COMMENTARY | With training camp just a day away for the Indianapolis Colts, the hype for the new NFL season has really started to escalate.
With several new additions to the squad, the Colts have more depth this season than they have had in many years. Unlike the Peyton Manning era when the team was always devastated when an injury occurred, this team has enough depth to stay competitive at most every position outside of safety.
The most intense competition will be on the defensive line when the Colts open training camp in Anderson, Ind., this weekend.
Nose tackle is the most open of all the positions with Josh Chapman currently sitting on the pole position. There will likely be a rotation at nose with Chapman, Aubrayo Franklin, Brandon McKinney and Martin Tevaseu all trying to earn as much playing time as they can. Chapman and McKinney are both recovering from injuries that cost them all of last season. Tevaseu was solid filling in last season, but the new additions likely leave him as the most likely to be cut from this group.
The battle for playing time at defensive tackle is more cut and dry. Ricky Jean Francois was signed to a large contract this offseason that will guarantee him the longest look with the first team defense in camp. Rookie Montori Hughes looks like he could've been a steal in the fifth round, especially given his 6-foot-4-inch, 335-pound frame. Hughes, Drake Nevis, Fili Moala, Ricardo Mathews and Lawrence Guy will all be fighting to make the roster behind Jean-Francois and defensive end starter Cory Redding. Nearly all of these players can play at both the defensive tackle and defensive end positions, with Hughes able to fill in at nose as well.
Behind the defensive line, there is an intense battle heating up for the starting middle linebacker position. Jerrell Freeman is going to start -- no question about that. But the player starting next to him is anybody's guess. Pat Angerer has the inside track if he has recovered completely from the foot injury that slowed him down last year. Kavell Conner has been solid when his number has been called, but not spectacular. The same can be said of former Buffalo Bills middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who was acquired in a trade this offseason. Angerer and Sheppard are very solid against the run, with Conner possibly coming in on passing downs.
Out of all of the spots on their team, the Colts need to see the most improvement out of their offensive line this coming season. Protecting Andrew Luck is the first priority if they expect him to survive for over a decade. The Colts brought in Gosder Cherilus to start opposite Anthony Castonzo at the tackle position, and incumbent starting center Samson Satele will likely open as the starter with rookie Khaled Holmes pushing him throughout camp.
The guard position is much more difficult to figure out. Last year's initial starters when healthy were Joe Reitz and Mike McGlynn, and both of them are still on the team. Neither is likely to start, though. The Colts signed Donald Thomas and drafted Hugh Thornton, and both have seen significant snaps with the first team during the offseason.
A unique position battle has been created at wide receiver with LaVon Brazill's four-game suspension. I talked about this already last month here, but there is even more competition for who will be the No. 2 receiver in the offense. T.Y. Hilton is a great slot receiver with speed to play on the outside in two-receiver sets. I like Darrius Heyward-Bey and think that he has a lot of potential with this offense, but he will have to prove that he deserves to stay on the field when the second tight end or fullback comes in for certain formations.
With so many players added for depth this offseason, the position battles will be fierce throughout the preseason. The competitive atmosphere will also help prepare the team for when the games start in just a little over a month.
Check out the Colts' training camp schedule here.
Daniel Biehl lives in Indianapolis and has been a follower of the Colts since Jim Harbaugh was the starting quarterback. He is a freelance writer who has played and watched football for many years.
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