5 Players Turning Heads at Indianapolis Colts Training Camp
Training camp for the Indianapolis Colts is now in full swing, and as the team continues to prepare for the regular season, a few players have already been turning heads.
The Colts reported to training camp last week and are now preparing for their first preseason game in just one week, taking on the New York Jets next Thursday. After that, the Colts will play the New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals before their regular-season opener against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
A number of players are either fighting to prove themselves or to just grab an open roster spot, so let's take a look at a few of the guys that are making a good early impression at camp.
Most years, a strong training camp from Reggie Wayne wouldn't be a big deal, but considering everything he's gone through since last October, Colts fans are thrilled to see the 35-year-old back on the field.
During last year's game against the Denver Broncos, Wayne tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the season. There were concerns about whether or not he'd be able to return to form in 2014, but according to ESPN's Stephania Bell, Wayne "looks amazing".
Before going down last season, Wayne caught 38 passes for 503 yards and two touchdowns in just seven games played. Even if he isn't at 100 percent for the regular season, he'll have plenty of help, as guys like T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen will take a lot of the pressure off of him in the passing game.
Wayne has been a franchise wide receiver for the Colts since 2001, and fans are excited to see what he can do coming back from such a significant injury.
Heading into camp, no one arguably needed to step up more than sophomore pass-rusher Bjoern Werner, and so far he's apparently done just that.
George Bremer from the Herald Bulletin tweeted that he continued to be impressed with what Werner has done so far throughout camp, even going as far as saying that he was one of the top contenders for the MVP of the first week.
That's very good news for a Colts defense that desperately needs help getting to opposing quarterbacks in 2014. Robert Mathis will be serving a four-game suspension, and without his 19.5 sacks in 2013, the Colts would have likely been the worst pass-rushing team in the NFL.
Werner came up with just 2.5 sacks in his rookie season, and he knows that he'll have to produce much more than that, especially with Mathis' suspension. If he can continue to impress like he has during camp, however, the Colts should be in much better shape.
Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was criticized often for his questionable offensive schemes, but considering he lost tight end Dwayne Allen for the season in Week 1, it's understandable why the Colts weren't able to do some of the things they had planned.
Fortunately, that should change in 2014 with Allen finally back on the field. According to Kevin Bowen from Colts.com, Allen looks more like the tight end we saw in 2012, with Hamilton using him all over the field to utilize his versatility.
Allen has a chance to make a big difference in the way the offense is run. Along with being a potentially dominant receiver down the field, Allen can be a major asset in the run game, blocking on the outside of the offensive line to open up lanes for guys like Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson.
There will likely be some rust early on, but if Allen is returning to form at camp, the Colts could be a much more balanced offense this season.
For the second year in a row, wide receiver Griff Whalen keeps shining at training camp, and while there are plenty of receivers on the roster right now, he might just have another opportunity to make the team at the end of August.
During last year's training camp, Whalen stood out to a number of people, including myself. Now, as Josh Wilson from Stampede Blue points out, Whalen has been catching "everything thrown his way" while making some key plays during 11-on-11 drills.
Whalen was able to play in nine games for the Colts last season, catching 24 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. It seemed like an uphill battle for him to make the roster this season, but with LaVon Brazill now gone, he has a shot, even if it's still a somewhat small one.
The one thing that could end up helping Whalen is his ability to return punts and kickoffs. He returned eight punts last year for 104 yards, including an impressive 51-yard return, so his impact on both offense and special teams could help him secure a roster spot.
Everyone may know by now that Andrew Luck is the real deal, but that doesn't mean that he won't continue to impress heading into the regular season.
From everyone I've talked to that's been at camp up to this point, Luck has looked even better than previous camps, with the exception of one off day on Monday. Some of that might have to do with the plethora of weapons around him, but it also likely has to do with the fact that he's heading into his second straight season with Hamilton as his offensive coordinator in Indianapolis.
According to Phillip B. Wilson from the Indianapolis Star, even head coach Chuck Pagano has been impressed with Luck at camp, going as far to say that, "He's way ahead of anywhere he's ever been".
That's a scary thought for the rest of the NFL. While the numbers haven't been the best for Luck in his first two seasons, he's still been a fierce competitor that's willed the team to eight fourth-quarter comebacks and 11 game-winning drives.
If Pagano believes that Luck is playing well at camp, then be ready for a potential breakout campaign for the third-year quarterback from Stanford.