Postcard from camp: Colts
Andrew Luck commanding Colts practice like a veteran quarterback, not a rookie
Rookie Vick Ballard looks set to have a substantial role in the running game
Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis adjusting well to their new rush LB positions
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Peter King had to say about Colts camp in Anderson, Ind., which he visited on Aug. 17. Read all of our postcards here.
At the Colts' training camp -- the last day of it -- on the campus of Anderson University, about an hour northeast of downtown Indy. I used to love the Colts' setup at Rose Hulman Institute in Terre Haute, a couple of hours away, and this one's not quite as homey. But the Colts do a good job of letting their fans touch the players, and after this practice, about 25 players -- including new darling-of-the-fans Andrew Luck -- spent time (Luck about 25 minutes) signing and posing for photos with a sparse crowd on hand.
1. What you've seen of Luck on TV is what you see out here today: He looks like he's been there, done that, many times before. As a young quarterback, you're expected to have a period of adjustment and discomfort. You're expected to screw up a bunch of things in practice, basically. But he's running this workout -- a light practice two days before a preseason game at Pittsburgh -- like he owns the joint. "I'm trying to think of new things to say about Andrew, because everyone asks what he's been like here,'' said GM Ryan Grigson, watching the practice with me on the sidelines. "All I can say is he gets it. Nothing seems to bother him, and he seems to have the understanding of a veteran very early on. It's amazing to see.''
2. Reggie Wayne is going to be a versatile guy this year. When Peyton Manning was his quarterback, Wayne was almost always split left of the formation. Today, he's in motion and in the slot and on the right side as well. The Colts, clearly, want to make it tougher to double-team their best receiver.
3. Keep an eye out for some young unknowns here, like tackle Ty Nsekhe. As I wrote in Monday Morning Quarterback, Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano don't have many players on scholarship here. They are new to the place, have very few ties to any players in camp, and are looking at the players like blank slates. Take Nsekhe, a former Arena League tackle from the San Antonio Talons. He's 6-foot-8 and 325 pounds, with a huge wingspan, and he more than holds his own against the outside rush. Not saying it'll be Nsekhe, but I guarantee you after talking to Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano, they'll be keeping three or four guys who will make you say, "Who's he?''
Vick Ballard, running back. The fifth-rounder from Mississippi State had played so well in training camp that he's gone from a player who would have had to make his major rookie mark on special teams to a contender for a big role in the running game. The new regime didn't draft Donald Brown, and thus isn't married to him, and the best runner will play the most. Saturday's third preseason game should clear up the running back picture, and you should see some of the powerful Ballard running with the first unit.
Chuck Pagano, coach. Pagano is one-for-one in NFL head-coaching interviews: one job interviewed for, one job obtained. And so far, so good. The man Jimmy Irsay hand-picked to shepherd the team in the post-Peyton era has concentrated on the defense so far, natural for a man who was an NFL secondary coach for nine years and defensive coordinator for one. Two big jobs: Make sure career defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis adjust quickly from hands-on-the-ground defensive ends to standup outside linebackers; they've looked comfortable in their new rush positions so far. Pagano also has to revamp an underachieving secondary, which gave up a stunning 71 percent of opponents' completions last year.
Nothing here. Team SI ate at the Olive Garden down the road. Have I ever told you how much I love the salad bowl they plunk down at your table? I could do without the huge peppers, but I demolish a couple of bowls of the stuff before every meal there. Lunch today was capellini pomodoro, with a touch of basil. Refreshing and filling. A-minus.
Luck got good practice against a heavy rush Sunday in Pittsburgh, and that'll come in handy when he opens the season against Julius Peppers and the Bears, followed by Jared Allen an the Vikings. Really, it's all about Luck's maturation this year, and it'll be interesting to see how he performs against some of the league's toughest defensive minds in Bill Belichick, Rex Ryan and Dom Capers when he faces the Pats, Jets and Packers.
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