If Cro Thorpe is going to make the roster, it'll likely have to be as
a returns specialist. He's been a bit inconsistent in a crowded field of
receivers, so that's not helping his case at that position. While handling
kickoffs and punt returns, he's getting average marks so far. He dropped a
couple of kickoffs during the special teams practice on Thursday afternoon.
Safety Brannon Condren is showing a real aggressive streak for a
rookie that has helped him stand out during his first week in camp. That
said, his aggression and emotions have led to him taking himself out of plays at
times, something that can be disastrous in Tony Dungy's Tampa 2 scheme that
counts on players to keep the ball carrier contained when he's in their area.
It'll be interesting to watch Condren's progress in the coming weeks since he
appears to have the physical tools and attitude to be successful at this level.
Shane Andrus, who spent the early part of this year in NFL Europa, is
back for his second camp with the Colts. Special teams coach Russ Purnell got a
good look at him during Wednesday night's practice, resting Adam Vinatieri, as
Andrus hit field goals of 43 and 52 yards. And the 52-yarder had enough behind
it to have been good from at least 55 yards out. Andrus is showing good
leg strength and nice hang time on his kicks.
Tyjuan Hagler's been getting some work with the first-team defense
when Rob Morris is filling in for Gary Brackett at middle linebacker.
From an overall skill set perspective, Morris continues to look like a great
match for the Colts' strongside containment role in this defense, and really
seems to be enthusiastic about playing on the outside after his success there
towards the end of 2006 season. Hagler is definitely in transition, getting used
to doing more reading of the plays so that he can hold containment rather than
reacting right away at the snap of the ball as he was able to do from the
weakside. But he's another player that you can tell is really maturing in the
defensive scheme and continues to show the ability to be a serious hitter.
Speaking of the middle linebacker spot, it's obvious at this point that if
Brackett would have to miss time, the Colts' first choice at this juncture would
be to move Morris back to the middle as their confidence in Hagler being able to
handle the strongside would undoubtedly be higher than they would have in the
reserves behind Brackett on the depth chart. The one guy to watch though is Brandon Archer, who has taken some reps from the middle linebacker spot and has
successfully gotten right in the mix of the plays pretty consistently.
|Anthony Gonzalez pulls in a pass |
Defensive end Josh Thomas sat out the morning session, but had a good
practice session that evening. He put a good lick on backup quarterback Jim Sorgi that forced a fumble.
It's obvious that offensive guard Rick DeMulling is happy to be back
in Indy and working in offensive line coach Howard Mudd's system again. He
worked with the first team earlier this week while Ryan Lilja sat out. DeMulling
got a bad rap in Detroit, falling out of the starting lineup after establishing
a strong track record as a starter in Mudd's system. Look for him to possibly
bump Dylan Gandy to the primary backup role as center behind Jeff Saturday while still providing depth at the guard position as well.
With Saturday under contract through 2008 and entering his ninth
season, the Colts need to start developing his eventual replacement. And it
could certainly be Gandy, who is in his third season with the Colts and who has shown his ability to be a reliable member of the starting front five while filling in for Ryan Lilja last season.
Harvard running back Clifton Dawson has been consistently showing off
nice running instincts and burst that could help him land the power-back,
short-yardage role. If he can step up, the Colts would have three dangerous,
young backs that would allow them to match up to the down-and-distance
situations nicely. Dawson is really making a good impression with his
pass-blocking skills as well.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of camp so far is that T.J. Rushing has
not only looked good as a returns specialist -- which the team obviously counted
on -- since the team didn't re-sign Terrence Wilkins -- but he's been looking
sharp as a cornerback. And while he was a solid contributor at that spot at
Stanford, some questioned if he'd be able to play the position at the pro level.
In his second training camp, Rushing is making the statement that he can hold
his own out there as a pass defender.