INDIANAPOLIS – The days of just the veterans working in the Colts offseason program are about to come to a close.
Rookies will join the veterans starting Monday, with the Colts having five weeks remaining in their offseason program.
While the rookies will be added to the mix, the franchise quarterback will remain sidelined.
With the Colts starting Phase Two of the offseason program last week (Phase Two allows individual player instruction and drills, with coaches on the field, as well as team practice conducted on a "separates" basis), it's been the Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris show at quarterback.
On Tuesday, the Colts coaching staff met the media for the first time this offseason. As you would expect, the absence of Andrew Luck was a hot topic.
Here's a look at four takeaways from Tuesday's media session after the Colts concluded their 14th day of the offseason program:
Offense Working Without Andrew Luck
In a way, Rob Chudzinski is kind of used to life without Andrew Luck.
When Chud was named interim offensive coordinator halfway through 2015, Luck played one game the rest of the season.
Last year, Chud did have Luck for 15 games, but did not have the starting quarterback for half of the team's practices.
So here's Chud ramping up things during the Colts offseason program with no exact date set for Luck's return to practice.
"It's a challenge," Chud says of not having Luck. "The best thing for Andrew is getting him healthy and ready to go. I have no doubts in my mind he'll be ready go once he's back out on the field. He's done that before (each of the last two years).
"He's involved in the meetings. He's vocal. He's a leader of the team. He's always going to be around and he's a presence."
It's a boat load of mental reps for Luck right now.
Quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer knows when Luck returns to practice, the physical reps are going to be vital.
"However many reps there are, those reps need to be quality reps," the former NFL offensive coordinator says of Luck at Training Camp. "We can't take a day off when he's back. So if it's practice 1 or practice 5, practice 5 or practice 1 has to be crisp. It's got to be well thought out, which it will, and everybody's got to be on board to get the timing back.
"The thing we will learn from OTAs is, what are things we can do maybe outside the box---virtual reality things. He's done that before, but how can we make it better. We are looking for those things and something we are trying to improve on. We are giving him a file of different routes and things we are doing. Again, you can't make up for the physical reps but you can at least get him to where he feels it more than he does just by standing on the sidelines."**
Frank Gore Still Around**
A 34th birthday awaits Frank Gore this Sunday.
To be frank (no pun intended), 34-year-old running backs have little business still running in the NFL.
But Gore has little time for those sorts of comments.
As Gore watched a bevy of Colts' veterans hit the exits the past few months, he's still in the building.
"They know I play good football, that I play the game hard," Gore says of why the Colts have kept their first 1,000-yard rusher since 2007 around for another season. "They know that when I'm around the guys, I bring the team up.
"When Training Camp comes, I'll show that I'm still a young guy."
Gore's offseason looks like this: a lot of boxing in the early months to keep his legs fresh, ramping up the running aspect of things when the offseason program begins and then taking his workouts full throttle seven weeks before Training Camp begins.
In Gore's ear is Edgerrin James, one Miami guy to another.
Edge knows Gore has a very realistic shot at moving into the top five on the NFL's all-time rushing list (Gore is 620 yards outside of fifth place).
That's very, very doable in 2017, as Gore runs behind an offensive line he truly believes will take a major step forward.
"They are going to be good," Gore says of the guys blocking for him. "I just wish that I could have been younger with them. They've got great potential. They want it. They are fighting. They have a great future."**
Contract Year Brings Specific Goal For Donte Moncrief
**Yep, the numbers certainly back up what Donte Moncrief wants to improve on in 2017.
Yards after catch.
That's a part of Moncrief's game that he wants to see ascend in the final year of his rookie contract.
In 2014, Moncrief averaged 6.7 yards after catch (8th in the NFL). In 2015, that number dipped to 4.1 YAC (66th in the NFL). Last year, it plummeted to 2.5 YAC (106th in the NFL).
The Colts have always been enamored about the playmaking ability for Moncrief.
That should not be relegated to just the red zone, where Moncrief had 7 touchdown catches in limited action last season.
With a healthy shoulder, Moncrief is back for his fourth NFL season.
A new position coach is now in Indianapolis for Moncrief and the staff remains bullish on the potential for the 6-2, 220-pound wideout.So Many New Faces For Ted Monachino
Stay tuned later this week for more from Ted Monachino on Colts.com.
For now, here are some quick hitters after Monachino met the media for the first time this offseason
- New Centerfielder: When the Colts took Malik Hooker with the 15th overall pick, Monachino's unit gained a player that immediately upgrades the ball-hawking nature of his defense. "It sure is comforting knowing that you have a rare cat back there that can get pylon from pylon while the ball is in the air," Monachino says of Hooker. The Colts are not expected to have Hooker on the field until Training Camp, as their first-round pick completes his recovery from January surgery. Where does Monachino want to see Hooker improve? "I think the learning curve will be in the run fits, something he will have to spend a little extra time (with coaches) on. I think that's one thing we will ask him to do occasionally. The kid is so dominant in the deep parts of the field that it's hard to take him out of there. It's not like we are going to spend a lot of time teaching him how to rush the passer and blitz. That's silly." Expect Hooker roaming hashmark to hashmark come this fall.
- No Time for Patience: Even though Monachino could have six or seven new starters in 2017, he does not want to hear about excuses in building some cohesion with so many different faces. "We won't be any more patient just because we got a bunch of new faces," Monachino says. "When we are out there, there's a certain standard we expect to play to." Monachino is in search of new leaders for his defense. That's the biggest drawback following an offseason of roster upheaval that the Colts saw on defense: "I think the change is good. The only thing that stays the same in our league is change. Needing it? There was some need there for change. But I'll tell you it wasn't for lack of focus, lack of effort and a lack of being professional. We were at a point with several players that we needed to move on and that's what Mr. Ballard decided to do."
- Juggling the Safeties: After taking Hooker in Round One, the Colts enter the rest of the offseason with a very crowded safety group. Monachino said he hasn't completely sifted through all the possibilities for how he wants to use the likes of Darius Butler Clayton Geathers, T.J. Green and Malik Hooker this coming season. Butler's flexibility to play some nickel cornerback is not forgotten on Monachino, when the Colts go to their sub packages in 2017: "What will happen is those best five guys will be out there in nickel. If Darius is the nickel corner, if he is one of those best five, he will be playing on the field. He knows, and we all know, what a blessing and opportunity it is to be in an NFL building. He's just thrilled to be back and start carving out a new niche and a new role. From a leadership standpoint, that spotlight has become brighter with Darius."
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