ANDERSON, Ind. — The Indianapolis Colts came to training camp with plenty of questions. They headed home from Anderson University still searching for many of those answers.
Coach Chuck Pagano has not named the starting offensive linemen, new defensive coordinator Ted Monachino is dealing with injuries along the defensive line and Andrew Luck continues to work on his form, footwork and faster decision-making.
"I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, that’s for sure, like anybody in training camp," Luck said Thursday. "I’d like to think that I haven’t repeated many of the same mistakes."
It is unclear how much the Colts accomplished during the 2 1/2-week camp. Some of the obstacles were beyond their control, such as the cancellation of last weekend’s Hall of Fame Game because of an unsafe field. Luck hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 8, though he should finally return Saturday at Buffalo.
Injuries didn’t help, either.
Rookie center Ryan Kelly, Indy’s first-round draft pick, missed more than a week with an injured left shoulder. Starting right tackle Joe Reitz and Hugh Thornton, who is competing for the right guard job, also missed time.
The safety spot was so thin during the first week that the coaches temporarily had Darius Butler, Indy’s nickel-package cornerback, lining up there.
This week’s big concern is the defensive line, which will not have any of its three projected starters available this weekend.
Henry Anderson remains on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from a torn ACL, Kendall Langford is out after having arthroscopic knee surgery and Pagano said Art Jones won’t play, either. Jones will miss the first four regular-season games after violating the league policy on performance-enhancing substances but can play in the preseason.
In spite of all those obstacles, Pagano believes the Colts have improved.
"I am pleased with where we are at as a football team," he said. "We got a lot of work done. We are excited to go play a game and see exactly where we are at."
One noticeable difference during camp was veteran participation.
Pagano figured with no more than three consecutive days of practice, the older players shouldn’t need any extra time off, and he and his revamped staff also wanted to send a message that Indy must be more physical this year.
"You have to put the pads on and you have to develop that mindset on both sides of the football, specifically on the line of scrimmage," Pagano said. "You have to do it, but there is a fine line there because you want to keep your team healthy."
The Colts know they can’t rely on pure luck for that anymore.
They used four of eight draft picks on offensive linemen, in hopes of protecting their star quarterback. They believe Kelly will solidify the middle. And with Thornton out, converted tackle Denzelle Good appears to be the front-runner at right guard.
The good news is that the Colts also may have found a hidden gem in tackle Joe Haeg, a fifth-round pick who has impressed the coaches.
But in Indy, the key to success will always be based on Luck and whether he can regain his Pro Bowl form after the worst season of his career.
"Maybe there’s a little motivation from last year and what happened," Luck said. "But you’re going to be motivated each year to go out and prove yourself."