The indianapolis Colts are betting big on their
They made a huge investment in left tackle Anthony Castonzo last
September. They went heavy on offensive linemen in April’s draft.
They brought in Joe Philbin, who has instituted a hands-on approach
to fixing the line. Now everyone wants to see if the payoff will be
making the playoffs.
It’s a high-stakes risk for one of last season’s most disappointing
”Anytime your quarterback gets hurt – if he tried to scramble, he
shouldn’t have had to scramble, he should be able to stay in the
pocket,” Castonzo said. ”Obviously, we want to play as well as we
can, so that’s the goal. The goal is always 0.0 sacks.”
Nobody can expect perfection, but a year ago the offensive line was
the Colts’ most glaring problem.
Andrew Luck missed nine games with an assortment of injuries,
backup Matt Hasselbeck struggled with multiple injuries during the
second half of the season, third-stringer Charlie Whitehurst missed
the season finale with an injured hamstring. Yet somehow the Colts
won their last game with two street free agents who had been in
town less than a week.
None of those four is back for training camp, which opens July 26
at Anderson University, a Division III school about 30 miles
northeast of Indy.
The chaotic twists and turns provided a clear blueprint for Indy’s
Instead of gambling on expensive free agents, general manager Ryan
Grigson took the long-term approach by using his first-round draft
pick on center Ryan Kelly, firming up the most unstable position
along the line. Grigson didn’t stop there, using half of his eight
picks on linemen.
Coach Chuck Pagano revamped his staff by keeping interim offensive
coordinator Rob Chudzinski and bringing in eight assistants
including Philbin, the former Miami Dolphins head coach who has
already made strides in bringing along this young offensive line.
Luck also is chipping in by refining his ability to slide to a stop.
”It’s part of practice. A big part of practice is making it as
game-like as possible,” Luck said in June, following his first
action at Lucas Oil Stadium since lacerating his kidney when he
didn’t slide in early November. ”With all things, if you throw an
interception you start running after the guy that intercepted it.
If you’re out running and you’re not near the sidelines, you
While that sounds good, Castonzo understands Indy will cash in if
everybody helps Luck stay upright.
Here are some other things to watch during training camp:
TURNOVER TURNAROUND: Injuries weren’t Indy’s only problem last
season. Luck threw two interceptions in a season-opening loss at
Buffalo before things really got bad. He wound up throwing 12
interceptions in seven games, a pace that would have shattered his
previous career high of 18 from his rookie season. Luck has
averaged 1.0 interception per game through his first 55 NFL games –
a number that must be reduced to reach a Super Bowl.
WHAT RUSH?: The Colts need help in this area on offense and
defense. Frank Gore is still smarting after his streak of
consecutive 1,000-yard seasons ended at four in 2015. At age 33,
Gore is convinced he can finally end the Colts’ drought of
1,000-yard runners. The last was Joseph Addai in 2007. Defensively,
Robert Mathis is still one of the league’s most feared pass
rushers, but the Colts need to find a complement – and a successor
– to the 35-year-old linebacker who is entering the final year of
GETTING ACCLIMATED: New defensive coordinator Ted Monachino will
start his tenure by trying to fix the Colts’ run defense.
Chudzinski, who replaced the fired Pep Hamilton in November, has
finally had time to install his own offense. How much will change?
The Colts haven’t hinted at any secrets and certainly didn’t
provide much of a glimpse during offseason workouts. The next few
weeks will be the first time most fans will get a real chance of
seeing the progression.
SILENT TREATMENT: One year ago, the pre-camp talk focused on Super
Bowl titles. Not this year. Though players and coaches have almost
universally taken the words ”Super” and ”Bowl” out of their
vocabulary, they acknowledge the goal remains unchanged: bringing
home the Lombardi Trophy.