Now, early August is a long way from the regular season and even longer from the November-December grind. Almost inevitable injuries can make a team that looks good on paper want to wad up that paper and deposit it in the nearest trash can.
A week into training camp, the Colts stand healthy and formidable.
Think about it. Bob Sanders is back, looking strong. Anthony Gonzalez is back, looking fast. Adam Vinatieri is back, kicking away. Peyton Manning is hitting Reggie Wayne in stride for scrimmage touchdowns in front of 5,000 fans at Anderson University. Dwight Freeney hasn't hobbled at all.
There simply aren't a lot of questions lingering with this team.
One decent-sized one that can't be answered until the regular season begins is how Clyde Christensen will fare as offensive coordinator, especially with former coordinator Tom Moore looking over his shoulder. At least one national columnist has written that Christensen will simply do whatever Manning wants to do. I'm not sure that's the case, but if it is, I'm not sure that's a bad idea anyway. Does anyone understand the game better, or study the game more, than Manning? Doubtful.
As for the overstocked receiving corps, at some point one of the group that includes Wayne, Gonzalez, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie will probably suffer an injury. That's the cost of high-impact NFL games. If/when that happens, there won't be a drop-off in production. If they stay healthy, the combinations and options are nearly endless. That has to make Christensen and Manning smile.
Yes, both guard spots on the offensive line have some shaking out to do. It looks like Ugoh will likely claim the left side with Mike Pollak on the right.
The fact Ugoh was a bust at left tackle, losing his job to Charlie Johnson, is old news. The fact he's taking pride in working at guard is a great sign.
Ugoh praised former guard Ryan Lilja (now with the Chiefs) when he talked with reporters after practice this week.
“I don't think I have to bring something different to the table, but just not have a drop-off from where it was before,” Ugoh said. “As a team we are all working really hard in the run-blocking area just to get better. I'm really just working together with the guys to try and get the run game going.”
The running game is a concern, too. The Colts haven't had en elite ground attack since Edgerrin James left. Then again, with the passing game of the Colts, where short passes to Dallas Clark provide run-like yardage, they don't have to have a big-time back churning out 1,500 yards.
There should be some competitive strength at the running back spot this year, with Joseph Addai in the last year of his contract and Donald Brown healthy and possessing a better understanding of the offense in his second season.
I'm not sure whether Deshea Townsend is the answer to some depth issues in the secondary. He's 34 and the Steelers were willing to let him go. On the other hand, he just has to be better than Tim Jennings. I believe that can happen.
Like the receiving corps, there's an odd man out when it comes to Sanders and his erstwhile replacement Melvin Bullitt. But the Colts showed a wrinkle in practice this week where Sanders, Bullitt and the other starting safety, Antoine Bethea, were on the field in the same unit, with Bullitt ready to blitz. I like that idea.
This training camp, the second for coach Jim Caldwell, is more of a refining camp than a team-molding one.
The Colts know what they do well, and it's the same thing they've been doing for most of the Manning era. They are stocked with superstar and near-superstar players. They are experienced. Their rookies are learning fast.
It's early to be locked and loaded. Or maybe it's never too early to be locked and loaded.
Either way, barring injury, the Colts should start this journey ready to roll.