With 15 days and counting until the opening of Indianapolis Colts training camp, there will be more questions that require answers — besides whether Andrew Luck can throw a football — before the regular-season opener against the Rams in Los Angeles.
Position battles need to be resolved, and with all the new blood with the Colts, there will be plenty.
New general manager Chris Ballard shopped for the groceries, and now it’s up to the coaching staff to cook the meal.
Here are three of the position battles that will capture the public’s attention and help determine whether the Colts are successful in their hopes to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014:
Right side of the offensive line
- Le’Raven Clark has an almost perfect build and length to play right tackle, but until his rookie season last year, he had never put his hand in the dirt. Offensive line coach Joe Philbin has spent considerable time and bandwidth trying to teach Clark the art and tactics of right tackle play. If Clark learns the position, he will be a key protector of Luck’s front side.
- Joe Haeg would be the ideal right guard. He started at three different spots during his rookie campaign and acquitted himself well. At guard, he might become a real asset. At right tackle, let’s just say that he would be a plan B.
- Denzelle Good was competent as starting right tackle, but the Colts would prefer that he serve as a backup for both Clark and left tackle Anthony Castonzo. There also has been talk that Good might be a serviceable guard, but a 6-foot-5, 345-pound player fits the tackle spot better.
Backup running back
- Robert Turbin is a thick back who showed an ability to find the end zone last season as he led Colts RBs with seven scores. Turbin may have earned some extra opportunities in 2017 to spell aging warrior Frank Gore.
- Marlon Mack is a superior athlete with big-play abilities. A rookie selected in the fourth round, Mack set the standard at the NFL Scouting Combine in the broad jump at 10½ feet. The Colts feel they got great value with Mack in the fourth, but he will need to impress in camp to get significant touches as a rookie.
- Josh Ferguson gained 20 yards on 15 carries as an undrafted rookie. The Colts didn’t draft Mack because they love Ferguson. Barring injury, Ferguson might have a tough time earning a spot on the active roster.
- Malik Hooker is a rookie taken 15th in the 2017 NFL draft. If Hooker is fully recovered from hip surgery, the Colts love his ability to cover ground and make plays on the ball. If healthy, Hooker starts.
- Darius Butler is a converted cornerback with limited experience at safety. A nickel back since he was acquired by the Colts, Butler may prolong his effectiveness — and career — by sliding over to safety.
- Clayton Geathers had neck surgery during the offseason. When a hard-hitting football player has neck surgery to fix a bulging disk, the worry isn’t how quickly he will return to the field — it’s whether he will ever play again. When healthy, Geathers is a competent box safety with a chance to be better than that.
- T.J. Green is a very fast but unproven second-rounder from the 2016 draft. Green showed that a 40-yard dash time really doesn’t make much difference when a safety takes a bad path to the receiver. It’s likely Green’s contributions come primarily on special teams, or maybe the switch flips and all that speed becomes an asset in the defensive backfield.
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