Colts have camp challenges with injuries piling up in offseason

2007 season recap

Another playoff exit: With 13 wins in 2007, the Colts enjoyed their sixth straight season with 12 or more victories and a playoff berth. But playing against a Chargers team without the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers in the fourth quarter, the Colts came up short of the Super Bowl for the fifth time in the last six seasons.

Key camp questions:

How Will Manning's injury affect the complexion of camp?
With the surprise announcement that Peyton Manning underwent minor surgery to remove an infected bursa sack from his left knee, training camp will have a different feel this year, as Manning likely will miss the entire camp to fully recover in time for the regular season. Manning has missed only one snap in ten seasons, so don't expect that to change, but his absence will surely change the nature of Colts camp. Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonazalez will now be catching the majority of passes from backup QB Jim Sorgi, whose camp performance will be under some increased scrutiny in the event that Manning's knee doesn't heal as quickly as expected.

How will Dungy integrate younger players into the defense?
Tony Dungy is a master at integrating players young and new into his defensive system, and will have his work cut out for him in what could end up being his final camp as Colts head coach if he retires after the season. LB Tyjuan Hagler -- one of Dungy's success stories as a first-time starter last season -- has an injured pectoral muscle, opening the door for the likes of Clint Session and Philip Wheeler to take on a larger role. Both S Bob Sanders (recovering from offseason shoulder surgery) and DE Dwight Freeney (recovering from a Lisfranc injury suffered in Week 10) are expected to open camp on the PUP list, making it that much more challenging for Dungy and defensive coordinator Ron Meeks to establish some consistency heading into the season. While Sanders and Freeney are confident they'll be ready to go Week 1, it may take some time for the rust to wear off without any work during training camp.

Will Dominic Rhodes make a seamless transition back?
It was only two years ago that Rhodes and Joseph Addai combined to create as good of a 1-2 punch as you can find at the running back position, and the result was a Super Bowl victory for Indianapolis. After a lost season in Oakland (302 yards, 1 touchdown) Rhodes will be asked to jump right back into the Colts' system and the team expects him to pick up right where he left off. Last year's backup Kenton Keith and rookie Mike Hart will provide some competition for the 8-10 carries that the Colts are looking for from Rhodes on a weekly basis.

Key position battle

DT Keyunta Dawson vs. DT Ed Johnson vs. DT Quinn Pitcock: All three defensive tackles have shown that they are capable of starting in the NFL and for one of the league's leading defenses no less. With injuries to Anthony McFarland and later Raheem Brock, Jonson started all 16 of the Colts' regular season games. Third-round selection Pitcock started seven of the Colts' final eight games, while Dawson -- a seventh-round selection -- played in all 16 regular season games, starting in three of the final four and recording 23 tackles in the month of December. All three are versatile and young players, giving the team a lot of rotational options along the defensive line.

Rookie spotlight

LB/DE Marcus Howard: Howard mostly played LB at Georgia, but the Colts are hoping to convert him to play DE. With Freeney's injury, Howard could see a lot of action during training camp. Look for the Colts to work him into the line in pass rushing situations, as Howard could become a critical piece to a front seven that makes up for its lack of size with speed and versatility.

Player on the spot

WR Anthony Gonzalez: Marvin Harrison has historically been Peyton Manning's most reliable target, but he's heading into his 13th season and coming off a knee injury that kept him out of all but five games last season. Add to that Harrison's yet to be resolved legal issues stemming from an incident outside a bar he owns in Philadelphia, and the situation is ripe for Gonzalez, a second-year receiver to fill a potential void. Gonalez started off slow as most rookie receivers tend to do, but he proved to be a reliable option down the stretch, recording 26 receptions, 448 yards and four touchdowns in his last six games, including the playoffs. If Gonzalez gets off to a good start during camp, he can become a valuable second or third receiving option for the Colts.

Fantasy focus

QB Peyton Manning: Manning may not be the top quarterback in fantasy football this season, but he's still an elite option. The surgery to his left knee will keep him out of preseason action, but that should not affect his overall value. He's almost guaranteed to post 4,000-plus yards and 30-plus touchdowns, so look for Manning to come off the board in one of the first two rounds in all drafts.

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