Training Camp Postcard: Colts
Posted: Tuesday July 31, 2007 6:15PM; Updated: Wednesday August 1, 2007 2:53PM
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, in the lovely and tree-covered campus in the southwestern Indiana city of Terre Haute. (Just down the street from where Larry Legend shot baskets famously for Indiana State nearly 30 years ago.) I can't imagine a more perfect training site. The fans are close on sideline bleachers, the players sign autographs every day and the natural turf looks more like carpeting than carpet itself. It's just far enough away (70 miles) from Indianapolis for the players to feel removed, but not like they're on another planet.
Five Things I Think I Think
1. I think the backup to Joseph Addai will raise a few eyebrows. You know how most teams in the NFL are desperate for two good backs, and how Addai and Dominic Rhodes were a great tandem for the Colts last year, combining for 264 rushing/receiving yards in the Super Bowl. The favorite to be Addai's backup, with Rhodes having fled to Oakland, is DeDe Dorsey, a 196-pound, 5-foot-10 free agent from the football powerhouse of Lindonwood (Mo.). He impressed the coaches with his eager work with the scout team last year and with a solid offseason. He got a lot of touches this morning. My guess is that Addai will get 350 touches as the primary back this season and Dorsey will be gradually worked in.
2. I think what really stuck out in practice today is that Peyton Manning is doing everything he can to feed the ball to Anthony Gonzalez -- in hopes of getting him ready to be the starting slot receiver. Gonzalez reminds me of Wes Welker -- a quick, sure-handed workhorse who has quickly earned Manning's trust.
3. I think one of the things the coaches love about Gonzalez is that he was the first player here on reporting day, which was Sunday. He even beat Manning.
4. I think you never know how a team is going to respond coming back from a Super Bowl victory. Will the players be hungry? Content? Motivated like they were the year before? I'd be a phony if I told you I had the definitive answer about the Colts after attending one practice and talking to players and coaches for 90 minutes. But this team reminds me an awful lot of the Patriots, in how they react after winning. Manning has returned to camp so hungry, it's sick. Tony Dungy, like Bill Belichick, is a total flat-liner; you'd never know whether he won the Super Bowl or went 0-16 last year. And if you think GM Bill Polian has some Super Bowl hangover, you're dead wrong. I don't think it will be any satisfied mentality that deters Indy from winning again.
5. I think Dwight Freeney looks and sounds an awful lot like a man determined to prove that his 5.5-sack season last year was a fluke, not the start of a declining period of production. All eyes will be on him because of his huge contract, and I think he'll be back in double digits in sacks.
Did you know?
That a couple of miles from training camp are two interesting landmarks:.
1) The Terre Haute International Airport. Doesn't an international airport have to have flights to sites outside of Indiana? I mean, is ComAir flying nonstop from Terre Haute to Beijing?
2) Just down the road from Rose-Hulman, you'll find the Crapo insurance company. Perhaps free-agent Craphonso Thorpe can do some insurance shopping while in town for camp.
The Rose-Hulman food service people still are apparently a bit stung about my criticism of their vegetables several years back. Every time I'm in camp, Colts PR man Craig Kelley reminds me of just that fact. No need for any criticism of the lunch this year. The vegetable and chicken stir fry over brown rice, with a spicy light ginger sauce, was the best meal I've ever had at Colts camp. Crispy vegetables, and a thin but pungent sauce accented the chicken just right. Grade: A.
Nice, average salad, grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, cukes, topped with a basil tomato dressing. Tasty. But nothing special. Grade: B
Overall grade: A-. A very nice lunch on a broiler of a day in Southwest Indiana.
Make no mistake about it, the Colts have every intention of letting second-round pick Tony Ugoh win the starting left tackle job. That was evidenced throughout this morning's third Colts practice of the summer. Ugoh took all the repetitions with the first-team line, right next to left guard Ryan Lilja.
"He's off to a really good start," Lilja told me afterward. "And we're going to do everything in our power as players and coaches to help him get the job done."
What I saw out of Ugoh was an eager kid with quick feet who is a totally different body type than Tarik Glenn, the left tackle he's trying to replace. Both men are 6-foot-5, but while Glenn's weight fluctuated between 335 and 350, Ugoh looks more like a power forward. He's almost lean and angular. About 302 pounds. And not the power-pushing guy Glenn was in the running game. Often times at practice today, I noticed Ugoh talking to Lilja, seemingly asking questions to make sure he was doing the right thing. Lilja confirmed that for me afterward but said his questions didn't convey any sense of cluelessness; instead, the queries were more to clarify his exact job on certain calls.
The reason I think Ugoh will start opening day against the Saints? Manning told me that early in training camp he's going to be calling an awful lot of audibles and different checks at the line of scrimmage, just to get Ugoh and fellow rookie Gonzalez -- who has replaced Brandon Stokley as the slot receiver in all three-wide formations -- familiar with everything they'll hear and see during the regular season. You wouldn't do that with a guy you didn't trust could win the job.