Indianapolis Colts: Khaled Holmes
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: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson has put all his faith in Holmes. He didn’t select a center in the draft, didn’t trade for one and signed a marginal one -- Phil Costa -- during free agency who ended up retiring before ever taking a snap for the Colts in offseason workouts. Holmes only played 12 snaps as a rookie in 2013 after an ankle injury in training camp put him behind the rest of his teammates. For those questioning Holmes’ ability, Grigson likes to remind those doubters that it’s not like his second-year center went to “Whatsa Matta U.” Holmes had 37 starts while at USC. The goal is to have Holmes team with quarterback Andrew Luck for years to come.
What he has to do: Holmes has to lead the offensive line to ensure Luck is able to stand on his two feet and the running backs have holes to run through. He has to make the correct calls so the rest of the offensive line knows what’s going on. The Colts have high expectations this season. That means Holmes can’t play like he’s basically a rookie. He has to play like he’s veteran, and one who will be the only player snapping the ball to Luck for at least the next decade.
Outlook: As mentioned earlier, the Colts weren’t worried enough to heavily pursue a center during a free agency, so they’re going to give Holmes as many opportunities as possible to keep the job.
Quotable: “He’s doing a really good job of making all the calls. As a tackle with the relationship that we have to have, he’s doing a real good job keeping us on the same page.” -- left tackle Anthony Castonzo
The Colts look at Luck in the same way they looked at Peyton Manning (minus having to part ways with him at some point). They want to keep Luck under center and have him lead the Colts to the Super Bowl multiple times.
If the first two years are in any indication, the Colts are in a good position to accomplish those things with Luck. The only real question -- one that has been burning since Luck’s rookie year -- is whether he will be as durable as Manning because of poor offensive line play?
Luck has been sacked so many times (73) during the first two years of his career that you’re left wondering at times how he has yet to miss any snaps in a game because of an injury. He has shaken off countless hits to lead the Colts to 22 regular-season victories and three playoff games in just two seasons.
Still, the Colts are flirting with danger when it comes to their franchise player because of poor pass protection.
The Colts are set at tackle with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus on the left and right side, respectively.
The interior part of the line has remained poor, however.
Luck has a new center in Khaled Holmes, who played only 12 snaps last season. Hugh Thornton is the frontrunner to retain one of the guard spots, while the other guard position is uncertain. Rookie Jack Mewhort could end up starting at guard. If so, Luck and the interior part of the offensive line will grow together. Luck, in just his third season, is the elder statesmen of the group. Holmes and Thornton are both in their second season, and Mewhort has yet to play an NFL snap.
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.
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).
Guard Mike McGlynn, center Samson Satele and guard Hugh Thornton were the main players responsible for that.
Khaled Holmes will be the new starting center. Thornton, Jack Mewhort, Donald Thomas and Lance Louis are competing for the two starting guard spots.
Here's Day 3 of the five-day series looking at the five most competitive position battles
Primary candidates: Thornton, Mewhort, Thomas and Louis
Pro: Thornton was forced into the starting lineup as a rookie last season. He started 14 games after Thomas went down with a torn tendon in his quad and bicep. Thornton appears to have the inside track on keeping his starting spot because he worked with the first team during offseason workouts.
Con: Thornton got experience by starting those 14 games, but he struggled and he was definitely part of those interior problems.
Pro: He showed the coaching staff enough to go from being with the second unit during the first part of offseason workouts to working with the first unit by the end of their three-day minicamp. Mewhort's locker is also right next to quarterback Andrew Luck.
Con: Mewhort played tackle during his final season at Ohio State. Mewhort starting would mean that the interior part of the offensive line would consist of a rookie, a second-year center who is basically a rookie and a second-year guard. That's a lot of inexperience there.
Pro: Thomas has started 23 of the 45 games he's appeared in during his career. Colts GM Ryan Grigson believes Thomas has gotten stronger in his lower body.
Con: Thomas is behind the rest of the group because he didn't participate in any of the offseason workouts since he's still working his way back from his injuries last season.
Pro: Louis has started 28 of his 41 career games. He started 24 of a possible 25 games during the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Chicago Bears.
Con: Louis didn't play in the league last season after tearing his ACL in November 2012. So he's not only learning a new system, he's also getting comfortable playing football again on that knee. Louis started out working with the first team in the offseason before being passed by Mewhort.
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).
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.
The media will be able to watch practice and have access to the players Thursday.
Here's a quick look at five interesting things to pay attention to during the OTA's:
Race for top running back spot: Vick Ballard reminded everybody that he was the Colts' starting running back before a torn ACL cut his second season short. Ballard is in the running with Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw to be the team's workhorse in the backfield. Richardson is coming off a disappointing first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw, like Ballard, had his season end early because of an injury (neck). All three will get a chance to carry the ball if things go as envisioned for offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but only one of them will carry the bulk of the load.
Reps for Holmes and Luck: This is the time for Colts new starting center Khaled Holmes and quarterback Andrew Luck to work on their continuity. Holmes will try to do something former starter Samson Satele couldn't: Lead the offensive line. "The center-quarterback exchange really starts everything, probably the most elementary fundamental part of a play," Luck said. "I know when you fumble one, it stinks and we pride ourselves on making sure we get 100 percent of those, which we will no matter which center-quarterback combination is in the game."
Replacing Mathis: Suspended linebacker Robert Mathis is able to take part in all of the team's offseason activities, but I wouldn't be surprised if other linebackers, especially Bjoern Werner, get first-time reps. Mathis is allowed to be around the team until his suspension starts in Week 1, but this is the time the Colts need to allow players like Werner to get as many of the snaps with the rest of the starting defensive unit to allow him -- or whoever the starter will be -- to get comfortable. There's no replacing Mathis' 19.5 sacks, but the Colts need to do what they can to at least tread water while their defensive leader is away.
Delano time: Speaking of continuity, this would be a good time for Delano Howell, who has the inside shot at the starting spot, and LaRon Landry to work on their chemistry at safety. But Landry has spent most of the offseason working out on his own like he often does. This is a time, though, for Howell to cement the starting spot since the Colts put their faith in him by not drafting a safety or signing a marquee one during free agency.
With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Indianapolis Colts' offseason moves.
Riskiest move: Center, center, center. The Colts' belief in second-year center Khaled Holmes kept them from heavily pursing another option on the free-agent market. Cleveland's Alex Mack was the best center on the market, but the Colts didn't want to pay the heavy price tag to try to get the transition-tagged player. Indianapolis signed Phil Costa only to have him leave the money behind and suddenly retire before ever playing a snap with his new team.
Most surprising move: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw's time with the Colts looked to be over after the team announced in October he was having season-ending neck surgery. Bradshaw wanted to continue his career, but it appeared it would have to be elsewhere because of Indianapolis' loaded backfield. But Bradshaw's desire to win and team with Vick Ballard and Trent Richardson in the backfield brought him back for at least another year.
Best move Part II: The Colts couldn't risk not addressing the receiver situation. Veteran Reggie Wayne is coming off ACL surgery, and you don't know what you're going to get out of young receivers Da'Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen. Signing former New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks to a one-year deal is a win-win situation for the Colts and Nicks. Nicks is coming off a season in which he didn't catch a touchdown pass for the first time in his career, and he's looking to land a nice payday in 2015. Nicks is a proven receiver and gives the Colts another option to go with T.Y. Hilton if Wayne can't regain his previous form.
A torn tendon in his quad. A torn bicep.
Week 2 of the 2013 season.
"It sucks it happened like it did last year, but I feel like I was just starting to get comfortable where I could forget everything else and just play," Thomas said. "I hope what I can show everybody is what they want to see. I'll be ready for training camp."
Thomas will likely regain his starting guard spot. He's also available to slide over to center if needed. The goal is for Khaled Holmes to start at center, but Thomas has a history of playing there.
He was listed as the backup center almost every game during his two seasons with New England Patriots.
"When I was playing guard I was just focused on one thing," Thomas said. "When I played center in New England, you see the whole picture of everything. It makes you a better football player. Sliding over you (to center) you have to make the calls for everything, I've done before, so I can do it."
Playing center is one of the last things on Thomas' mind these days. His focus is on making sure he's completely healthy next season and finding his rhythm again.
"The biggest thing for me is to get back out there and get comfortable," Thomas said. "Blocking somebody, the speed of the game. You can be in shape, but you don't get in football shape until you actually do it. I think that's going to be the hardest part for me. Once you start playing football it just comes back to you."