Caldwell Likes Where Colts Are Entering 2010 Regular Season
INDIANAPOLIS – As Jim Caldwell sees it, much was accomplished in the last month.
Caldwell, entering his second season as the Colts' head coach, said the team made progress nearly everywhere – offense, defense and special teams – during training camp and preseason, which ended on Thursday night.
Goals were accomplished. Learning was, too.
And Caldwell said the team certainly obtained its objective in the final week of the preseason, which was to assess the roster and gather information to make player moves this weekend.
None of which makes the coming two days any easier. Not even close.
Because the Colts by Saturday afternoon must trim the roster from 75 to 53 players, which Caldwell said means making difficult decisions that shape more than the roster.
They also shape lives.
"It's a tough time," Caldwell said Friday, a day after a 30-28 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2010 preseason finale at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Anytime you're dealing with young men and hopes and aspirations get derailed a little bit, there is some difficulty. I'm not certain anybody ever gets accustomed to it."
The Colts, after playing starters early in the first half of the first two preseason games and into the third quarter in the third, played very few front-line players on Thursday, with quarterback Peyton Manning missing the preseason finale for a sixth consecutive season.
The preseason and training camp, Caldwell said, is primarily about preparation for the regular season and player evaluation, and while he said preseason is a difficult time to gauge progress, he said he saw improvements essentially in every area.
"The true test comes next week," Caldwell said of the Colts' regular-season opener against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Sunday, September 12.
"That's when you can really start to gauge exactly who you are, but you can make an assessment. I thought in a lot of areas we got a little bit better."
The Colts' philosophy for the fourth preseason game is to play as many young players as possible, with the idea of evaluating the players for roster positions. Caldwell said such players played well Thursday at several positions, including running back and wide receiver.
Wide receiver Blair White, a rookie free agent from Michigan State, caught seven passes for 132 yards, and rookie free-agent returner/wide receiver Brandon James caught four passes for 56 yards and three touchdowns, with all three touchdowns coming from second-year veteran Tom Brandstater.
First-year veteran running back Allen Patrick led the Colts with 33 yards rushing on eight carries, and rookie free-agent running back Javarris James rushed for 32 yards on 11 carries.
"They're talented guys who did well," Caldwell said. "They handled some difficult situations pretty well. It's good when they make our decisions tough. That shows us that we do have a lot of depth, and that depth is going to strengthen us however it turns out."
Of James, Caldwell said, "He showed some good body leaning, good power and good vision as well. He did a nice job."
Caldwell, who meets with each released player before the player leaves, said a variety of factors go into the decisions – injuries, depth at various positions, etc.
"All of it plays a part," Caldwell said. "Sometimes, we may feel we need depth. Sometimes things occurred at certain positions where you may need to fortify a little more.
"That's one of the considerations."
The Colts this year trained in Anderson, Ind., after 11 seasons in Terre Haute. The off-site part of training camp, which broke two weeks ago, was productive, Caldwell said, and the Colts have continued to work mostly in training-camp mode since with regular-season preparations scheduled to begin Monday.
"I think our overall view of things, how we wanted it to go, I think it worked well," Caldwell said. "We had great days to prepare and great facilities to prepare. The environment was conducive to getting better each and every day. We did not have a lot of distractions and those that we did have, the guys were able to fight through a little bit of adversity and discomfort and embrace the challenge and do well.
"Overall, I do think it has been exactly as we had planned – not exactly in terms of all the mishaps that went on during the course of it, but in terms of the product at this stage of it. Going into our game in preparation for Houston we're right where we need to be."
But before the work for the regular-season opener begins, the Colts will spend time making some of the toughest decisions of the year. And while it's not an easy time, it's a necessary one that Caldwell said the Colts take seriously and diligently.
"The performances speak for themselves, obviously," Caldwell said. "But I always think there are some we'll have to look at, revisit and examine here over the next 24 hours or so."