Preseason Lowdown : Indianapolis Colts

preseason, football, teams, colts

What’s the story? 

The Colts took everyone by surprise last year, and have every intention of solidifying their status as real contenders again this year. With head coach Chuck Pagano back in good health and QB Andrew Luck getting into the groove of his second season, the Colts are poised to do battle with the Texans once again for the #1 spot in the AFC South.

Leader and commander:

Chuck Pagano, everyone’s favorite guy. It’s technically his second year as the Colts head coach but since he missed the majority of last season battling cancer this will be his first full year at the helm.

New kid on the block:

Pep Hamilton, the new offensive coordinator, will be taking over for now Cardinals head coach and former Colts OC Bruce Arians. Those are big shoes to fill, but 38-year old Hamilton already has a head start: he was Andrew Luck’s quarterbacks coach during his senior year at Stanford.

Last year was…

…a dream season. With a rookie QB and a rookie head coach who had to leave the team early in the season to fight cancer, no one would have guessed that the Colts would advance to 11-5 and challenge the Texans for the top spot in the AFC South.

Survey says:

The Colts have a good thing going. They are ranked 10th right now in the preseason power rankings. And aside from matchups with the Niners, Broncos, and divisional rival Texans, they have one of the easiest schedules in the league. It could be another magical season in Indy.

Divisional Breakdown : AFC South Teams

Welcome to this week’s divisional breakdown! Today, we’re learning all about the AFC South.

The Houston Texans

History: Houston’s team was the Oilers until 1997, when owner Bud Adams was granted permission to move the team to Tennessee. They (eventually) became the Tennessee Titans. Teamless, Houston levied for an expansion team and was granted one (but not before a long and expensive battle with Los Angeles). The Texans first season was 2002.

Current Players to Know: Matt Schaub will be returning as quarterback after sitting out the second half of last season to a foot injury. J.J. Watt will be holding down the fort on defense as the team’s star defensive end as long as his dislocated elbow heals by the season opener on September 9th. And Andre Johnson is Andre Johnson: possibly the best wide receiver in the league.

Head Coach: Gary Kubiak

2011 Regular Season Record: 10-6

What to Watch For in 2012: The Texans could be a Super Bowl contender in 2012. They made a splash in the playoffs last season and that was without starting QB Matt Schaub. If they can stay healthy they could have a great season.

The Indianapolis Colts

History: The Colts have been members of the NFL since it’s inception and were one of three teams to move over to the AFC during the 1970 merger. They moved from Baltimore to their current home in Indianapolis in 1984.

Current Players to Know: Andrew Luck, Andrew Luck, and Andrew Luck. You may have heard that the Colts’ 14 year franchise quarterback, Peyton Manning, was ousted from Indy for the young whipper snapper Andrew Luck. Luck is touted as the best prospect to come out of the draft in decades, so all eyes will be on him and how he replaces a legend this season.

Head Coach: Chuck Pagano

2011 Regular Season Record: 2-14

What to Watch For in 2012: Well…everything. The Colts were deplorable last season without Manning, and their reaction was to clean house completely. Sixty of the ninety players who reported to training camp this season are new, the head coach is new, the defensive system is new, even the long-standing executives are new. It’ll be so interesting to see how the Colts adjust to this era in their history.

The Jacksonville Jaguars

History: The Jaguars are a relatively new team, granted as an expansion team and the 30th team overall in 1995. They’ve had sparks of greatness and splashes of less-than-greatness in that short amount of time.

Current Players to Know: Maurice Jones-Drew will be the big name here – he’s the running back who is holding out for a better contract and is key to the Jaguars offense functioning at it’s best. Rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon should help the offense if he lives up to his potential. Blaine Gabbert is almost definitely going to be the starting quarterback.

Head Coach: Mike Mularkey

2011 Regular Season Record: 5-11

What to Watch For in 2012: The Jaguars can do defense…it’s offense they struggle with. If Blaine Gabbert struggles Chad Henne would be the replacement at QB – not a bad deal in the least, and potentially preferable. The MJD story will continue to be a focal point until it resolves.

The Tennessee Titans

History: The Tennessee Titans were originally the Houston Oilers. They remained the Oilers even after they moved to Tennessee in 1997 (owner Bud Adams requested the move), but in 1998 due to fan request the name was changed to the Titans.

Current Players to Know: Matt Hasselbeck is a veteran quarterback, Jack Locker is a second year QB. The two are currently fighting it out (cordially) for the starting spot. Chris Johnson is a running back who had a record setting year several years ago but has not returned to similar glory since, although he’s still outstanding at his job.

Head Coach: Mike Munchak

2011 Regular Season Record: 9-7

What to Watch For in 2012: Who starts at quarterback? How productive will Chris Johnson be? Will Kenny Britt, consistently delinquent juvenile, be available to play for most/any/all of the season or will he be suspended? The Titans managed to have a decent year last year (partially because most of the other teams in the division managed to have a non-decent year last year), so they have the potential to be respectable this season.

Gone Campin’ : NFL Training Camp

I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach and giggles escaping with uncontrollable glee. And not because I greet each morning with a smile and a song, ala Snow White. I greet most mornings with decidedly un-Disney-esque sentiments. But this morning was different. Because this morning…Packers training camp begins.


Training camp is the pre-pre-season. It’s basically a really long audition for teams to figure out who makes the 53 man roster. It’s also the ultimate boot camp to get players back into football shape.

Because training camp marks the beginning of the football season and comes at the end of a 6 month football drought, it probably gets more hype than necessary. But really, enthusiasm is warranted after 6 months of racing, X games, and golf on Sunday afternoons. (My apologies to all of those sports and their fans…I just can’t handle it.)

Here’s what you need to know about the big training camp stories this season:


Peyton Manning beginning his reign with the Denver Broncos is the biggest focus point of training camp this year. You may have seen Peyton Manning on any number of commercials for automobiles and/or sneakers and/or Oreos. He was the franchise quarterback* for the Indianapolis Colts for the past 14 years and is one the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. However, after sitting last year out to due injury, the Colts decided to move on with a spring chicken: Stanford’s stand-out prospect and first overall draft pick Andrew Luck. Because transitional quarterback moves can create controversies (like the 49ers Montana to Young transition and the Packers Favre to Rodgers transition), Peyton decided to leave the Colts and pursue greener pastures. He found them in Denver. All eyes will be on how he plays post-injury (he had a year-long rehab from neck surgery) and how he fits with a new organization. (Additional trivia: You may also know Peyton’s brother, Eli Manning, who is the quarterback for the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.)


Peyton’s arrival in Denver displaced their starting quarterback, Tim Tebow. You may know Tim Tebow because you don’t live under a rock. Homeboy is everywhere, and he’ll be a huge story of training camp because, well, he’s a huge story no matter where he goes, on the field or off.

After Peyton decided to come to Denver Tim was traded to the New York Jets, a media-happy team on their quiet days. The Jets are known for being big talkers and attracting lots of media attention for their unconventional antics, so adding Tebow, who already draws plenty of media attention for completely opposite reasons (parents: if your kids need a role model, look no further!), might cause both the New York and national media outlets to explode. From a football standpoint, it will be interesting to see how the Jets use Tebow, who is currently slated to be the teams back-up quarterback. The Jets are talking about using him in a variety of quarterback and non-quarterback ways, but again, it’s the Jets. And the Jets talk. A lot.


New Orleans. Oh, New Orleans. You’ve probably heard something about the Saints this off-season, whether it’s regarding the bounty program or the Drew Brees contract negotiations. The drama that unfolded over the past 6 months is what multi-million dollar movies are made of, but in short: the NFL uncovered a substantial “bounty” program run by the organization in which players were paid extra to take out other players on the field. The Saints deny the existence of this system and say they had a “pay for performance” program like many teams do. But in the end their head coach, Sean Payton, was suspended for a year as a result, along with numerous other player and coach suspensions.

The good news is that after months of negotiations the Saints finally reached a deal with franchise quarterback* Drew Brees so he will be back in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Their training camp story is interesting because they’ve basically been decimated during the off-season with suspensions and bad news. They will also be without their interim head coach for the first 6 weeks of the regular season due to the bounty suspensions, so everyone will be waiting to see how they pull it all together in spite of their circumstances.


Training camp wouldn’t be training camp without a good holdout story. This season it’s Maurice Jones-Drew, who is “holding out” (not attending any team activities, including training camp) to try and get a better contract. The tricky part is that the Jaguars owner has already said that they expect Jones-Drew, the league’s premiere running back, to honor the last two years of his contract, and will not give him a long term deal. What happens next is a long, expensive stand-still to see who blinks first.


Namely: Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Robert Griffin III in Washington. Both will garner lots of debate. They are two of the most highly esteemed quarterbacks to enter the league in the past several years (or…ever), which is why they were picked first and second in this year’s NFL draft, respectively. Too much will be made of their training camp experience because, after all, it’s just camp. But it will be a big story nonetheless, especially for Andrew Luck, who is replacing aforementioned legend Peyton Manning.


Here’s a little hometown love for Buffalo! They did WORK over the off-season, bringing in much-needed big name free agents. The biggest of which is Mario Williams, who chose to sign with Buffalo after leaving the Houston Texans. He plays defensive end, a key position on any team, but his addition to the Bills makes them about 1,000,000 times better. If they can pull it together on offense they could be legit this season.

To get the full effect of training camp, take a look at this video. And lest you think training camp is all work and no play, see Brett Keisel.

*a “franchise quarterback” is a team’s star player, the quarterback who they believe will lead their team for the foreseeable future