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INDIANAPOLIS – The message was filled with ambition for a team that hardly anyone is predicting as a playoff participant in 2018.
Frank Reich had this to say to his team before they headed out for summer vacation back in mid-June.
“Come back in the best shape of your life so we can shock the world,” Reich relayed to his team.
“That we can commit to one another and committing to one another starts with what we do during the time off that we have. We are professional athletes, that means we have to be in great shape for the season. We want to play with tempo, effort and energy. We are going to scheme things. We are going to have great plays and good schemes, but we need to have great players who are in great shape.”
Reich is about to see how committed his players are with report day for camp coming Wednesday.
Practice starts Thursday.
The first preseason game is just two weeks after that, with the regular season opener taking place Sept. 9.
Let’s look at 6 storylines for the Colts heading into camp:
How rusty will Andrew Luck be?
-We’ve got to start with No. 12. The Colts are saying ‘no limitations’ for the franchise quarterback, outside of some occasional rest days throughout camp. Will the regular season schedule of 3 straight days of practice, 1 day off, 1 day on be enough for Luck to knock off his own shoulder rust, plus learning new personnel and a new offense? The Colts still haven’t decided just how much Luck will play in the preseason. If Luck can get enough adequate work in August, then maybe his level of play will have this team hovering closer to the playoff threshold.
Is the offensive line finally fixed?
-Chris Ballard is a huge, huge fan of the depth in the trenches. The offensive line, in particular, is where Ballard has invested some serious resources into fixing that bunch. If the injuries don’t flare up, the Colts should be much better up front. Getting the ball out quicker is going to aid that group in pass protection. We will see if the run game can come together with potentially 3 new starters likely flanking Anthony Castonzo and Ryan Kelly.
When will the Colts have Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers next?
-Training Camp has arrived and the Colts still don’t have their starting safeties this year. Both players are opening up camp on the PUP list and their returns probably won’t come until we get into the month of August. Hooker and Geathers are talented defenders who would greatly enhance the needed playmaking for this defense. Their health is vital for the Colts to have a position group of strength for a very young side of the ball learning a new scheme.
Who will occupy the linebacker spots?
-No position group is more wide open than linebacker. All 3 starting jobs are up for grabs with really no proven talent, in this system. Darius Leonard is healthy and has signed his rookie contract, so he needs to be prepared to start in 2018. With Leonard sidelined, names like Anthony Walker, Najee Goode, Tyrell Adams and Antonio Morrison were the most frequent starters in the spring. What will happen to this group when the full pads come on?
Will the pass rush still be an area of concern?
-The Colts finished last season with the second fewest sacks of any NFL team. Chris Ballard believes the switch to a 4-3 scheme, with pass rushers now getting after the quarterback from a three-point stance, will create some more pressure. In the spring, the Colts had Jabaal Sheard and Tarell Basham as their starting defensive ends. Both of those guys have some history in 4-3 systems, so we will see if they can be the lead pass rush guys with second-round pick Kemoko Turay in the mix as well.
Are the young running backs ready?
-Robert Turbin can participate in camp and the preseason before his 4-game suspension kicks in for the start of the regular season. So with Turbin out for the first quarter of the season, the Colts are really going to rely on young backs Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins. Ballard even liked what Josh Ferguson and Christine Michael showed in the spring. Depending on how comfortable the Colts feel about their running backs come late August, they might dip into the waiver wire after final cuts for a more veteran option.
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