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Wins of Change? Colts Training Camp Preview


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Well, it can’t get any worse, right Colts’ fans? As unbearable as the 2011 team was to watch, the uncertainty regarding Peyton Manning’s mysterious neck injury allowed for false hope. No. 18 wasn’t walking through that door to salvage the Colts’ season, even though that exact possibility seemed to exist every week.

The end result was a 2-14 nightmare, the franchise’s worst record since the 1991 squad — led by Jeff ‘Captain Checkdown’ George — finished 1-15 and only scored 143 points all season, then a record-low for an NFL team with a 16-game schedule.

Colts owner/Twitter savant Jim Irsay cleaned house in the offseason. Out went head coach Jim Caldwell, general manager Chris Polian and in came Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson in their places. Longtime team president Bill Polian was also shown the door.

Entering the start of camp Sunday, Indianapolis supposedly has the best quarterback prospect (Andrew Luck) since Manning taking the reigns of an offense that can go nowhere but up.

Pagano, formerly the defensive coordinator in Baltimore, has switched Indy’s defensive scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment, which most notably forces Pro Bowl defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis to outside/rush linebacker positions. Veteran free agents with Ravens’ ties (defensive lineman Cory Redding, safety Tom Zbikowski) were added to patch holes to new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s unit.

Three key storylines to ponder as the Hoosier State’s professional football team goes camping…

Good Luck in Manning’s shadow

Living in Peyton’s silhouette is something Luck will always have deal with. His career progression will always be stacked up against Manning’s, for better or worse. Luck, whose father, Oliver, actually backed up Peyton’s father, Archie, with the Houston Oilers in the early 80’s, seems to possess the right mix of moxie and maturity to handle the endless comparisons.

On the football field, Luck arrives highly-heralded for a reason. He’s a winner, plain and simple. Along with former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh, Luck put football in Palo Alto, Calif., back on the map with a power running/play-action pass scheme that will simplify his transition to an NFL offense because Indy will employ a similar system under new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Oddly enough, Arians was Manning’s quarterback coach for the ex-Colt QB’s first three years in the league.

Though the NFL is now a pass-happy league, presently the Colts don’t possess the resources that allow for Luck to sling the ball around like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. In addition to Manning, usual offensive lynchpins Joseph Addai, Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark, Jacob Tamme and Jeff Saturday have all departed.

Instead, look for Luck to rely on his two rookie tight ends, Coby Fleener — Luck’s college teammate — and Dwayne Allen. Last season at Stanford, No. 12 didn’t have an elite receiving corps and still managed to record tremendous success, setting single-season school marks for completion percentage (71.3 percent) and touchdown passes (37). He’ll need to find the end zone with similar tools to begin his professional career.

Do old parts fit new defense?

For the third time, Irsay has hired a defensive-minded head coach. Messrs. Jim Mora (postgame press conference) and Tony Dungy (Super Bowl win) became renowned for different reasons. Pagano was selected to ideally fulfill a destiny akin to Dungy’s.

Irsay said back in January that he wants Pagano to bring “toughness” to the franchise, which in a roundabout way means the Colts will be operating with more of a balanced game plan. The past strategy hinged on Manning running up the score early, which in turn allowed the defense to unleash its litany of pass rushers on opposing offenses.

Two of those mainstay quarterback-chasers, Freeney and Mathis, are back despite persistent trade rumors (Freeney) and thanks to a surprising new contract (Mathis).

Other familiar names — inside linebacker Pat Angerer, cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Antoine Bethea — are back from a 2011 unit that was 28th in the NFL in points allowed per game and 25th in yards allowed per game.

By virtue of going offense with its first four picks in the draft and taking only two defensive players with their 10 selections, Indy eschewed amateur improvement for not-so-headline-making free agent signings like Redding and Zbikowski on defense.

Beyond the hard numbers, it’s hard to know what to expect out of defense in July with multiple players out of position. Safely assume the Colts’ best defense will be a ball-control offense.

What does the shake-up in Circle City mean for 2012?

New management. New coach(es). New quarterback. New defense. Change doesn’t get much more drastic than that in NFL circles and while turnaround in pro football comes quicker than in the MLB or NBA, Colts’ fans shouldn’t expect too much out of this bunch in 2012.

Though rookie quarterbacks such as Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez and Andy Dalton have somewhat changed the notion that first-year signal-callers can’t find initial success, those four enjoyed much more talented and balanced rosters than what resides in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Obviously, the future rests mostly on the development of Luck, but the entire team lacks talent and depth, both of which are tickets to last place in the NFL. Don’t expect another 2-14 debacle, but fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for a miraculous playoff push either.

Colts' preseason/training camp schedule

All times p.m. unless noted

Sunday, July 29

12:50 - Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 - Colts City Closes

Monday, July 30

12:50 - Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 - Colts City Closes

Tuesday, July 31

12:50 - Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 - Colts City Closes

Wednesday, Aug. 1

No Practice

Thursday, Aug. 2

12:50 - Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 - Colts City Closes

Friday, Aug. 3

12:50 - Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 Colts City Closes

Saturday, Aug. 4

12:50- Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 - Colts City Closes

Sunday, Aug. 5

12 - Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 - Colts City Closes

Monday, Aug. 6

12:50 - Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 - Colts City Closes

Tuesday, Aug. 7

5:30 - Colts City Opens

6:30 - Special Teams Practice

7-9:10 - Offense/Defense Practice

9:40 - Colts City Closes

Wednesday, Aug. 8

No Practice

Thursday, Aug. 9

12:50 - Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 - Colts City Closes

Friday, Aug. 10

12:50 - Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 - Colts City Closes

Saturday, Aug. 11

10:30 a.m. - Pre-Game Practice (Closed to Public)

Sunday, Aug. 12

Home vs St. Louis Rams

Monday, Aug. 13

No Practice

Tuesday, Aug. 14

12:50 - Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 Colts City Closes

Wednesday, Aug. 15

12:50 - Colts City Opens

1:50 - Special Teams Practice

2:20-4:30 - Offense/Defense Practice

5 - Colts City Closes

Thursday, Aug. 16

5:30 - Colts City Opens

6:30 - Special Teams Practice

7-9:10 - Offense/Defense Practice

9:40 - Colts City Closes

Friday, Aug. 17

(Final Day of Training Camp at Anderson University)

8:45 a.m. - Colts City Opens

9:45 a.m. - 12:35 p.m. - Special Teams/Offense/Defense Practice

1:05 - Colts City Closes

Saturday, Aug. 18

(at Farm Bureau Football Center)

10:30 a.m. - Pre-Game Practice (Closed to Public)

Sunday, Aug. 19

At Pittsburgh Steelers

Colts City

Elements within Colts City include:

Colts inflatables

Rock Climbing wall

Play 60 Zone

Colts sponsor booths

Colts giveaways and register-to-win ticket opportunities

Colts In Motion traveling museum

Colts Pro Shop tent

Colts cheerleader autograph sessions

Appearances by Blue, the official mascot of the Indianapolis Colts

Live bands performances before night practices

*Camp activities are free and open to the public

Parking: A $10 parking fee per vehicle (per session) and $20 for buses (per session) will be administered by Anderson University. Visitor parking can be accessed from Fifth Street on the Anderson University campus.

Colts.com

2012 Colts Schedule

Preseason

Week 1: Aug. 12, St. Louis, 1:30 p.m., NFL Network

Week 2: Aug. 19, at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m., NBC

Week 3: Aug 25, at Washington, 4 p.m., NFL Network

Week 4: Aug 30, Cincinnati, 7 p.m.

Regular season

Week 1: Sept. 9, at Chicago, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 2: Sept. 16, Minnesota, 1 p.m., FOX

Week 3: Sept. 23, Jacksonville, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 4: Sept. 30, Bye

Week 5: Oct. 7, Green Bay, 1 p.m., FOX

Week 6: Oct. 14, at New York Jets, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 7: Oct. 21, Cleveland, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 8: Oct. 28, at Tennessee, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 9: Nov. 4, Miami, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 10: Nov. 8, at Jacksonville, 8:20 p.m., NFL Network

Week 11: Nov. 18, at New England, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 12: Nov. 25, Buffalo, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 13: Dec. 2, at Detroit, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 14: Dec. 9, Tennessee, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 15: Dec. 16, at Houston, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 16: Dec. 23, at Kansas City, 1 p.m., CBS

Week 17: Dec. 30, Houston, 1 p.m., CBS 

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