Colts leave camp still trying to find answers
ANDERSON, Ind. (AP)
The Indianapolis Colts came to training camp to see how much they had improved over last season.
They left Friday still looking for answers.
''I think once we get everybody healthy and we get everybody back, we've got a chance to be really good (defensively), especially in the back end,'' Pagano said. ''Once LaRon (Landry) gets back, the corner position, I think we've really upgraded and solidified ourselves there. If you stay healthy there, we've got a chance.''
This year's training camp was atypical.
The rookie class, which was expected to help fill some of last season's glaring holes, didn't get much of a chance to prove itself.
As first-round choice Bjoern Werner continued the transition from college defensive end to NFL linebacker, he sat out late last week with a left knee injury and missed the preseason opener. Offensive lineman Hugh Thornton, a third-round pick expected to compete for a starting job, sprained his right ankle in a rookie mini-camp practice and didn't practice at Anderson University.
Fourth-round selection Khaled Holmes, expected to compete for playing time at center, sprained his right ankle on Day 4 and hasn't been back yet. Defensive tackle Montori Hughes, Indy's fifth-rounder, has been out this week with a stinger and sixth-round choice John Boyett is still on the nonfootball injury list.
The injury rash even hit some of the Colts' high-profile, high-priced free agents.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was forced to come off the physically unable to perform list early after he participated in a walkthrough drill in Week 2 but still has not worked out in pads. Landry, a two-time Pro Bowler, hurt his left knee and missed the final 10 days of practice. Cornerback Greg Toler missed a few days with a concussion and more than a dozen Colts' sat out the 44-20 loss to Buffalo.
The good news Friday was that tight end Dwayne Allen, who is expected to miss a couple of weeks with a foot injury, was out of his walking boot. Pagano said he would alternate using orthopedics in his shoes and the boot until he is healthy.
Despite the injuries, team owner Jim Irsay clearly expected more from Indy in last weekend's preseason opener. On Monday, he used Twitter to apologize to fans for the abysmal showing. Irsay's critical words resonated inside the locker room.
''He's the keeper of the brand, he's the protector of the 'shoe and that's his job. He's the boss,'' said five-time Pro Bowler Robert Mathis, who gave up his custom-made facemask after the NFL ruled he couldn't wear it during games. ''We weren't satisfied with our performance last weekend, so we're making it a point of emphasis to just give a better showing and just hone in on the details and just improve on everything that we're learning in practice.''
Though Andrew Luck did not lead the Colts on a scoring drive, Indy did have a 10-3 lead when Matt Hasselbeck departed early in the second quarter and things didn't really get ugly until late in the first half - long after the Colts starters had been pulled.
And the defense has looked better. It has won its share of head-to-head battles against the offense, something players believe bodes well for Sunday's game at New York - and the rest of the season.
''We feel like we're gelling as a unit,'' Mathis said. ''Unfortunately, a lot of injuries, so we're waiting to get a lot of guys back. But for the most part, we feel like we're coming together, and we're going to make a lot of people proud of us.''
Pagano also has been pleased with the progress of the rebuilt offensive line, which did allow one sack against Buffalo - a sack Luck blamed on himself, not left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who missed the block on Mario Williams.
But the Colts still don't know what they'll get out of Bradshaw, whether receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey will perform like a former first-round draft pick or whether he'll continue to struggle catching passes or who will provide the pass rush opposite Mathis.
And the only to get those answers now is back on the home front.
''I think we made improvement in all areas,'' Pagano said. ''I just think at times for whatever reason we end up shooting ourselves in the foot in all areas.''
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