It was an absolutely gorgeous night Wednesday in Anderson for Colts Training Camp, and I'm pretty sure the 9,000 people that attended last Wednesday night was smaller than the crowd that was out there last night. Thankfully when I walked in around 7:15, Peyton Manning was down signing autographs for the fans, so there were still plenty of seats up top for me to scope out the entire field.
Most of the Defensive Back drills were in front of me, so I got a good look at how those guys were doing. I also noticed the Defensive Line had a pretty light practice, as there were several times they were the only group just listening to DL Coach John Teerlinck. I'm guessing they went much harder on Tuesday, so they got a semi-break. There were a handful of players that weren't in pads, including Jamaal Anderson, DeMario Pressley, Ernie Sims, Cody Glenn, Jacob Lacey, Chris Brooks, and Manning.
There were three things that happened last night that I'd file under "Shit you can't make up":
- They have a stage set up for live music to be played before the start of practice, even though the two times I went last week it just had Colts Cheerleaders up there signing autographs. This time, however, the crowd was "Partying like it's 1999", as a Prince cover band was playing, decked out in Colts gear. Maybe they felt Prince gave them good luck the night of Super Bowl XLI, but it seemed a bit odd that that was the band chosen.
- Special Teams were running punt drills, and I hear the lady behind me start talking about Pat McAfee's hair. I had overheard earlier on that she "loves Alabama", and never misses a NASCAR race at Talladega, so you have an idea as to who is behind me. I believe her husband/boyfriend was down getting food at the time, but in talking about McAfee's hair she says: "I could do some bad things with that hair." Yes, ma'am, I'm sure you could...
- The offense was running a drill where they were backed up deep in their own territory. Curtis Painter ran two consecutive plays very well, checking down to Joseph Addai to get 10 yards, then hitting Pierre Garcon on an in-route. Then it was Dan Orlovsky's turn. You all remember this play, right? He couldn't possibly do the same thing again, even in practice, could he? Drake Nevis blew by Jacques McClendon, forcing Orlovsky straight back, and I'm 99% sure he stepped out of the back of the end zone. He did eventually throw a really nice deep corner to Garcon on that play, but the damage had been done. He really needs to work on that drill.
Some other observations:
- All three Quarterbacks (Painter, Orlovsky, and Nate Davis) got a good bit of work in, as there were very few running drills. Even the "scrimmage" plays were almost exclusively passes. None of them were great all night, but Painter was by far the most impressive of the three. He hit some nice timing routes, and was only sacked one time, which was a jailbreak blitz by the defense. Orlovsky only had a couple really good throws on the night, and just seemed a bit off, his spatial awareness notwithstanding. Davis fumbled a snap during goal line drills (uh-oh), then got sacked by Chip Vaughn, who he didn't see coming at him. I know Davis is the "local favorite", but he's really struggling.
- The only work the RBs got was in goal line, and Delone Carter worked with the first team, and scored on play #1 over the right side (yes, I believe it was behind Mike Pollak and Ryan Diem). He's going to be a hell of a goal line back. Also receiving carries were Indy locals Chad Spann and Darren Evans, and Evans did score from two yards out standing up. Spann got wide open right over the middle in the end zone, but Orlovsky was hit as soon as he threw the ball and short-hopped him.
- The top 4 WRs have a significant drop-off after them, meaning that WR5 spot is still wide open for anyone who wants to grab it. Taj Smith looked uninterested on a couple of routes. Larrone Moore got a lot of work last night, as did David Gilreath. I think that spot will be won during preseason games, both receiving and on Special Teams.
- The best move of the night went to Austin Collie, who got Antoine Bethea to bite hard on an out route, and Painter found him wide open in the end zone. He's clearly back to 100%, and will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
- I also noticed Manning out there during goal-line offense only drills helping the WRs with their routes. It was good to see him taking a hands-on approach, and makes me feel a little better about another former QB, Frank Reich, as the WR coach.
- Towards the end of practice in the 11-on-11 drills, the coaching staff wanted to see how the 2nd team Offensive line (Ben Ijalana, Kyle DeVan, Jake Kirkpatrick, Jacques McClendon, Antony Castonzo) would do against the top pass-rushing Defensive Line (Dwight Freeney, Eric Foster, Tommie Harris, Robert Mathis). Results were about as expected. The pocket collapsed quickly, and Orlovsky had constant pressure. The matchup I could see the best was Freeney on Castonzo, which went for about 3 plays. The first play Castonzo was clearly overmatched, but the last two he hung in with the Freeney bull-rush, slowing him down and keeping him in front of him. It was a good sign.
Jerry Hughes also got some good up-field pressure on both Jeff Linkenbach and Castonzo. He was also running with the first team kickoff coverage unit, so expect to see him out there as well.
- Nothing interesting of note from the Linebackers.
- I was impressed with the coverage skills of Kevin Thomas. He stuck with his guy most of the time, and the big frame does make a difference. Cornelius Brown dropped a ball in one of the drills, and immediately started doing pushups. Chip Vaughn had the sack of Davis, and was impressive covering some of the lower TEs. Justin Tryon had great deep ball coverage several times. If him and Jerraud Powers aren't the starters Week 1, I'll be shocked.
- The worst play by the DBs came in the 7-on-7 drills, and without knowing what defense they were in, it's tough to lay blame on a single person. Anthony Gonzalez ran a deep corner route, and suddenly became wide open (like 10 yards wide open). The CB on the play was Chris Rucker, and it looked like he had outside-mid coverage, and he let Gonzo go behind him. The only problem was Joe Lefeged was the only deep safety, and he was on the other half of the field. It was an easy throw from Painter to Gonzo. I can't absolutely blame one of them for being out of position, but I'm sure their position coach does know who was in the wrong.
- McAfee put a couple balls out of bounds inside the 10 yard line, which is great to see, especially since he's only punted one ball out of bounds in his career so far. He also had another one bounce at the 3, go straight up in the air and die at the 2. It was a beaut. Adam Vinatieri was also perfect on the night, including a slightly wind-aided 59 yarder, which got a nice roar from the crowd, and made an enthusiastic Dallas Clark jump up with outstretched arms.
- It was a rough night for Blue, the mascot. His T-Shirt cannon had way too much juice in it, as he consistently overshot the bleachers. He got booed by the masses, who forgot that practice was still going on in hopes of getting an oversized shirt.
Only one more night practice left, and that is next Tuesday night, and I'll be out there again. Not sure what I'll focus on yet, but I'm up for any suggestions.