INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time in 2021, Colts coaches and players can get together, albeit virtually.
The 2021 offseason program is underway for the Colts, and the other 31 NFL teams.
How it looks for the next two months though remains up in the air.
Currently, teams are in Phase 1, which is a four-week time period that is strictly for virtual meetings and no on-field work.
Starting on May 17th, teams are able to get on the field, in an individual setting, but everything remains voluntary and players around the league have been hesitant to take part in such in-person, on-field work. More than 10 teams have announced through the NFLPA that their players won’t be participating in-person. The Colts haven’t commented yet.
The NFLPA has yet to agree to this plan, with the hope from the NFL being that teams can hold 10 OTA sessions (again, voluntary) and a mandatory minicamp during the final phase of the offseason (May 24-June 18).
With the Colts getting things started this week, here are 6 storylines to watch for this spring:
1. Carson Wentz In Meetings
For some Colts, this week will be their first introduction to new quarterback Carson Wentz.
Since being traded to the Colts, Wentz has made some rounds throwing to the likes of Michael Pittman, T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Dezmon Patmon and Jack Doyle, among others.
Now, Wentz will be in positional and unit meetings, which is another step in him immersing himself to his new team.
From a playbook/system standpoint, things shouldn’t be too foreign to Wentz. Some different terminology will needed to be learned, but Frank Reich is going to let his QB have reign to run the show on game days.
Wentz getting acclimated to his offensive personnel in how they learn, and tick, will be part of this spring program.
2. Any New Wrinkles?
It’s rare to see in today’s NFL.
For the 4th straight year, the Colts will have the same play caller and system on both sides of the ball.
With that, do we see new wrinkles or further advancement from Frank Reich and/or Matt Eberflus?
The Colts need to take advantage of the continuity they have system wise, and personnel wise. While various teams around the league are having to install new playbooks, or teach a massive amount of new faces, the Colts are the outlier.
Will that allow for more personnel groupings, different pre-snap looks, to be installed offensively?
Defensively, do we see added sub packages, or changes to pass rush looks up front, or coverages on the back end?
3. Precious Quarterback Reps
It goes without saying how important offseason reps on-field are for a variety of reasons.
The Colts are one of the teams who could really use them, given their quarterback situation.
Sure, Carson Wentz largely knows this system. But he still is working with entirely new personnel, and needs some practice time to help re-build his own confidence. That comes from different coaching keying in on the fundamentals of Wentz.
And then you have Jacob Eason, who didn’t have a spring offseason program in-person last year. The Colts are giving Eason the chance to win the backup job. He will be the quarterback of the second unit this offseason. That’s a terrific opportunity to further his growth.
QBs wearing red jerseys isn’t the same as preseason reps, or (obviously) regular season action, but it’s important for the Colts in 2021.
4. Rookie Involvement
For now, it is a possibility that teams will have a rookie minicamp in 2021. That didn’t happen in 2020.
Every single team can benefit from getting their rookies on the field for a few days in the spring, separate from the rest of the team.
The Colts are in that boat, despite (currently) having just two draft picks in the first 125 selections next week.
As Jim Irsay pointed out last week, the Colts are going to need some Day 1 impacts from this rookie class, and possibly at some very important positions.
The ability to get these guys on the field, taking coaching, along with around a dozen or so sessions with the entire roster, should aid their early development.
5. Offensive Line Shuffle
In each of the last two offseasons, the Colts entered the spring offseason program knowing their starting offensive line, and where each guy would line up.
That’s not the case in 2021, following the retirement of Anthony Castonzo.
Who starts at left tackle could become clearer after next week’s draft?
Although if the Colts don’t select a left tackle early on, this on-field work in the spring will be vital to some trial and error options for blocking Carson Wentz’s blindside.
It’s not the full pads that will get put on in camp and the preseason, but it’s still important time for the rest of the line group and Carson Wentz to get synchronized with the protection game.
6. Need For New Leaders
Say what you want about these guys as players, but the Colts did lose some valuable locker room presences from last season.
Those would include Philip Rivers, Anthony Castonzo, Jacoby Brissett, Anthony Walker and Justin Houston (still a free agent).
With that, the Colts need some guys to step into more prominent leadership roles.
You have some definites in DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard, Kenny Moore, T.Y. Hilton. Carson Wentz needs to embrace such a role, and the Colts could use a few more.