INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano not only have a successful program, they have one that has been re-built almost totally since they arrived in 2012.
Only seven current players pre-date their arrival, the league's lowest total of active-squad players from 2011 and before, and this year's five-man draft class brings to 17 the number of draft picks on hand during their regime.
The 2012 class topped by Andrew Luck has a chance to rate among the best of any draft grouping in franchise history.
The 2013 group is a typical NFL draft class that is developing and shows promise, while opinions on this year's haul are only in or just beyond the incubation stage.
The duo has added undrafted free agents along the way that have contributed to a 23-11 overall record, and more were on hand this past weekend as part of the camp.
The last three days gave a peek at potential new cast members, and here five observations:
Jack Mewhort versatile and lives to billing – Jack Mewhort came billed as a versatile workhorse with a 'football' attitude mixed with wondrous work ethic. Mewhort worked at left guard and center for the five sessions and fared very, very well. Where he plays is of no deep concern to him, though he says guard may come with more ease. Nasty? Grigson thinks so. Mewhort just does his job. "I like to finish plays. I like to make sure my guys are away from the tackle. Finishing is a big part of my game, so that may have something to do with (that label)." Colts fans clamored for line stability before the draft. This is one very good addition.
Good teachers** – This is a repeat observation from last year, but seeing the coaching staff work players aggressively and expect retention and results always is a good thing to watch in camps like this. Pagano and his staff immerse themselves in every aspect of teaching players, and their effectiveness shows in how young players have contributed the past two seasons. This still is the budding phase, but Pagano and crew know how to mold talent. They have the innate ability to do so. Just as he urges players not to judge results in competition, Pagano's staff keeps open minds when working with every player.
Moncrief fitting in** – Donte Moncrief was one of the highest-rated prospects on the club's draft board. The team liked his size, speed and physical nature. Those three attributes were on display from the camp's opening gavel. Moncrief's senior year numbers were down a bit at Ole Miss, but those were due to others around him and an offensive concept like the Colts where the ball is spread around. Moncrief will add a touch polish to aspects of this game as all rookies do, but any concerns about his total package can be laid to rest. He's big, physical and is a rangy target who will use his body to help his teammates. Pagano marveled Sunday about Moncrief's ability to get behind the defense.
New format a factor? – With the draft being pushed into May, it condenses the amount of practice for rookies. Many, however, were on hand early last week just after the draft so they were able to orient themselves to a degree rather than coming to Indianapolis and immediately hitting the practice field. That is how the system has been in the past. While rookies did not work against veterans last week, they saw NFL speed before heading into the three-day camp. Any assimilation to a new worksite helps, and most will stay on hand as conditioning continues and OTAs are ahead. It's a shorter period, but the structure of last week probably helped the weekend.
The final day of Rookie Mini Camp!
Erik Swoope developing** – Sure it's early, there are no pads and he worked against other rookies, but Erik Swoope show skills that pleased Pagano. Pagano figures Swoope will add 20 pounds or to so the 250 range. He kidded that wearing cleats, getting used to huddles, learning the stance, securing receptions and other minor parts to football were part of last week's orientation, and Pagano thought Swoope's on-field ability shined. "(He) exceeded our expectations way beyond anything that you'd ever imagine. We've had athletes come into this league, guys that couldn't translate over. This kid did a great job. If he continues to work, who knows?"