INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The official end of the Indianapolis Colts’ organized team activities came Thursday morning when Sam Irwin-Hill, a tryout kicker from Australia, used a mulligan to knock down a chip-shot field goal.
The players, who had encircled the field-goal drill, chanted as Irwin-Hill, wide left on his previous 40-something-yard attempt, delivered what amounted to a walk-off shot.
But let’s not kid ourselves. While the calendar tells us the Colts technically are on break until they report to Anderson University July 26 for the start of training camp, this is no time to kick back and cruise through the next 47 days.
“This is a very, very important time,’’ Coach Chuck Pagano said. “Now is not the time to stop the process.’’
Listen to Andrew Luck.
“We talk to the young guys all the time,’’ he said. “One of the big differences between college and the pros is you don’t have a coach holding your hand through the summer and you have to be a professional. You have to take it upon yourself to get better.
“We motivate each other. Guys will get together and we’ll do certain things, but you have to come to (training) camp better than when you left minicamp. Obviously it’s the summer and you get a chance to get with your family and regenerate, but training, working out, doing all of that is vitally important if you want to be a successful football team.’’
The key, Luck added, is adequately handling a balancing act that involves personal time with continued work.
“We’re football players. You want to play football,’’ he said. “Basketball players shoot hoops, soccer players want to kick the soccer ball. Quarterbacks, they want to throw footballs.’’
That in mind, here are some observations from the Colts’ offseason work:
- Luck’s health: All offseason issues paled in comparison to whether the team’s most indispensable player – No. 12 – had regained his health. You can put a checkmark in that box. There appeared to be no lingering effects from injuries to Luck’s right shoulder and ribs, and the lacerated kidney that forced him to miss the final seven games of ’15 has completely healed.He’s good to go. All that remains is for owner Jim Irsay and Will Wilson, Luck’s uncle/agent, to agree on a contract extension that will make Luck the NFL’s highest-paid player.“I do anticipate it getting done,’’ Luck said. “If it happens, great. If it doesn’t happen, great, too. I know I’m a Colt and I’m going to do the best job I can for this team no matter what the situation is, so it doesn’t weigh on me.’’
- Line dance: The Colts spent the offseason with a set starting offensive line – Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard, rookie Ryan Kelly at center, Jon Harrison at right guard and Joe Reitz at right tackle. Four of those five spots likely are set in stone. The uncertainty rests at right guard. Denzelle Good, who started four games at right tackle as a rookie, worked at guard after missing a few weeks with an undisclosed injury and undoubtedly will push Harrison once he gets comfortable with the new position.It’s anyone’s guess how Hugh Thornton figures into the mix. The 2013 third-round pick has the most experience – 37 games, including 32 starts at right guard – but never saw the field during offseason work. He finished last season on the injured reserve list with an ankle injury, and wore a brace on his right foot while watching OTA sessions.
It will be interesting to see how many of the offensive linemen taken in the draft – four in all – make the active roster. Kelly is a no-brainer, and we won’t be surprised if Le’Raven Clark and Joe Haeg join him. Maybe it’s Austin Blythe instead of Haeg if Blythe is considered the backup center.
- Injury concerns: We’ll be paying attention to the health status of several players when training camp opens. The list includes defensive linemen Henry Anderson (knee) and Art Jones (ankle), cornerback D’Joun Smith (knee), wide receiver Donte Moncrief (toe) and Thornton. Not one of those players participated in offseason work.The team has expressed optimism Jones, Moncrief and Thornton will be ready for the start of camp, but owner Jim Irsay conceded Anderson might not be available for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against Detroit. The most uncertainty seems to be with Smith. He had knee surgery as a rookie last season and missed 12 games. More concerning, he experienced some type of setback during his rehabilitation.“He’s not quite there,’’ general manager Ryan Grigson said. “What we’re doing is trying to do everything we can to give him the best chance to be at 100 percent for camp.’’
- Depth concerns: It’s difficult not to notice the lack of proven depth at several positions.Behind Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle, the only tight end prospect with game experience is Erik Swoope. And his only appearance came in the ’15 finale against Tennessee and consisted of six snaps on offense. Mike Miller and Darion Griswold are rookies.The Colts flash an intriguing receiver triumvirate of T.Y. Hilton, Phillip Dorsett and Moncrief, but good luck aligning the rest of the depth chart. The other nine candidates share 16 career catches – nine by Josh Boyce, seven by Brian Tyms. Five are rookies.
If offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski is going to use more three- and four-receiver formations than two-tight end sets, a couple of the unproven receivers must emerge.
Behind running back Frank Gore – the unquestioned feature back – are Robert Turbin and Jordan Todman. We’re going to be watching the development of Josh Ferguson, a 5-10, 200-pound rookie out of Illinois who might be a viable third-down option with his speed and elusiveness.