PENDLETON, Ind. —
4. The pass rush
The No. 1 goal of Pagano’s and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s hybrid 3-4 defense will be stopping the run. But many of the big plays will come from the pass rush.
It’s an area of the game that can be extremely difficult to evaluate during training camp practices in which players are not allowed to hit the quarterback.
There’s great interest in seeing how long-time defensive ends Mathis and Dwight Freeney transition to their new roles as outside linebackers. The two have a combined 11 Pro Bowl appearances and 186 sacks in 19 NFL seasons.
Freeney is enjoying his new role, that has him moving around all over the field, but even he doesn’t know what to expect today.
“This is the type of thing that we used to do on Saturdays in kind of like a period where you get to play around a little bit,” Freeney said. “So yeah, it’s fun for me to do something new because I’ve been doing the thing I’ve been doing for 10 years. But, that being said, it is unfamiliar territory. So I don’t really know how it’s going to be until I really get out there. But everything indicates that it’s going to be fine.”
5. Players with something to prove
A. Donald Brown — A first-round pick in 2009, Brown had career highs with 134 carries, 645 yards and five touchdowns last season. Those numbers will need to nearly double, however, for Brown to become the every-down back Arians and Pagano covet for their power running game. And if Brown proves ill-suited for the role? The new regime doesn’t have as much invested in him as the previous front office.
B. Jerry Hughes — Like Brown, Hughes finds himself in a new role for a front office that didn’t draft him. The Colts’ top choice in 2010, he’s appeared in 24 games over the past two seasons with just one start, 21 tackles and one sack to show for it. Hughes is making the move to outside linebacker this season, a position some believed he was better suited for coming out of TCU’s exotic system, and he might need to quickly show improvement to earn the trust of the new regime.
C. Coby Fleener — This year’s second-round pick had a tough second week of training camp, developing a case of the dropsies. But he was solid in the opening week, and he has a great rapport with Andrew Luck from their days at Stanford. He and fellow rookie Dwayne Allen — who has looked very good in practice so far — figure to anchor Arians’ preferred two tight-end offense. Luck needs Fleener to be on his game as a security blanket.
D. New linebackers — Moise Fokou and Greg Lloyd arrived late in the week in a trade that sent cornerback Kevin Thomas to the Philadelphia Eagles. Both showed a love for the game’s physicality with hard-hitting performances in goal-line drills in their first live practice. Now, they can further impress the new coaching staff — and it’s leaning toward aggressive defenders — by carrying that attitude onto the field against the Rams.
E. Kris Adams — The wide receiver has been the breakout star of training camp so far. After spending time with three teams — the Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings — as an undrafted rookie last year, he hopes he’s found a home in Indianapolis. A string of highlight-reel plays last week and his 6-foot-3 height and 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash have opened plenty of eyes. Today he gets his first chance to prove his game can hold up when the bullets are live.