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Colts’ Josh Chapman, Griff Whalen having breakout camps

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Griff Whalen during practice NFL team's football training camp AndersInd. Tuesday July 30 2013.  (AP

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Griff Whalen during practice at the NFL team's football training camp in Anderson, Ind., Tuesday, July 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: September 8, 2013 6:35AM



ANDERSON — Defensive tackle Josh Chapman took out four blockers with one big swipe. Colts receiver Griff Whalen has been catching everything that comes his way.

They’re training camp wonder twins.

“He (Chapman) has developed that nastiness, ‘Hey I demand two people on me at all times, and if you don’t I’m going to bull rush this center to the back of the quarterback and make something happen,’” defensive end Cory Redding said. “That’s his mindset and I love that. A lot of guys don’t like getting doubled or triple teamed and he’s like ‘Put more, put more on me, because if you do, all my guys are free.’ He’s ready for the workload.”

It’s not a surprise to the Colts, who gambled by using last year’s fifth-round pick on the Alabama star. Indy knew the 6-foot, 341-pound run-stuffer played half of his final college season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and waited until the offseason to have surgery and might not play as a rookie.

He didn’t. Chapman opened the season on the PUP list, was activated Nov. 12 and then landed on season-ending injured reserved 16 days later.

Now that he’s healthy, Chapman has been impressive.

On one running play last week, Chapman shoved 300-pound center Samson Satele and 325-pound right guard Mike McGlynn into 314-pound right tackle Gosder Cherlius and tight end Dwayne Allen. With four blockers down, the play went nowhere.

“You can see just what we saw on tape coming out of Alabama before he got injured,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “He’s a load. It’s like sticking a 900-pound safe in the middle of the line of scrimmage. He’s tough to get out of there and he’s smart as a whip. He’ll call out every run play based on formation and backfield sets before it ever happens.”

If Chapman continues to play this well in the preseason and regular season, the Colts might finally have their anchor in the middle to stop the run.

On offense, the breakout star has been Whalen.

A year ago, he looked like a promising young undrafted rookie. Then he landed on injured reserve with a fractured right foot.

This summer, the 5-foot-11, 197-receiver has been turning heads. Thanks to his familiarity with Pep Hamilton’s new offense and Andrew Luck’s nuances, the Stanford grad has taken advantage of his opportunity by running crisp, precise routes and catching almost anything thrown in his direction.

“Griffer, he’s always surprised people,” Luck said. “I remember coming in as a freshman, as a walk-on, we thought we had the best scout team in America because we would sort of throw the ball up to Griff and he would go run and catch it. He’s always surprised people.”

Whalen has played so well in camp that he’s the top candidate to replace Darrius Heyward-Bey as he recovers from a sprained left knee. Pagano said the former first-round draft pick is listed as day-to-day after MRI results came back negative.

But barring an injury or a complete collapse over the next few weeks, it appears Whalen already may have locked up a roster spot.

“I don’t know if he ever drops a pass, if any. He is very, very reliable. He is no different than Wes Welker in the early stages, (Julian) Edelman, Austin Collie, those type of guys,” Pagano said. “He is just a reliable guy, he studies his craft, he’s a gym rat, he’s here all the time, he’s working, he knows what to do, he doesn’t make mental mistakes. It’s going to be really hard to get rid of a guy like that.”

Who else has played well?

Pagano said the veteran free agents — Aubrayo Franklin, Ricky Jean Francois, LaRon Landry, Greg Toler and Erik Walden — fit well in Indy’s defense.

Josh McNary, who is trying to come back from a two-year deployment in the Army, also seems to making a rather smooth transition to inside linebacker.

But the biggest improvement has come from tight end Coby Fleener. As a rookie, the other draft pick from Stanford struggled to hold onto passes at training camp. This summer, he’s been a catching machine.

“Coby’s having as good a camp as anybody,” Pagano said. “He’s been very, very consistent day in and day out and he’s getting better every day.”

Notes: The Colts scheduled their only night practice for Tuesday ... Don’t expect to see much of Luck in Sunday’s preseason opener. Though Luck has said he wants to play a lot, Pagano said he would not and joked: “I’m sure someday he’ll be calling all the shots around here, but going into his second year, we still have some control over his play time, so we’re going to do our due diligence and be smart about guys like Andrew.” ... Luck has been given a new nickname “Meal Ticket.” Tight end Dwayne Allen explained the meaning behind it is that “if he doesn’t produce, none of us eat.”



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