There are those moments where everyone seems to pause and hold their breath. In sports, this usually happens when it comes to a potential injury to a key player. I've seen it first hand, when I was in attendance at the Colts vs. Redskins game in 2006 when Peyton Manning was bent in half and lost his helmet before staying on the ground for a couple of seconds. That's all it was, but it was enough time for the breath of everyone sitting in the RCA Dome to escape. Nobody said a word; nobody breathed; and everybody waited.
Those types of moments are terrible as fans, so imagine how it must feel as a coach to see an important player on the ground. I'm sure it's magnified, and then imagine if it happened in offseason workouts!
That's exactly what happened at the Indianapolis Colts complex today, as on an otherwise routine pass pattern Colts star receiver T.Y. Hilton dove to try to bring in a low pass and ended up on the ground. Reggie Wayne had a similar situation last year in which he tore his ACL - he was trying to bring in a low pass and ended up on the ground. Today, Hilton went to the ground grabbing his knee and stayed down, rolling around for a few seconds while everyone watching held their breath. He soon got up and jogged off the field, and then after getting looked at by trainers returned to practice shortly. Everyone exhaled and the Colts had dodged a huge bullet. Losing Hilton would be a tremendous blow to the Colts and their hopes for the 2014 season. Hilton is ok. Fili Moala, however, isn't.
Last week in practice, Moala reportedly collided with a teammate and tore his right ACL, the same one he tore in 2012. He is headed to IR and will miss the 2014 season - the third straight year the defensive lineman has been placed on injured reserve. The Colts re-signed him this offseason to a one-year deal, and when he played he played well. He was one of the team's best pass rushing defensive linemen (behind Cory Redding) and a very valuable depth player who could step in and start when need be. To replace him, the Colts added undrafted defensive end Gannon Conway out of Arizona State. He was originally signed by the Dolphins this offseason, but released. His chances at making the roster seem like a long shot, but he was at practice today and will see some work for the time being.
Here are some more notes from today's final availability of the OTAs (which, after mandatory minicamp next week, means we've hit the absolute slowest part of the offseason. Yay!):
Mario Harvey is now a FB:
Something interesting to note is that, if you check the Colts roster, you'll notice that Mario Harvey is no longer a linebacker but is a fullback. The Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell got some good quotes from Harvey about the switch:
"We had a long talk," Harvey said. "I just told coach whatever I can do to help the team, man. Everybody's got one goal and that's to be a champion.
"If (fullback) is where they see me being a fit to get this team to a championship, I'm all on board."
Not only did Harvey switch, it sounds like he's doing well:
Catch of the day so far: Mario Harvey with a nice grab on the sideline playing as a FB. Runner-up: LaVon Brazill against Josh Gordy. #Colts— George Bremer (@gmbremer) June 11, 2014
We all know that Pep Hamilton's offense features a fullback, and that fullback was only Mario Harvey for a select few plays last year, because, after all he was still playing linebacker. He has switched over to fullback this offseason, and he's a player to watch for sure as we get into training camp.
Offensive Line - do we really know anything?
According to George Bremer, here was the change in the offensive line today from the past media availability OTAs:
Jack Mewhort working with first team today at LG. Joe Reitz working with second team at LG. #Colts— George Bremer (@gmbremer) June 11, 2014
So that's Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard, Khaled Holmes at center, Hugh Thornton at right guard, and Gosder Cherilus at right tackle. The only change from the past OTAs is that Mewhort was working at left guard, but should we really read much into that? The answer is emphatically no. The only thing it tells us is that the position is very much up in the air if Donald Thomas can't go right away. Thomas, the team's starting left guard and a pretty good one at that, is still recovering from a torn quad and, while the Colts think he'll be back in time, it's not certain that he'll be there to start the season. If he's still recovering, the Colts have several players who could step in, but what we see is that the left guard position is very much up in the air without Thomas. Lance Louis had been working there earlier, and I personally think he'd stand the best chance of winning the spot if Thomas isn't ready yet, but Mewhort, Reitz, and even Xavier Nixon could compete as well. Basically, the spot is still up in the air.
Some Insight into Rob Chudzinski's Role:
Rob Chudzinski, the former Cleveland Browns head coach, is employed by the Colts as a "Special Assistant to the Head Coach," which basically means that he'll be helping out his close friend Chuck Pagano. Ever since the hiring, however, we've wondered what exactly Chudzinski will be doing with the Colts. The Indy Star's Stephen Holder received some insight into that, and believe it or not, it seems like he has a big role with the defense too (despite being an offensive-minded coach). Said linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (via Holder):
"He's been in the defensive room, he's been in the linebackers' room, he's been all around," said linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, another Cleveland import. "I don't know exactly what his title is, but I know having him in this building ... they're getting a lot of good knowledge out of him because he's got a ton of background."
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky also spoke to the significance of having Chudzinski around (also via Holder):
"I can sit down with Chud for a good 30, 40 (minutes) to an hour and just melt through stuff that he did in Carolina and what he did in Cleveland as well," Manusky said. "It's a great addition for me to have a guy like that from an offensive perspective. Even though (Pagano) is here, it's still a defensive perspective. ... I understand, 'OK, I want to beat this protection.' But how do you actually beat it?. ... (Chudzinski explains,) 'Here's what the guard's thinking. This is what the center's thinking.' That helps me to come up with something that'll beat that protection.
"When we're breaking down tape of other teams we're going to be playing (this season), it's great to sit with him and (learn) why are they doing those things? You never really know as a defensive coordinator because you're never in those (offensive) meetings. When I sit with him for those hours, I'm listening to what he's thinking. It's those little things."
There's no doubt that Chudzinski is helping out with the offense too, but it sounds like he's been helping the defense a lot too - it's especially important for those of you thinking the hiring meant bad news for Pep Hamilton. When you think about it, however, it makes sense for Chud to be helping the defense. He coached offense (specifically the read option with Cam Newton in Carolina) and therefore would likely have ideas of how to stop those offenses. It makes sense to try to pick his brain on those things.
One thing is clear: Rob Chudzinski isn't being limited to just offense with the Colts and he's going wherever Chuck Pagano and the coaching staff needs him to in an effort to help the Colts.