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Reggie Hayes: Assessing the Colts' first week

Colts rookie receiver T.Y. Hilton has shown strong skills during the first week of training camp. (Photo by the Associated Press)
Colts rookie receiver T.Y. Hilton has shown strong skills during the first week of training camp. (Photo by the Associated Press)

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For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes on Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Luck is on track, which is the first necessary step

Monday, August 06, 2012 12:01 am
ANDERSON – The first week of Indianapolis Colts training camp is history. Andrew Luck remains upright and throwing. I'd say that's a success.Luck's debut as the rookie quarterback who would take the baton from Peyton Manning (after it was dropped by Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky) put all eyes on him at Anderson University. He lived up to expectations. He hit receivers in stride. He threw the ball in minute openings. He aired it out a couple times. He ran the offense with authority.

Like all quarterbacks, he made some mistakes. Jerraud Powers turned one into a pick-six, which the defense seemed to really enjoy.

Local and national media were universal in praising Luck's first impressions.

But don't merely take my word for it. Consider the word of someone who has played with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and who has plenty of time to stand around and watch during practice: kicker Adam Vinatieri.

“He's impressed me with his arm strength,” Vinatieri said. “He has a short little window where he throws the ball in there real pretty. He makes all the throws. What I like is he's got that leadership, that commander on the field kind of thing. He leads a huddle really wel. He's really smart, he can change plays and do stuff like that where you feel like he's a three or four year guy vs. a rooke.

“A smart guy who can throw the ball is usually a good formula for success.”

Luck was the main story, but not the only story, during the first week.

Here are the positives and negatives from the first week:* The rookies performed well. Luck connected several times with tight ends Coby Fleener (his old friend from Stanford), Dwayne Allen and T.Y. Hilton.

Hilton missed most of the summer work while recovering from an injury, but he has been spectacular in terms of speed and hands as he's worked as a receiver. No matter what unit he works with, and he has worked with every unit, he has looked sharp. Reggie Wayne calls Hilton, LeVon Brazill and other young receivers, “Smurfs.” He likes them, and so do the quarterbacks.

* The free agent acquisitions have been quality so far. Defensive lineman Cory Redding, wide receiver Donnie Avery and safety Tom Zbikowski all showed spark and worked with the first-team units. Redding's personality showed through as he yelled with passion for the defense when they closed in on a running back in 11-on-11 drills. Avery suffered a thigh injury Sunday, however. His career has sputtered due to various injuries in the past.

* There were a couple minor fights midweek. That might not seem like a positive, but the energy and intensity is necessary to build. Tensions are high as players fight for roster spots and starting positions. Offensive lineman Winston Justice's toss of Jerry Hughes' helmet graded 8.5 out of 10 in form, distance and impact.* The secondary still needs to find a cornerback opposite Powers. Either Powers is outstanding – which is possible – or the rest are a significant notch below. He has been the only corner who has stood out as a playmaker. That said, Justin King has appeared to emerge as a front-runner for a starting position.

* Colts coaches insist the team wants to step up its running game. That area is hard to read. Donald Brown is the starter, but it seems open behind him. A lot of observers are high on Vick Ballard and it'll be interesting to see how he fits in. On a positive note, Delone Carter has avoided fumbling as he tries to get into the good graces with coaches. Mewelde Moore should add depth.

* Playing against each other doesn't provide too much insight into progress. This is true of all teams, of course, but observers can't help but wonder if Luck's great play at times is solely because of him or because the defense is suspect. Plus, until the Colts go up against an opponent (first preseason game is this Sunday vs. St. Louis), it's impossible to tell how Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have adjusted to the new defense. Mathis did pick off a pass in a scrimmage Sunday, so maybe he's starting to change his game a bit.

The Colts head into the preseason games with considerable questions. That's to be expected. If they keep Luck upright, everything should keep moving forward.

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


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