Vick Ballard is expected to open the season as the Colts' No. 2 back.
The Ahmad Bradshaw signing was a clear indication of GM Ryan Grigson's feelings about his running back corps; he recognized it wasn't good enough with Ballard in the lead role. Ballard will be no more than a low-end flex pick in fantasy drafts. In his AFC Team-by-Team Notes column accessible at the link below, Rotoworld's Evan Silva breaks down the Colts' projected 2013 backfield.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano says first-rounder Bjoern Werner has looked like a "natural" outside linebacker this offseason.
Werner was a defensive end for Florida State. "He doesn't make many mental (mistakes), so we're going to keep throwing stuff at him and use him in a bunch of different roles," Pagano said. "He can be effective not only in the run game, but when we get to third down, he's going to be a hard guy to block." Werner should still see snaps with his hand in the dirt, but it's clear the Colts aren't going to be shy about rushing him off the edge. We're not so sure it's a role he will thrive in.
The National Football Post's Dan Pompei reports the Colts plan to use second-year TE Coby Fleener more as a vertical threat this season.
Fleener averaged just 10.8 YPR on 26 catches as a rookie. Over his final two years at Stanford, he averaged 17.6 YPR on 62 grabs under OC Pep Hamilton. Fleener and fellow second-year TE Dwayne Allen will both see the field a ton, which is going to put a cap on both of their potential fantasy outputs. We like Fleener a bit more than Allen, but he's nothing more than a mid-to-low TE2.
The National Football Post's Dan Pompei reports the Colts "will be trying to get" Darrius Heyward-Bey more opportunities than he ever had in Oakland.
Pompei adds that the Colts are looking to develop their vertical passing attack further this season, and part of their enthusiasm has to do with DHB's acquisition. The coaching staff sees Heyward-Bey as a "potentially explosive playmaker" who can get behind coverage. He and T.Y. Hilton will likely alternate in two-wide sets early on, but we'd expect Hilton to run away with the starting job opposite Reggie Wayne. Heyward-Bey will still see plenty of snaps as the No. 3.
The Colts have moved Robert Mathis to "rush" linebacker in their 3-4 defense, where he'll now rush from the weak side.
Despite modest size (6'2/245), Mathis has been a strong-side defender throughout his career. As the primary rush 'backer, Mathis will now square off with opposing left tackles and have to deal with fewer "chip" blocks from backs and tight ends. The position change could supplement Mathis' sack total because he'll do less edge setting in the run game. Erik Walden and rookie Bjoern Werner are now competing to start on the strong side.
The Indianapolis Star projects Ahmad Bradshaw as the Colts' starting tailback, ahead of Vick Ballard.
We've anticipated the same; Bradshaw is an upgrade on Ballard in pretty much every area, from pass protection to big-play run skills. The Indy Star does concede Bradshaw may open training camp on the active/PUP list as the Colts manage his recovery from foot surgery. He hasn't practiced with the team yet. Due to Bradshaw's injury history, the Colts could wind up keeping four running backs on the 53-man roster. Bradshaw and Ballard are locked in, and rookie Kerwynn Williams is expected to be Indianapolis' primary kickoff returner. Donald Brown and Delone Carter will compete for one roster spot.
New Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot surgery) remains in a walking boot.
Bradshaw underwent his latest right foot procedure in January. He insists he'll be ready for the first day of training camp with his new team, and there's little reason to doubt him. Despite tons of missed practice time and surgeries, Bradshaw has missed just 12 games across his six-year career.