INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts report for training camp for the 2022 NFL season Tuesday. With the start of practice comes the requisite storylines that accompany the beginning of each season.
Here are a few:
Who was the most impactful offseason addition? This is an easy answer. Quarterback Matt Ryan, on paper, represents a clear upgrade over the unpredictable, uneven performance of last season’s starter Carson Wentz. The Colts landed Ryan for a mere third-round pick in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons in one of this offseason’s most heralded moves, but will Ryan just be solid for the Colts or does he still possess the ability to produce at an elite level when needed? He’s 37 now, several years removed from the guy who won NFL Most Valuable Player in 2016. But the supporting cast he’ll have in Indianapolis is superior to those he had in Atlanta in recent seasons, beginning with the sturdy offensive line in front of him and the NFL's rushing leader last season, Jonathan Taylor.
What’s the biggest question facing the Colts this season? The acquisition of Ryan solved the Colts’ urgent need at quarterback. But what remains to be seen is whether Indianapolis has done a sufficient job addressing the group of players he’ll be throwing to. The selection of Alec Pierce from Cincinnati with the team’s top draft pick (53rd) will go a long way to solidifying their wide-receiving corps. Look for the big-bodied Pierce (6-3, 213) to have a major role on the perimeter if observations from the team’s offseason practices are any indication. But without veterans T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal on the roster, the role of No. 1 wideout Michael Pittman Jr., 24, takes on even greater importance. For now, youth is this group’s defining characteristic. No member of the unit is older than 25. None has played more than 30 regular-season games. They’re also uncomfortably young at tight end.
Who’s the player with the most to prove? As a former Defensive Player of the Year, cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s status is secure. But it’s fair to take a wait-and-see approach on the current version of Gilmore after the Colts signed him to a two-year contract with his 32nd birthday approaching in September. Gilmore has missed 14 combined games the past two seasons, most stemming from a hip surgery he underwent while with the New England Patriots in 2020. But when he finally returned, Gilmore demonstrated that he was recovered from the injury by performing well down the stretch with the Carolina Panthers in 2021. With the Colts committing more than $10 million to Gilmore for 2022, they need him to play at an elite level and solidify their perimeter cornerback spot. Gilmore has got to stay healthy to do that.
Camp prediction: Third-round pick Bernhard Raimann from Central Michigan will emerge as the starter at left tackle. It's hardly a guarantee, but that's why this is considered a bold take. Though it's a big ask for a rookie to start at such a critical spot, Raimann has the best combination of skills and size of the candidates to take on this role. Raimann, 6-foot-6 and 303 pounds, should expect stiff competition from veterans Matt Pryor, Dennis Kelly and recently-signed Jason Spriggs. But given the way Raimann moves, he is well-equipped to handle the speed that will confront whoever wins the job on Ryan's blind side.