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Last updated: Tue. Jul. 01, 2014 - 08:39 pm EDT

COLUMN

Counting the days until Colts' training-camp intrigue

There will be at least 10 fascinating aspects next month

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For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1

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I'm enjoying the World Cup, I'll check out the NBA Draft and I'll keep hoping LeBron shakes things up and signs with Utah so every ESPN report can literally be about “LeBron and all that Jazz.”

But I'm really counting down the days to the NFL.

Training camp is less than a month away, and it's going to be fascinating watching the Indianapolis Colts in Year 3 of the Post-Peyton Apocalypse.

Here are my Top 10 Areas of Intrigue as we await the July 23 reporting date :

1. Reggie Wayne vs. Father Time's knee

Wayne says he is confident he can return from knee surgery at age 35 and deliver the goods. In fact, he says he feels better than he has since 2002. But he's still trying to do something that few wide receivers have ever done, coming back from a devastating injury this late in his career. He's a unique athlete who has played his entire career with one team.

“I know what my age is. I know what's up against me,” Wayne said. “I'm geeked about showing everybody what I can do at 35.”

2. Andrew Luck's fully-loaded offense

The Colts offense was devastated by injuries a year ago, including Wayne, tight end Dwayne Allen, running backs Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw and guard Donald Thomas. By all indications, that offense should be as healthy as ever while adding a couple other options in veteran wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and rookie Donte Moncrief.

Not only will Luck have a ton of weapons, he'll be operating the same offense for the second straight season, something he didn't have a year ago when Pep Hamilton took over for Bruce Arians as offensive coordinator.

“We're still installing plays in a sense, but everybody's heard it 25 or 30 times now, so you can focus on little adjustments and nuances that you're not able to get in your first time installing,” Luck said. “I'd like to think we can be more proficient, more productive.”

3. Robert Mathis' sideline stalking

The Colts' sack expert will miss the first four regular-season games because of his suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. That hurts the defense big time. Mathis will try to be a leader on the sidelines, encouraging those who must step up (Bjoern Werner, Erik Walden, Arthur Jones) and fill the quarterback-chasing void.

Mathis will be champing at the bit to get on the field.

“It is what it is,” Mathis said. “I've got to take it and roll with it.”

4. Trent Richardson under the microscope

You have to feel a bit of empathy for Richardson, who arrived in a trade he didn't request and with outsized expectations. When he didn't become the second coming of Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk or Edgerrin James, criticism was heavy.

Richardson vows to be a different back this season with a better grasp of the offense and what he needs to do to be effective for the Colts. Ballard and Bradshaw will push him, and that should be a positive.

5. LaRon Landry muscling in

Landry's non-conformist approach to offseason workouts – he prefers flying solo except when required to be in Indianapolis – caused some discussion among fans and media. The team didn't seem as concerned. Actually, the real test will be Landry's ability to A) stay healthy, and B) produce.

He was signed as a potential superstar at safety. This season, he needs to live up to the hype.

6. A center of attention

Second-year center Khaled Holmes takes over snapping the ball to Luck, but there's so much more to the job than that. As anyone can attest if they watched Jeff Saturday when he worked with Peyton Manning, the center needs to have a real awareness of what is going on defensively as the point man for the offensive line.

“Khaled has done a great job,” Luck said. “He's sharp, he's a workaholic, he's fun to be in a huddle with.”

That “fun” only continues if Holmes solidifies the position and takes some worry off Luck.

7. Indy's wide receiver overload

This talent-show competition offers plenty of intrigue. Three receivers are locked in (Wayne, Nicks and T.Y. Hilton). It's logical to expect third-round draft pick Moncrief to be on the active roster. So who's left standing among LaVon Brazill, Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen? This might be the most fascinating of all training-camp competitions. It could come down to who can deliver the most on special teams.

8. Converting the hoops star

The Colts signed former University of Miami basketball player Erik Swoope with the intention of turning him into a tight end. Tight end is a fairly deep position with Allen, Coby Fleener, Jack Doyle and Weslye Saunders. So maybe Swoope is a long-term project. But it was interesting that Hamilton mentioned that a lot of the tight-end body types are playing power forward in the NBA.

9. Josh McNary reporting for more duty

He came to the Colts from the Army as a 25-year-old rookie last season. There's not a tougher, more driven player on the roster. Can he be an NFL impact player? He's passionate enough to do it if his skills can match his determination.

10. What's Chud doing?

When the Colts hired former Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski, the question was what role he would play with the team? That remains a valid question. He's the “Special Assistant to the Head Coach,” which leaves his duties pretty wide open.

Training camp will be the first point where there's enough chance to observe Chudzinski's interactions during practice to see where he fits and helps the most. Maybe camp competition includes coaches, too.

rhayes@news-sentinel.com


This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.


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