The road to success in the NFL begins each year with the hard work and wide-open possibilities of training camp. As teams around the league gear up for the 2015 campaign, NFL Media reporters will be checking in from all 32 camps around the league. For our next stop, Ian Rapoport visits the Indianapolis Colts.
Where is NFL Media?
Tucked away in a quaint town in central Indiana, the Colts practice on several fields at Anderson University. The atmosphere was a perfect mix of not-so-accessible (an hour from Indianapolis) and fan-friendly, resulting in a practice that teemed with devoted supporters. Team-building at its finest.
1) It might become normal at some point, but seeing Frank Gore in a Colts uniform is pretty off-putting right now. It's weird. But based on what offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has planned, the signing of the five-time Pro Bowler has the potential to be the acquisition of the offseason. Indy has speed all over the field, with the best receiving corps Andrew Luck has had in his short career -- Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, new toy Phillip Dorsett, etc. And yet, the team still wants to pound the rock with Gore. The ability to really feature the run could make the Colts impossible to defend, especially in December.
2) It's difficult to describe how the ball leaves Andrew Luck's hands, but the best way that comes to mind is that it soars off his fingers. Just a beautiful way to throw the football. Still, that's not what makes him great. Luck spent the offseason honing his fundamentals, gaining a greater understanding for how a defense wants to attack him and how to respond. Some of that training took place at Stanford, where he took part in their virtual reality studio to hone his mental game while forcing his body to, say, step out of a J.J. Watt tackle. If Luck's offseason prep pays off, he could very well further enhance his game. Scary.
3) The Colts surprised everyone by going with a receiver in the first round of the 2015 draft, not addressing their defense until Day 2. As one member of the Colts staff said, "We had to. (Dorsett) is that good." Accordingly, it's easy to overlook how improved the personnel on defense, particularly upfront, will be. It pained defensive coordinator Greg Manusky to his soul to see the Patriots run on them in the AFC Championship Game. The belief is the Colts' defense will be in position to stop it this year. Kendall Langford and Trent Cole will help. So will a healthy Jerrell Freeman and a Vontae Davis that may follow around each opponent's best receiver. Arthur Jones and D'Qwell Jackson: They should now be able to make even more plays for this unit.
Phillip Dorsett, WR: The praise for Dorsett is universal, and it's not just because he can fly. Compared to DeSean Jackson early in his career, Dorsett's speed stands out on first glance. The plan isn't to toss him to the wolves, so expect him to start at punt returner, then get eased into the system like the Colts did with Hilton as a rookie. But still, the potential is endless. This could be Luck's equivalent of Reggie Wayne.
Andre Johnson, WR: Speaking of receiver ... Andre Johnson hoped to end his career with a winner, and he picked a good one. The former Texans star came to Indy with Gore as a package deal, and his veteran presence and route-running ability should pay dividends. They won't run him into the ground -- he'll be on a pitch count -- but he should help immensely.
"I think any time you get beat in such a way, the guys that we have on this team, anyone in our operation, it should bother you. Of course, it's going to bother us. You hope you feed off it. You hope you look into the future and see how you can fix it to prevent it from happening again. From a general manager's vantage point, as painful as it is, those types of losses are when you learn your greatest lessons in what you're deficient in. Sometimes, it's not even a particular position group, it could be a lot of things. My job is to get with Chuck (Pagano) and pin down what we think we need to do to make sure it doesn't happen again. But it's football. Sometimes you're going to get beat. Sometimes, you'll feel like you had a great week (before the AFC title game), you had a great week of preparation -- and we did feel great -- but things happen. It happened to them (the Patriots) early in the season and they righted the ship. That's what we want to be as a football team, a team that learns from its mistakes."
-- Ryan Grigson, Colts GM, reflecting back on the loss against New England in the AFC Championship Game.
» A lot rides on the monstrous shoulders of nose tackle Josh Chapman, who'll be asked to move players rather than take up blockers.