1. Wide receiver Roy Hall: Hall got a lot of attention from fans and the coaching staff as a rookie for his combination of size (6-feet-3, 240), athletic ability and speed. The problem is that he is regarded as a project of sorts.
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After seeing limited playing time as a collegian at Ohio State due to the overall quality depth at his position, the 2007 fifth-round draft pick missed most of his rookie season in the NFL due to a shoulder injury. He is now being counted on to make a run at being the fourth receiver in the Colts' rotation.
Big enough to be used as a tight end or H-Back, the Indianapolis coaching staff remains steadfast in using Hall strictly as a wide receiver. He backed up starter Reggie Wayne during the team's 2008 offseason workouts.
HARTZ'S HUNCH: So far, Hall's physical prowess hasn't translated into production on the field. To be fair, however, one has to consider that he played behind two excellent collegiate receivers, Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez, during his time as a Buckeye.
He's still behind Gonzalez, as well as Pro Bowlers Marvin Harrison and Wayne. But reports from the offseason say that Hall is starting to come into his own. He should nail down the fourth receiver spot in training camp, and if he earns targets from Peyton Manning, he'll be handful for defensive backs to take down. Hall also has the potential to drastically improve Indianapolis' special teams.
2. Offensive guard Mike Pollak: A former center at Arizona State, the Colts' first draft pick of '08 is expected to push for a starter's role at right offensive guard. The spot became vacant in the offseason when veteran Jake Scott signed a free agent contract with AFC South rival Tennessee.
While some people thought that the team's decision to select Pollak was an indication that Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday might be nearing the end of his career with the Colts, both head coach Tony Dungy and team president Bill Polian have said that wasn't the case.
It was Pollak's versatility on the offensive line, he had played offensive guard early in his college career, and his overall play that impressed the Colts. While a move back to center could conceivably happen at some point down the road, offensive guard is where he will get his best chance to see playing time early on.
HARTZ'S HUNCH: Saturday is well-entrenched at the center position — for 2008, anyway — but Pollak appears to be a front-runner for the right guard spot. Will he be good enough, soon enough to step into the starting lineup? Charlie Johnson, who's now a veteran with plenty of experience, will have something to say about that in the next few weeks.
First, though, like all the Colts rookies, Pollak needs to sign his contract and find his way down I-70 to Terre Haute.
3. Linebacker Philip Wheeler: A third-round draft pick by Indianapolis in April, Wheeler impressed the Colts' coaching staff during the team's offseason workouts.
Slated to be the top reserve behind starter Gary Brackett at middle linebacker as a rookie, he may get a chance to prove what he can do as the team's strong side linebacker.
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An injury to starter Tyjuan Hagler (a torn pectoral muscle) could force a move to the outside for the hard-hitting linebacker from Georgia Tech. Wheeler might be in the mix as Hagler's replacement when the team reports for training camp. His ability to quickly diagnose a play, combined with his speed and quickness, should serve him well if given the opportunity.
HARTZ'S HUNCH: Wheeler appears to be the kind of player the Colts love: fast, hard-working, smart and humble. What's not clear is how he fits into the Colts' defensive scheme.
His strength is in rushing the passer and crashing the line of scrimmage, while Tony Dungy's linebackers usually have many more responsibilities in pass defense. If Wheeler is a fast study, Hagler's injury will give him an opening to make some noise this season — if he signs a contract and gets to camp.
Positional battle: Who's going to serve as the primary backup to starter Joseph Addai at running back? Will it be veteran Dominic Rhodes, who returns to Indianapolis after spending a less than successful year away in Oakland? Or perhaps Kenton Keith, who took over as Rhodes' replacement last year but proved to be inconsistent as a pass blocker and receiver?
The Colts also return former undrafted free agent Clifton Dawson, who was impressive as a rookie last year when given a chance to play. Indianapolis also added former Michigan standout Mike Hart through the draft and signed undrafted free agent Chad Simpson from the practice squad.
Early indications are that Rhodes will most likely end up sharing the bulk of the playing time with Addai, but don't count out Keith just yet. Hart and Simpson will find a crowded backfield during training camp, although Dawson could end up getting work as a fullback/lead blocker in short yardage and goal line situations. Indianapolis goes into the preseason without a true fullback on the roster.
HARTZ'S HUNCH: Rhodes and Addai should fall back into their effective 1-2 punch from 2006, only this time, it will be Addai starting and Rhodes coming off the bench.
Beyond that, it's still more questions than answers. Keith is a target of fan's ire, but he had a very respectable debut in the NFL last year. Has he improved enough to still be a viable part of the offense, or will he see his carries dry up? Is Dawson worth keeping around another year, even if he's buried on the depth chart? Will Hart be a steal or a bust? How many running backs will the team keep on the roster? We'll know the answers in a few weeks.