INDIANAPOLIS — Rob Chudzinski isn't afraid to admit that he's used the offseason to give his players more than their fair share of what he expects to see out of the Indianapolis Colts' offense in 2016.
Along the way, Chudzinski and his staff have installed more and more of the playbook and its various schemes and attacks. In his first full year as the Colts' offensive coordinator, Chudzinski wants to infuse his brand into the offense, sure; but he also wants to see how much his players can learn and retain each and every day.
So far, so good.
"We've been pretty aggressive on those installs and have given them a lot and feeding them a lot," Chudzinski told reporters on Tuesday, after the team's first mandatory minicamp practice of the week. "And I've been really pleased with how the guys have handled it and their understanding and execution and those things as they've come along in the spring."
Already this offseason, the offense has been put to the test on the practice field in a variety of situations: pinned deep in its own territory, red zone, two-minute drills and hurry-up. At this point of the offseason, Chudzinski said that while the execution of the various plays in those situations is still very important, the communication that needs to happen — whether it's on the sidelines or on the field — is also a huge point of emphasis.
"We've talked a lot about not just knowing what to do but how and why to do it and that's been a big focal point," Chudzinski said. "I feel like at the end of the day, players are the ones on the field that have to be able to make plays and everything is not going to go perfectly like it does on the chalkboard, so those guys understanding what you're trying to get done is as important as anything, and then teaching the technique and the fundamentals to get that done on the field is the difference between winning and losing."Offensive line update
One of the more notable storylines for the Colts' offense this offseason is the development of its offensive line, particularly on the right side.
2016 Vet Mini-Camp - Practice #1
The left side, for now, appears anchored with Anthony Castonzo at left tackle and Jack Mewhort at left guard. The center position, meanwhile, appears to be locked down by first-round pick Ryan Kelly.
From there, any number of players could fill the starting spots at right guard and right tackle. During OTAs and then again during Tuesday's minicamp practice, Jonotthan Harrison has been at right guard and Joe Reitz has been at right tackle, but several other players could be considered for those jobs, depending on health (Hugh Thornton and Denzelle Good) or how quickly they develop as rookies (Joe Haeg, Le'Raven Clark and Austin Blythe).
For Chudzinski and new offensive line coach Joe Philbin, it's tough to gauge where their offensive linemen are at based off of their offseason practices. Until the team throws the pads on during training camp and the preseason, the big men up front can only really focus on getting their assignments down.
"There's not a lot of a real competition out there from that standpoint up front," Chudzinski said. "They can't hit each other, push around and finish blocks and see those things that are all about offensive line, right? The toughness in play and the physicality and all those things and that's really what defines guys up front and right now it's all just projection."Allen's versatility impresses
Dwayne Allen showed what he could do at the tight end position in 2014, catching eight touchdown passes and proving that he is a more-than-capable blocker when needed.
The follow-up to that performance last season wasn't what Allen or the Colts envisioned, however, as the Clemson product battled through injuries and ultimately was targeted 29 times in 13 total games.
But going into the offseason, the Colts made Allen — a pending free agent — an obvious priority, as they signed him to a reported four-year deal worth just less than $30 million.
Chudzinski knows how important it is to have a versatile, talented weapon atop the depth chart at tight end in his offense. He believes he has just that in Allen, and is glad to see him back.
"I see Dwayne as a guy that is a definite weapon for us," Chudzinski said. "Again his versatility is probably the thing that makes him unique in that he can do so many things well and it really allows us to be diverse on offense as well."
Chudzinski said he never tries to give a player specific numbers or projections for an upcoming season, but one of the best aspects about Allen is that he's still got room to grow within the offense and as a player.
"You see him lining up in different spots and different places and you need reps on those things to get used to that and to grow in those areas so I think continuing to grow," Chudzinski said. "His attitude has been great. He's really developed into a team leader. He's practicing fast and made a lot of strides in all those areas."