those workouts. "Look, we're playing football," linebacker Jerrell Freeman conceded. "It gets competitive. I mean, you were out there. You've seen it. I'm out there running with tight ends and we're jawing. It's competitive, period. But at the same time, you have to be smart. You have to know that these are the guys who are trying to help us win the Super Bowl, so you can't be dumb. Use your technique. You can compete, but you can't finish off guys, no holding, no tugging. It's simple stuff. We're trying to take care of each other, man."
- Kevin Bowen of Colts.com has a story on Delano Howell, the frontrunner to be the team's starting safety next season. "I always look forward to competition," Howell says. "It's just a great environment, a great opportunity for you to reveal who you are. It reveals part of your character -- how do you act under pressure? How do you act when there's competition? How do you treat people that you are competing with? Clearly, this is the biggest opportunity that I personally have had in my life."