ANDERSON, Ind. — After spending the entire offseason laying the foundation for what he envisions his system developing into for his first full season as the Indianapolis Colts' offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski is ready to turn things up a few notches.
The Colts on Tuesday reported to Anderson University for their first day of training camp meetings and conditioning tests, and on Wednesday embark on their first camp practice of the year.
Now the work really begins.
"I'm really excited about our offense," Chudzinski told reporters on Tuesday.
Chudzinski certainly has plenty of reasons to be excited, starting at the quarterback position, where Andrew Luck recently signed the richest contract in NFL history.
The offense also has plenty of weapons at the wide receiver position, highlighted by Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton, major breakout candidate Donte Moncrief and a promising second-year receiver in Jacoby Brissett.
Then, at running back, the team returns ever-durable veteran Frank Gore, and has plenty of competition behind him for the No. 2 and 3 spots.
But the topic of conversation for much of the offseason — as well as Tuesday's press session — was the state of the Indianapolis offensive line. After suffering some bumps and bruises up front in 2015, the team invested four of its eight draft picks this year on offensive linemen, highlighted by center Ryan Kelly, the No. 18-overall pick in the first round.
Kelly was inserted as the team's starter at center the moment he was picked, and has been nothing but impressive to anybody that's crossed his path.
"It's like he's been there 10 years," Chudzinski said of Kelly. "He handles things; nothing phases him. I tried in the spring to get him a little bit and he's sharp. He's going to be just a heck of a player here for a long time and in this league for a long time."
But how's the rest of the line coming along?
Chudzinski acknowledged Tuesday that it continues to be a work in progress — but just about every other position on the field is in the same mode at this time, as well.
"I'm excited about our offensive line and getting out on the field and seeing where we are at," Chudzinski said. "I've always felt like you have an idea of what you are and what you'll be during the course of the season, but things change and they change in a hurry. Whether that's injuries, whether that's who ends up playing where and when and what job, and what guys surprise you during the course of training camp. You know, people have to step up and that's what this will be all about is seeing who is going to step up and how all these spots will work themselves out."
For now, the team has assumed starters at the left tackle (Anthony Castonzo), left guard (Jack Mewhort), center (Kelly) and right tackle (Joe Reitz) positions, leaving right guard wide open for the taking.
2016 Colts Training Camp move-in day media availability.
The emphasis for all offensive linemen under new position coach Joe Philbin has been to master the playbook and technique for all five positions so the team can plug-and-play whenever needed, which should help breed plenty of high-quality competition for that spot.
But at the same time, with the regular season just around the corner, Chudzinski said continuity is also important.
"The more they are playing together the better off they are and will be," he said. "At the same time, we have to get the best five and we have to work through that process. I think ultimately that's the No.1 thing and the No. 1 goal is to find the best five in those spots and then get them the time that they need together. Hopefully you can do both at the same time."
In the end, the offense will rely heavily on the playmaking abilities of Luck, who played seven games last season as he battled through multiple injuries. Now completely healthy, Chudzinski said it's important for the entire offense to have Luck making the right decision on every play, even if it means living to play another down or series.
"There will be times where Andrew has got a special ability to keep plays alive, so it's that fine line you don't want to take that away from him," Chudzinski said. "But at the same time he's got to protect himself, protect us and work on those plays as well."
The 2015 season for the Colts also was a prime example of how important it is for a team to have a competent backup quarterback ready to go at a moment's notice. Last year, it was Matt Hasselbeck, a wily veteran who helped lead the team to an 8-8 overall record, narrowly missing the playoffs.
Hasselbeck has since retired from the NFL, and the team signed veteran Scott Tolzien, who has backed up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, to the No. 2 quarterback behind Luck.
Factor in a new quarterbacks coach in Brian Schottenheimer, and the quarterbacks room should be in good shape in 2016.
"You pick some things up that are newer or different from a great coach like Brian," Chudzinski said. "So again, the staff we have is incredible. The guys really work together well. There are no egos on our staff, and I'm excited. It's fun being with them on a day-to-day basis. They challenge me as a coach, hopefully I challenge them as a coach, and we talk things through and work things through. I think that will carry over and it has carried over with our players."