INDIANAPOLIS – What starting positions are still up for grabs with the Colts bound for Training Camp in Anderson?
We definitely know of two.
The right guard and inside linebacker position (next to D'Qwell Jackson) are the ones to watch this camp.
These are the two main starting competitions that are up in the air going into a preseason that includes five games this season.
Let's take a look at the right guard and inside linebacker battles.
*Who starts at right guard? *-The incumbent starter at right guard is Hugh Thornton. Going into his fourth NFL season (also a contract year), Thornton has retooled his body. Injuries have plagued Thornton's NFL career and it forced him to miss the entire offseason program. Denzelle Good joined Thornton on the sideline during the month of May. Good did participate in the final two weeks of the offseason program. It allowed Good the opportunity to take some reps at right guard, a position he didn't play last season. When Good did start four games at right tackle last season, the rookie impressed the staff on multiple levels. The Colts love the potential they see in Good as he tries to prove that he can play guard in the NFL.
When Thornton and Good were out this spring, it opened the door for Jonotthan Harrison and Joe Haeg. Harrison, the team's starting center the past couple of seasons, now is making the switch to guard. If Harrison can prove his ability to play guard, it's going to enhance his chances of finding a definite roster spot, with Ryan Kelly the starter at center. For Haeg, playing guard is a new experience. Taken in the fifth round of this year's NFL Draft, Haeg was a four-year starter at tackle during his collegiate days at North Dakota State. Haeg spelled Harrison at times during the offseason program.
These four are in the mix at right guard. The first few days of camp will offer a glimpse into how the Colts view this order, with the first-team reps likely going to at least a couple of these guys.
*Who starts at inside linebacker? *-The loss of Jerrell Freeman to free agency has opened up a large void in the middle of the Colts' defense. Trying to fill that will be two guys who have started before in the NFL. Nate Irving started two games for the Colts last season, but spent virtually the entire year fighting through knee pains. Irving was a starting linebacker in Denver back in 2014, before an ACL injury ended his season at the midpoint. The Colts signed Irving in the 2015 offseason with the thought he would compete for a starting job. However, Irving struggled with his weight and admits he was never the player he wanted to be, playing less than a year after tearing an ACL. Irving has now shed the excess weight and took his fair share of first-team reps during the offseason program.
Along with Irving, Sio Moore received plenty of first-team run this offseason. These two even were on the field together a lot in May and June, with Jackson nursing a hamstring injury. The Colts acquired Moore via trade a week before the start of the 2015 season. In his first season with the Colts, Moore was never able to find his way consistently on the field. The playing time is now there and the Colts like the athletic ability in the former third-round pick. Based off the offseason program, Irving and Moore have separated themselves in the inside linebacker competition. Fourth-round pick Antonio Morrison (hamstring) has yet to practice in a team setting.