INDIANAPOLIS – Well, there’s my workout for the month of July.
Below you will find 53 questions on the Colts (going off the magic roster cut down number of 53) heading into training camp at Grand Park.
With report day on Tuesday and the first practice on Wednesday, here’s 53 questions to watch heading into a very important season:
1. How different will the playing style at QB be with Matt Ryan? For the 6th straight year, the Colts will have a different starting quarterback in Week 1. What Matt Ryan might lack in scrambling ability/making plays off-script, the Colts hope is a guy who can make up for with his intellect pre-snap, processing and knowing where to go with the football at a quicker rhythm.
2. How healthy is Darius Leonard? The Leonard back/ankle injury situation reached an uncomfortable awkward status in the spring. How much time will Leonard miss in camp? Was the back surgery what he needed to be good to go for Week 1? Leonard is way too valuable to have his health status up in the air.
3. Can Mo Alie-Cox put it all together? With the Jack Doyle retirement, re-signing Mo Alie-Cox took on an even bigger focus. The Colts did that, and now they need Alie-Cox to put together the flashes we’ve seen, particularly with the lack of experience behind him at tight end.
4. Will the Colts have better key availability for their frontline guys in camp? Remember the first week of training camp last year for the Colts? You had major injuries to Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson. Plus, Darius Leonard was sidelined. Did that impact another slow start to the season?
5. Will we see more blitzing with the arrival of Gus Bradley? Recent history from new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley would indicate the Colts will not be blitzing much more, if at all. That means it’s paramount for the Colts to find a more consistent four-man rush to offset any ‘manufactured’ pass rush.
6. Who emerges on the special teams coverage units? Obviously, this isn’t a main storyline but don’t tell that to special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, who no longer has special teams mainstays in George Odum, Matthew Adams and Jordan Glasgow.
7. Is Alex Pierce ready for needed rookie impact? Man, the Colts really need this to be the case. And while Pierce had a nice showing in spring, the Colts have seen firsthand how difficult it can be for instant impact out of rookie wideouts.
8. Will the offense have any timing issues? While the glee over Matt Ryan in Indy has been pointed out everywhere, it’s still worth noting that the Colts do have a new QB, unfamiliar with this system. Plus, you have two new offensive line starters, and gobs of inexperience at wide receiver and tight end. Will that lead to some timing issues?
9. Is Julian Blackmon definitely going to be good for Week 1? Based off what we saw in the spring, it’s hard not to see Blackmon being ready to go for Week 1. And that’s pretty remarkable for a guy who tore his Achilles last October.
10. Is Jonathan Taylor’s workload going to dip at all? Dating back to college, these are the carry numbers for Jonathan Taylor’s last 5 seasons of football: 332, 232, 320, 307, 299. He’s yet to miss a game due to injury in that span. Are the Colts going to continue to pound it with him like a true No. 1 workhorse?
11. How physical will the Colts go in camp? Make no mistake, the wide majority of the NFL has scaled back on the physicality in training camp. But the Colts seem to take it to an extra degree. Will this change in 2022? Is it a reason for 7 straight Week 1 losses in?
12. Who will play more at corner—Brandon Facyson or Isaiah Rodgers? Both Facyson and Rodgers had really strong springs. They are different in size (Facyson is the taller, longer corner), so the Colts will have some options in complementing Stephon Gillmore and Kenny Moore.
13. How simple will Gus Bradley’s scheme be? Do not expect the Colts to be overly exotic with defensive game plans under Bradley. And that leads to the question on if the change at defensive coordinator, with some more pressing/man coverage, will get the Colts to better disrupt opposing passing games.
14. Is Quenton Nelson’s mega contract extension coming before the start of the season? Typically, you see late July as a popular time for contract extensions. The Colts have operated under a similar timeframe with guys reaching the end of their rookie deals. For Quenton Nelson that’s here in 2022, as he currently plays on a 5th year rookie option at $13.7 million. Is Nelson about to ink a deal for $20 million annually?
15. Will Kenny Moore sit out? While Moore did participate (briefly) in the June minicamp, he did not publicly commit to being on the field when training camp arrives. It would be quite the stance for Moore to sit out the mandatory days at Grand Park, costing him around $50,000 per day.
16. Is there an undrafted free agent to make the team on offense? You could point to a couple of positions for a potential UDFA here. No. 3/4 running back, depth at wideout and along the offensive line could all have an undrafted free agents earn some quality looks in August.
17. How beneficial will the Lions joint practices be? On August 17th and 18th, the fighting Dan Campbell’s will make the trek down I-69 to have a pair of joint practice sessions with the Colts. While the Lions aren’t supposed to be good this year, you’d have to guess that Campbell will have them physical. Plus, they do have some intriguing young talent in the trenches.
18. Who makes up the third-down pass rush package? When those passing downs arise, three names seem to be locked into a four-man pass rush group. That would be DE-Yannick Ngakoue, DE-Kwity Paye, DT-DeForest Buckner. To complete that group, the Colts have some options in DT-Dayo Odyeingbo and DL-Tyquan Lewis. On paper, it’s a group that looks to be capable of providing more consistent pressure.
19. Will the Colts play more safeties under Gus Bradley? A personnel grouping with 3 safeties on the field is not something Matt Eberflus dipped into too much, particularly as of late. But Gus Bradley has some history exploring with some of that. It’ll be interesting to see what changes there are defensively as Frank Reich welcomes in a new defensive coordinator for the first time in his 5 years as head coach.
20. Do we see the Colts change and benefit in Week 1 from a different camp plan? We’ve hit a little bit of this throughout these questions, but it is a question that the staff has spent a lot of brain time on. What needs to change in the offseason/camp plan to get off to better starts in seasons? Balancing the avoidance of injuries, along with getting the proper on-field work is difficult, and the Colts have failed in it a lot over the past decade.
21. Does Michael Pittman take the jump he wants, and the Colts need? Pittman wants to be a “definite No. 1” wideout in everyone’s eyes. Does that mean seeing his 80-catch, 1,000-yard, 6-touchdown numbers from last season jump significantly?
22. What will come from a new defensive line approach? Under Gus Bradley, and new defensive line coach Nate Ollie (a Ball State product), the Colts focus up front is to be in constant attack mode up the field. It’s less read and react at the snap, and instead immediately trying to create havoc in the backfield. DeForest Buckner has history in this scheme and seems to be excited to get back into it.
23. Does Mike Strachan earn more trust? It seems like eons ago, but Mike Strachan was in the wide receiver rotation for the first two games last season. But after 52 snaps in the first two weeks, Strachan was on the field for just 10 snaps the rest of the season. It’ll be interesting to see the development of the big wideouts—Dezmon Patmon and Strachan.
24. Who will start next to Julian Blackmon? With the retirement of Khari Willis, the Colts have an open starting job at the ‘strong’ safety position. It looks like it’ll be a battle between two new guys—Rodney McLeod with his 123 career starts and third-round pick Nick Cross.
25. How much playing time can Stephon Gillmore handle? In dealing with injuries, Stephon Gillmore’s playing time dipped to 59% of the defensive snaps last season. At the age of 32, Gillmore being on the field for every single step probably is wishful thinking. How does that impact the necessary depth at cornerback?
26. Will health ever cooperate for Parris Campbell? The injury history of Campbell is well documented—34 missed games in 49 career games. Now, Campbell is getting one (likely) final chance to prove himself with the Colts, and perhaps the NFL. Campbell is in a contract year and the Colts really hope their belief in him pays off, especially given the meager looking wideout depth chart.
27. Who wins the 3rd running back job? Does this matter? Right now, no. But you are one Jonathan Taylor injury away from needing that 3rd running back. Veterans Philip Lindsay and Ty’Son Williams have some nice, to decent, NFL resumes as insurance options in the former role held by Jordan Wilkins/Marlon Mack.
28. Is Reggie Wayne the veteran presence needed in the receiver room? The oldest wideout in the receiver room is 25-year-old Keke Coutee. The Colts have elected not to add more of a veteran presence in there. Are they banking on new wideouts coach Reggie Wayne to be that type of figure?
29. Will the Colts have more confidence in their quarterback? If you listen to the Colts talk this offseason, it’s pretty clear that their belief in this No. 2 is much different. Will that change at all—one way or the other—as things start to get realer this time of year.
30. Will an extremely unproven tight end group miss Jack Doyle’s reliability? It’s pretty wild to see the youth at tight end, too, and not just wide receiver. Behind Mo Alie-Cox, the Colts have 11 total catches in the NFL among their 5 other tight ends. All of those come from Kylen Granson, with draft picks Jelani Woods and Drew Ogletree looking to fill out the tight end room.
31. Will DeForest Buckner reach that definite All-Pro level? Despite playing two more games in 2021 than 2020, DeForest Buckner’s pass rushing numbers dipped a bit (from 9.5 sacks to 7.0, and 26 quarterback hits to 18). How will the arrival of Yannick Ngakoue help free up Buckner more in the pass game?
32. Who finishes second on the team in catches? Is Nyheim Hines the favorite for this (with Michael Pittman the expected leader in catches). Do we see a sleeper emerge in the wideout room? What about Mo Alie-Cox?
33. Will Bobby Okereke earn a second contract in Indy? The 2019 Draft was very ‘meh’ by Chris Ballard. Okereke, a third-round pick, has been a nice consistent starter. Do the Colts want to give Okereke a second contract, with Darius Leonard already making eye-popping linebacker money.
34. Will the Colts alter their approach to preseason games? The Colts have shied away from playing their starters much, if any at all, in the preseason. And the question deserves to be asked if this has contributed to 7 straight losses in Week 1? Personally, with a new QB and unproven pass catching personnel + a new defensive system, I think it would be wise to expose the starters to more preseason action.
35. Who wins the left tackle job? This position battle has veteran Matt Pryor getting the first crack, with rookie Bernhard Raimann also competing. No matter who wins, the Colts are going to have questions at such an important spot. Pryor has barely any left tackle experience. Raimann is new to the NFL and played just two seasons of tackle in college.
36. What will be the role for Dayo Odeyingbo? It might have to wait until the pass downs arrive, but Dayo Odeyingbo should be involved in that important rush package this season. Odeyingbo was adamant in the spring that he feels much different than he did last season playing as a rookie, less than a year removed from tearing his Achilles.
37. Do we see any more playing time for E.J. Speed? An entirely new defensive staff could lead to some new answers personnel wise. Might one of those be the uber athletic E.J. Speed, as he plays in a contract year? The third linebacker is likely him or Zaire Franklin.
38. Who wins the right guard job? The loser of the left tackle starting job between Matt Pryor/Bernhard Raimann could factor in here. Ball State product Danny Pinter is the favorite though. Will Fries, a 7th round pick from 2021, could be a name to watch in replacing Mark Glowinski.
39. Any need for a defensive free agent signing in camp? Whereas a wideout free agent signing has been the popular storyline this offseason, the defense has been pretty quiet when talking about a FA move. Currently, it’s hard to see any specific position that would greatly benefit from a free agent addition. Maybe defensive end depth?
40. Will Rodrigo Blankenship regain his kicking job? Hot Rod has a much better grasp on the Colts placekicking position right now than he did last December. Michael Badgley was not re-signed though, so it’s Blankenship vs. Jake Verity as camp begins. Verity has never kicked in an NFL game, spending last year on the Ravens practice squad as an undrafted free agent.
41. Will the offensive line get back to being elite? In 2021, the Colts offensive line did not play at the elite level we have grown accustomed to under Frank Reich. How will needing to replace two starters up front (with LT-Eric Fisher and RG-Mark Glowinski no longer here) impact a position group that took a slight step back last year.
42. Will Yannick Ngakoue’s presence open things up for others on the defensive line? The trade for Yannick Ngakoue was huge for the Colts. Gus Bradley’s influence clearly played a role in acquiring a rusher who has been so darn consistent and productive in his NFL career. Having Ngakoue coming off the edge should alleviate some of the extra attention towards the likes of DeForest Buckner/Kwity Paye.
43. Who is the team’s second wide receiver? You could make strong cases for several players ascending to that spot behind Michael Pittman on the depth chart. It’s very wide open to see how things play out behind Michael Pittman, and the rest of the playing time at receiver.
44. Do we see a second-year jump for Kwity Paye? In his second NFL season, Paye is switching sides, to primarily line up on the left side (opposite the opposing right tackle). Paye says he feels more comfortable on that side. Will that lead to an uptick in sacks (4.0) and QB hits (10) from last year.
45. Will Sam Ehlinger earn a spot on the 53-man roster? It’s hard to see a great reason for keeping a 3rd QB on the 53-man roster. But this debate is something many NFL teams go through at the most important position in sports.
46. How versatile of a weapon will Nyheim Hines be? The usage of Hines has been a huge storyline for the Colts this entire offseason. The staff has made a strong commitment to moving Hines around and getting him the ball more in 2022.
47. Will T.Y. Hilton get a call? This goes for any team around the NFL. T.Y. Hilton will turn 33 years old this fall and has given some off-season indications that he’d like to play an 11th NFL season. Is it only a matter of time before the Colts throw up a “thanks for the memories” note on the Hilton/Lucas Oil banner?
48. Does Kylen Granson have a drop problem? This was a question on Granson coming out of SMU last year. He didn’t have a drop last year in 11 receptions (15 total targets), but he did have some issues in the spring with ball security.
49. Who will make up the offensive line depth? It’s rare to see the Colts enter a camp under Frank Reich and have two open starting jobs on the offensive live. Of course, the trickle down effect of that is some question on offensive line depth that is always needed. Spring signing Dennis Kelly (a Purdue product) brings a good amount of tackle experience. Jason Spriggs (IU product) also has some starts to his resume outside. Will Fries seems to be the main interior depth guy.
50. Who is a sleeper to emerge at wideout? Whenever a group has this much unproven depth, there is a terrific opportunity for someone to emerge. What about a Keke Coutee, who does have 84 career receptions? Or a DeMichael Harris, who had a brief impact back in 2020 with Philip Rivers? Guys low on the depth chart at receiver will get a chance at a wide open playing time position.
51. Is a new defensive coordinator/system what Ben Banogu needs? For Banogu’s sake, that better be the case. Banogu is in a contract year coming off a season in which he was a healthy scratch in 8 of 17 games (he played 68 defensive snaps the entire season). Gus Bradley offers Banogu one final chance in Indy.
52. Is there an undrafted free agent to make the team on defense? Unlike offense, the defensive side of the ball appears to have an undrafted free agent who has already made a nice impression. That would be linebacker JoJo Domann (Nebraska). With Matthew Adams gone and Jordan Glasgow cut last month, there’s a spot open at linebacker + on special teams.
53. Will we see any changes to the return men? Isaiah Rodgers (kick returner) and Nyheim Hines (punt returner) remain on the roster. But can the Colts afford to have them as returners, too, with growing roles on defense and offense, respectively.