INDIANAPOLIS – Pep Hamilton's 2013 season started ominously with year-ending losses of multiple players, plus the eight-game absence later of Reggie Wayne.
The club slugged its way to 11-5 as adversity provided opportunity, but having to use a league-high 36 offensive players was a tough road.
"We have a savvy group that has gotten better as we played together," said Hamilton. "We have some young guys that played and will continue to play for us a ton in 2014. They progressed and grew exponentially last season."
Andrew Luck, Gosder Cherilus and Anthony Castonzo were one-position stalwarts, but the Colts employed five starting receivers, nine linemen, four tight ends, two fullbacks and four running backs to get through the season.
This will be year two of Hamilton's offense, and he hopes to "build on the progress" made in 2013.
Players notice an amped-up feel as the last OTA is Thursday and with mini-camp coming next week. They have worked for three weeks, and Hamilton likes the production.
"It's important that our guys understand the concepts and truly have a comprehensive (knowledge) of what we're doing," said Hamilton. "They're working hard to make sure we're on the same page.
"We have a group of guys who are conscientious. One thing we can assure you is we're going to be a tougher, smarter, stronger offensive unit."
Hamilton says Luck toward the end of last season started commanding great situational play and was able to control more at the scrimmage line. He feels Luck is "ahead of schedule" in his off-season work and has improved in the "all of the above" challenges he faces.
Luck engineered the NFL's second-largest playoff comeback when Indianapolis erased a 38-10 Wild Card deficit to beat Kansas City, 45-44.
That was a 443-yard, four-touchdown game from Luck that included three interceptions. The point-producing exploits were not the must-see things in film review.
"We totally focused on how we got behind against Kansas City," said Hamilton. "We learned more from the games we lost than we did the games we won. We'll work on what we need to do to stay out of those situations."
Indianapolis committed a franchise seasonal-low 14 miscues in 16 games, earning a plus-13 turnover edge that ranked third in the league.
After the Kansas City win, the Colts had four more turnovers in a loss at New England, finishing the playoffs with eight turnovers and a minus-seven ratio.
Hamilton felt a tilted scoreboard triggered the problem. In 120 minutes of playoff action, Indianapolis was ahead or tied only 16 minutes and 10 seconds of the time.
"It was a situation where the score dictated that we had to expose the ball more," said Hamilton. "We were behind quite a few points in the Kansas City game, and we fell behind early in the Patriots game as well.
"We had to take a few more calculated risks. It didn't work out for us. It (turnover problems) probably more so was the situations we were in."
With veteran Donald Thomas rehabbing, top pick Jack Mewhort has gotten major action this spring at left guard because Hamilton and the staff wanted to give him "some continuity with the guys up front and find his comfort zone."
Trent Richardson is another player Hamilton sees reaching that zone.
"(Trent's) one of the guys who has benefited tremendously from the classroom time," said Hamilton. "It was ambitious to think he could come in in week three last year, pick it up and hit the ground running.
"It was one of those situations where the defense knew when we put him in the game, more than likely we were running the ball. They were packing the box, and he was faced with some tremendously tough looks."
Richardson has worked with Ahmad Bradshaw while Vick Ballard mends from a knee injury.
Hamilton speaks from experience for the need to have multiple backs. A pecking order and delineation of duty is not something for the moment.
"The guys we have are very capable of making the big plays. Trent is plenty explosive enough, as well as Ahmad and Vick," said Hamilton. "Those guys are versatile enough to play on first, second and third down.
"We know how long the season is. We're going to need all our guys at some point during the season. We're not at the point where we have to decide on a rotation or a specific role for anybody in our offense. We're just working to make sure we continue to grow and put a winning product on the field."