Indianapolis Colts: Vick Ballard
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.
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: The Colts didn't fork over a first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Richardson to struggle and eventually lose his starting position to Donald Brown. Richardson obviously was behind the rest of his teammates after being acquired just days before the Colts' Week 3 game against San Francisco, but he didn't show much progress as the season went on. He actually regressed as the season went on. Richardson has to step up to not only avoid being labeled a bust after being taken with the No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft, but also to help the Colts from looking like they got played by the Browns in the trade. Averaging 2.9 yards a carry again won't get the job done for Richardson.
What he has to do: Richardson -- for his and the Colts' sake -- spent the offseason studying the playbook so that he's able to run with his natural instincts instead of overthinking, which he did too often last season. Richardson also has to do a better job of picking the correct holes to run through. It wasn't entirely Richardson's fault last season. The offensive line has to do a better job of blocking. There were way too many occasions where Richardson would get hit two or three yards behind the line of scrimmage. Richardson also has to beat out Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard for the starting running back position.
Outlook: Richardson wore a red non-contact jersey during part of the offseason workouts because he had surgery on his shoulder shortly after the season ended. He'll likely get the first shot at starting over Bradshaw and Ballard because the latter two are coming off injuries that cost them almost all of the 2013 season. But Richardson will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going if Bradshaw and Ballard are producing when given the opportunity.
Quotable: "(Richardson's) one of those guys that has benefitted tremendously from the extra classroom time. It was ambitious to think that he could come in, what was it, Week 3 or 4 last year, and pick it up to hit the ground running. It was one of those situations where the defense knew when we put him in the game that more than likely we were running the football and they were packing the box. He was faced with some tremendously tough looks but he'll be better in 2014." -- Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton
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
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).
The only thing Pagano would say about starting spots is that quarterback Andrew Luck will start. Put that down in permanent marker as long as he’s part of the franchise.
“I mean you look at this team today compared to when we started, like I told the team, it’s going to be really, really difficult, and I told our staff, really difficult to get to 53 this year,” Pagano said. “When we get to final cut-down, it is going to be difficult.”
Monday is the start of a five-day series while I'm on vacation looking at the five most competitive positions for a starting spot.
Position: Running back
Primary candidates: Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard
Richardson: 157 attempts, 458 yards, 3 TD
Con: All you have to do is look at Richardson’s statistics -- or watch a few of his runs -- from last season to see him struggle and then it's easy to question if he’ll ever live up to the expectations of being the No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft. He only averaged 2.9 yards a carry and eventually lost his starting spot to Donald Brown late in the season, giving Cleveland the obvious advantage in the trade. The Colts need more University of Alabama Trent Richardson and less indecisive running Trent Richardson. The Browns used the No. 26 pick to draft Johnny Manziel, who by name alone makes Cleveland relevant in the league.
Bradshaw: 41 attempts, 186 yards, 2 TD
Con: Injuries, injuries and more injuries. Bradshaw has a difficult time staying healthy. His season ended after the game against the 49ers because of a neck injury. Bradshaw has only played in all 16 games in a season once, in 2010, in his seven-year career. You want your starter to be dependable in the health department. Bradshaw isn’t that.
Ballard: 13 attempts, 63 yards 0 TD
Con: Ballard tore his ACL while making a cut in practice prior to Week 2. It’s difficult to regain your form quickly from an ACL tear unless your name is Adrian Peterson. Ballard is behind Richardson and Bradshaw in the competition since he didn’t take part in any of the Colts’ offseason workouts because he’s still working his way back.
Wells’ verdict: Richardson will be given the first shot at starting partially based off his talent and because not starting would be another sign of a failed trade by Grigson. But don’t be shocked if Bradshaw ends up starting if Richardson struggles early. The Colts aren’t in the position to be waiting for Richardson to find his rhythm.
Wells: You can't count out Ahmad Bradshaw based off how he played in his brief time on the field before getting injured last season. ESPN NFL Insider Jim Trotter had an interesting nugget recently. He wrote on Twitter that Trent Richardson, according to coaches, is relying more on his instincts when running instead of thinking it through and he has a chance to be a "three-down player." I'd say at this point -- and mind you, so much can change over the next few months -- that you have to think Richardson and Bradshaw are the frontrunners.
@MikeWellsNFL who do you personally think to be the starting running back for the Indianapolis Colts next season? How does TR look?— Mason Ross (@Sauce_Ross) June 19, 2014
Wells: The outside linebacker position is simply Bjoern Werner's to lose. Play well and the starting position is his. Struggle and it'll be open competition for Robert Mathis' spot during his absence. You can't really get a good indication on how a player looks based off drills where they're not wearing pads or going full speed. A better indicator will be once the pads go on in training camp.
@MikeWellsNFL How's Bjoern Werner looking? Does he look ready to take on an increased role with Mathis out?— Tommy Bond (@TommyN_Bond) June 19, 2014
Wells: Donte Moncrief will be given the opportunity to be the Colts' fourth receiver, but don't be surprised if he's not a major contributor next season. Here's what offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton had to say about Moncrief during minicamp. "He is big, fast and smart. He has the tools to be a legitimate down the field threat. He's been working his tail off with [receivers] coach [Charlie] Williams to learn the offense and more importantly, develop continuity with our quarterback. He's done some good things over the course of the offseason program and expect that he'll pick up where he leaves off in training camp."
@MikeWellsNFL is moncrief more of a project guy or do you think he is actually going to contribute other than ST?Longterm starter potential?— Nathaniel J. Ford (@n8james4d) June 19, 2014
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
Wayne, as expected for months, is not taking part in the team's minicamp because he's still working his way back from a torn ACL, suffered in Week 7 last season.
"He was ready to run in there right at the end of that team drill," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He looks great. Again, we're going to have to have plenty of security around him so he doesn't sneak out in pads come training camp time and try to get in there too soon. We all know what Reggie's made of and how he's wired and what his DNA is, and so he's chomping at the bit obviously to get back out there."
So will Wayne, who is determined to prove doubters wrong about being able to return from a torn ACL at age 35, be ready for training camp at the end of July?
"I'd be shocked, I'd be shocked if he wouldn't be," Pagano said.
Wayne isn't the only Colts' player trying to return from a season-ending injury suffered last year. Running backs Vick Ballard (knee) and Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), offensive lineman Donald Thomas (quad/bicep) and tight end Dwayne Allen (hip) all had their seasons cut short.
Bradshaw and Allen are taking part in the minicamp. Ballard and Thomas are headed in the right direction with their rehab, according to Pagano.
"We're anticipating having most of those guys," Pagano said. "There may be one or two out of that group that might have to start on PUP, but our guys, Dave Hammer and the crew and our doctors are optimistic that none of those guys will have to."
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.
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).
"It feels good to be out there with my teammates again," he said. "It allows me to work on the timing with the quarterbacks and offensive line."
Participating in OTAs is a significant step for Bradshaw. He dealt with foot injuries the past two seasons, causing him to sit out the offseason programs. He signed with the Colts at the end of OTAs last season.
"It's definitely a different feeling being able to take part in these workouts," Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw's return leaves Vick Ballard as the only one of the Colts' three running backs pushing for the starting spot not taking part in the OTAs. Training camp is the earliest that Ballard will be back on the field because he's still working his way back from a torn ACL, suffered in practice prior to Week 2 last season.
- Mike Chappell of the Indy Star caught up with former Colts running back Edgerrin James, who is enjoying retirement while being a tourist traveling around the country. James set the Colts' franchise record for rushing yards in a career, in a season and in a game during his career with the team from 1999-2005.
- Kevin Bowen of Colts.com talked to running back Vick Ballard to get an update on his recovery from a torn ACL, which happened after Week 1 last season. "Once you get out there running around, moving your feet, catching the ball and stuff like that, you get to feeling like a football player," Ballard said. "For a long time, I felt like I was just a rehab warrior -- coming in, not really touching the field, running on the treadmill and stuff like that. So to actually put cleats on and go out there and start making cuts, it's different now."
- Craig Kelley, also of Colts.com, writes about receiver Griff Whalen and the battle he faces in the roster next season. Whalen, who worked his way up the depth chart at Stanford, is competing with LaVon Brazill and Da'Rick Rogers for what could be the fifth and final receiver spot on the roster next season. "I feel stronger, faster, better overall. I can feel the difference on the field," said Whalen. "During the offseason, I've been working on that. During the workouts, I think it's showing up. The weight room is really important. There are different aspects that are important. It changes as you go along from building your base strength, and there's a lot of stability work to help prevent injury."
INDIANAPOLIS – Nervousness from the Indianapolis Colts' faithful seemed to set in last week when running backs Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw did not participate in organized team activities and fellow running back Trent Richardson wore a red jersey during the session.
This month was supposed to be when the race for the starting running back position would start.
I'm not surprised about Ballard and Bradshaw not taking part. Ballard is working back from a torn ACL. Bradshaw had neck surgery last season and he's a veteran who doesn't necessarily need to take part in OTA. As far as Richardson goes, he definitely needs to be out there -- even if he's limited with the no-contact jersey -- because it's all about continuing to get familiar with the system for him.
Richardson, who had shoulder surgery earlier this year, said he's not sure how much longer he'll have to wear the red jersey.
Don't be surprised if Ballard doesn't take part in any of the offseason activities until training camp starts in late July.
"I've got tendinitis, keep the tendinitis down and get the strength back up," Ballard said "I probably could participate now but there's really no reason to rush. Just want to make sure I'm feeling good for training camp."
Bradshaw, Richardson and Ballard will all have an opportunity to get carries next season. Only one of them will be the workhorse, though. Coach Chuck Pagano said during the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Florida back in March that they want one guy to get the bulk of the carries.
The race, the one needed to help the Colts' passing game, is on hold for the moment.
"I've been in this situation before and I know how this game goes," Bradshaw said. "Being a running back in this league is tough. I think it's tough for any starting running back, or one running back to stay healthy. .... To have these other two guys with you it's going to do nothing but help us."