INDIANAPOLIS –The foundation for the 2015 Colts has begun in earnest.
Players have returned to work with the Colts starting their eight-week offseason program on Monday morning.
With a roster growing towards 90 players and the draft a week and a half away, there is plenty to keep an eye on this offseason.
The Colts starting 11 on each side of the ball that runs out there for OTAs later this spring won't be the same group in Anderson or, in September, for the opener.
There are health questions on each sides of the ball and updates on each should come when Chuck Pagano meets the media later this offseason.
On offense, the guys to watch are Vick Ballard, Hugh Thornton and Gosder Cherilus.
Early in Training Camp last year, Ballard injured his left Achilles and for a second straight offseason it brought about full rehab mode for the young running back.
While the physical part of Ballard will tell when he returns to the field, the mental challenge of what he's gone through the last two seasons might be the highest hurdle he has to get over this offseason.
Behind the scenes photos from our first player photo shoot of the 2015 season with Vick Ballard.
Thornton was placed on injured reserve late last season, after dealing with knee and shoulder injuries. The earlier his return this offseason the better, considering he's in a position battle with new lineman Todd Herremans.
No timetable has been laid out for Cherilus meaning the tackle depth opposite Anthony Castonzo could be tested early this offseason.
Defensively, it goes without saying that a healthy Arthur Jones is a necessity for an improved run defense in 2015.
Robert Mathis is the biggest injury name to watch in 2015. Mathis has stated that the plan to get back on the field is shooting for Training Camp.
New inside linebacker Nate Irving tore his ACL midway through the 2014 season, so his rehab to compete for a starting job could carry into Training Camp.New Faces, New Places
The next eight weeks provides some new faces in Colts uniforms after impressive careers around the NFL.
Frank Gore's respected playing style enters a Colts running back group in search for a veteran presence.
After years of making Colts fans cringe with big catch after big catch, Andre Johnson arrives to Indianapolis eager to see a stable quarterback situation.
With Cory Redding and Ricky Jean Francois gone from last year's defensive line group, seven-year vet Kendall Langford will have a lot on the shoulders of his 6-6, 314-pound frame.
Is Trent Cole the missing ingredient from last year's defense as a true, one-on-one, pass rushing threat?
Dwight Lowery was the final free agent signee of 2015 but his presence next to Mike Adams is a necessity and these eight weeks will be beneficial to develop some cohesion before Training Camp.**
Offensive Line Battles**
Any battle in the trenches is inevitably going to extend to, and through, Training Camp. You just can't make a proper evaluation until you see the full pads strapped on.
The Cherilus injury watch could lead to more extended action for Joe Reitz and intriguing second-year tackle Ulrick John.
At right guard, it's the incumbent Thornton who is recovering from injuries to try and hold off a 10-year vet in Todd Herremans.
The center battle will begin with Khaled Holmes taking early first team reps after he helped coordinate an impressive postseason for the line. Jonotthan Harrison started 10 games at center last year and is back in the mix. Could CFL signing Ben Heenan get some center reps?Distribution Of Defensive Reps
It’s a key offseason for the Colts young defensive linemen. Guys like Montori Hughes, Zach Kerr and Kelcy Quarles should have ample chances to get some first team run. Will one of them emerge to be a regular contributor come September?
Outside linebacker might be the most interesting position to watch all offseason along. Outside of the obvious Robert Mathis rehab, there are plenty of reps to be had there with some deserving options.
A more under the radar storyline on defense is the depth in the secondary. In such a pass happy league, the Colts will need to add some quality (and younger) bodies behind the likes of Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Darius Butler, Lowery and Adams.**
Duron Carter's Development**
If there's one new name fans are varied in their predictions for, it's Carter.
In Carter, there's a unique frame and talent that the Colts are not used to having at the receiver position.
Has he made the strides on and off the field to thrive in this NFL situation?
Carter is walking into an offense led by one of the game's best young quarterbacks and a receiver room that doesn't need to force feed him right away.
Expectations for Carter should remain low for a couple of reasons.
Yes, the talent and reason for interest is more than fine. However, remember that there is a significant jump in such a transition from the CFL (rule changes and the obvious talent jump). Also, where does Carter get minutes with Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief already in the bunch?
If Carter does pan out though, it will be hard to keep such a unique asset, to an already potent Colts offense, off the field.Diamonds In The Rough
This time of year is for guys like Jerrell Freeman to go from an unknown "camp body" to the team's leading tackler.
A trio of players has history that sound like a script from Hollywood.
The 2015 season is Daniel Adongo's third with the Colts (second full offseason) and clearly the most important.
Adongo was on injured reserve all of last year and he must have a healthy offseason for the Colts to finally see if they have anything in a defensive atmosphere for the former rugby star.
Tight end Erik Swoope got his first taste of football last year with the Colts. The former college basketball player spent 2014 on the Colts practice squad.
Any jump from Swoope all the way to the 53-man roster would be a surprise, due to the established talent already at the position. That talent ahead of him should continue to aid in the development of a player the Colts hope is another power forward-turned-tight end.
Just like Swoope, Demarco Cox brings strictly a basketball pedigree from the college ranks.
Cox was a 6-8, 290-pound sought after offensive tackle practice in high school but chose to stick to the hardwood.
The Colts see plenty of potential in him though and he could definitely follow Swoope's progression from last season, initially starting on the team's practice squad.