INDIANAPOLIS – It’s time for Colts players to return to Indianapolis.
And if it was up to Chris Ballard, there would be no voluntary tag to this part of the offseason.
The Colts offseason program begins Monday.
And here’s a reminder of how the offseason program is divided up (from the NFL):
Phase One consists of the first two weeks of the program with activities limited to meetings, strength and conditioning, and physical rehabilitation only.
Phase Two consists of the next three weeks of the program. On-field workouts may include individual or group instruction and drills, as well as “perfect play drills,” and drills and plays with offensive players lining up across from offensive players and defensive players lining up across from defensive players, conducted at a walk through pace. No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted.
Phase Three consists of the next four weeks of the program. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or “OTAs”. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.
The Colts will have a 3-day minicamp from June 7-9. Once the offseason program ends in mid-June, players will be on summer vacation until training camp starts in late July.
Here are the top 6 spring storylines to watch for the Colts.
1. Sense Of Urgency
In case you forgot about it, here was Chris Ballard back in January speaking about the 2022 (voluntary) offseason program for the Colts:
“We are going to have an offseason (program),” Ballard said adamantly. “You can bet on that. If they don’t want to show up fine. But we are going to have an offseason. We are going to be here. Guys that want to win are going to be here. We are going to have an offseason.”
This quote was one of the more fired up you’ll hear Ballard.
While COVID took away the offseason program in 2020, the Colts elected to hold a very scaled back two-week version of spring work last year. It was a two-hand touch feel to the limited on-field activity, with Colts players and staff agreeing to the parameters last spring.
Yes, this time of year is ‘voluntary’ per the league’s collective bargain agreement. But expect a very high percentage of attendance for the Colts as they continue to try and find the right approach to starting a season better.
2. Matt Ryan’s Impression
Matt Ryan was in Indy last week to begin his introduction to a new city, new team.
For yet another season, the Colts offense will have a new quarterback under center.
It’ll be interesting to see how the team reacts to Ryan, an extremely accomplished pro, who teammates rave about.
Now, unlike Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz, there’s going to be a little more learning for Ryan with Frank Reich’s offensive system. Reich will certainly cater things and make adjustments for Ryan, but the seamless playbook transition won’t be as obvious as it was for the last two signal callers.
3. Gus Bradley Installing New Defense
For the first time in 5 years, the Colts defense will spend its spring learning a new defense.
Gus Bradley’s system isn’t expected to look drastically different from what Matt Eberflus had installed, but there will definitely be some changes.
It’ll be interesting to watch the tweaks and if certain guys see their play time/roles shift with an entirely new defensive staff in the building.
Based off the decisions to trade for DE-Yannick Ngakoue, sign CB-Stephon Gilmore and sign CB-Brandon Facyson, the Colts are already listening to their new defensive coordinator.
4. Leaders Emerging
Based off what Ballard has said about this spring offseason program, the leadership element to the 2022 Colts deserves some attention.
Defensively, things aren’t likely to change much with DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard and Kenny Moore still around. Newcomers Stephon Gilmore and Rodney McLeod bring Super Bowl rings.
Offensively, Matt Ryan will offer a different leadership style to the quarterback position. Gone are the two longest tenured Colts in Jack Doyle and T.Y. Hilton—two extremely well respected guys for how they carried themselves professionally.
Do we see more vocal leadership from a Jonathan Taylor, a Michael Pittman or a Quenton Nelson?
5. New Offensive Line Look
Unlike so many other teams, the Colts haven’t had to deal with much offensive line turnover recently.
In 2022 though, they will have two of their five starters getting their first taste starting.
-Matt Pryor will get the first crack at left tackle. Pryor has two career starts at left tackle.
-Danny Pinter is the likely man at right guard. Pinter has never started at right guard.
Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith are the continued mainstays up front, but the Colts will welcome to new O-line starters for the first time since entering the 2018 season.
6. Julian Blackmon Injury Watch
Unlike last spring, the Colts don’t have many injuries to watch.
Julian Blackmon is definitely one though.
Blackmon tore his Achilles on October 20, so his availability for the start of the 2022 season is up in the air.
Is an 11-month recovery enough time for one of the team’s better and more consistent players?
And, of course, the health of Parris Campbell is always something to keep an eye on, particularly with the lack of wideout moves this offseason.