In something way too common for the Colts and their fans, a lot of the significant news from practice today was who wasn't practicing.
Stanley Havili obviously wasn't practicing, as he's on the PUP list, and Vontae Davis and LaRon Landry weren't practicing either - just like Chuck Pagano said earlier this morning, saying they'd hold them out for precautionary reasons today. Running back Trent Richardson, who was getting worked on by the trainers off and on yesterday, wasn't practicing today, and neither was Jack Mewhort, who had a sleeve on his left leg. Both of those players were held out for precautionary reasons as well. And then there was running back Vick Ballard, who early on in practice limped off the field and received attention from the trainers (appeared to be his ankle) and then was carted off to the locker room. The team said it's a "lower leg" injury and that he will undergo an MRI. [UPDATE: multiple people are reporting that Ballard tore his Achilles in practice, which would mean another missed season. Awful news.]
We're only on day two, folks, and five players didn't practice today and another was carted to the locker room with an injury. Day two. It stinks, but let's now focus on those players who were practicing today, and while it was a sloppier performance overall than yesterday, it was still a good practice - particularly for the defense. Let's look at today's camp notebook:
- Kick Returner! Let's start with the battle at kick returner. It appears that Tony Washington, Dan Herron, Donte Moncrief, Chris Rainey, Ryan Lankford, and Griff Whalen all have a shot at the kick returner job, as at one point or another they all fielded kicks in practice. During the "official" kick return portion of practice, Herron, Moncrief, Rainey, and Whalen were working as the returners. Based on how much he's been back there, how much the team has worked with him, the talent he has, and the feeling around the team of him, I think that Moncrief has the inside track to the kick return spot - especially since he's going to make the roster anyway. But it's nowhere near decided yet.
- Cody Parkey. While he has no shot at making the team unless an injury to Adam Vinatieri occurs, Cody Parkey has a heck of a leg. He handled all the kicking duties today to give Vinatieri and Pat McAfee (on kickoffs) a break, and especially on the field goals he made most of the ones he kicked, including a 59-yarder.
- The star of the day today? Wide receiver Griff Whalen. I didn't keep track of his catches today, but there were a lot of them. He was all over the field, and he saw extensive work with the first team offense too. The thing about Whalen is that he's very meticulous and detailed. He isn't the most athletic receiver on the field, but he finds ways to get open, and a big way he does that is through his route running and exploiting the defense. And, as I've mentioned before, he catches pretty much everything. It was good to see him get work with the first team today, and he couldn't have had a better start to camp. Some, however, have suggested that his roster spot is secure, but it's not. I saw him play very well last year in camp too, and he spent time up and down between the practice squad early last season. He needs to keep working, but he's been very, very impressive so far. I'll have more detailed analysis on Whalen and the receivers in a day or two, as it's a big highlight of camp so far.
- How did Rogers look today? Since we're talking Whalen, I think it's only fitting to talk about Da'Rick Rogers here too. Nothing generated more discussion in the comments on yesterday's notebook than my take on Rogers, and I don't regret or disagree with anything I said yesterday. But I was paying close attention to him today, and I know people are interested, so here we go: he was better today, but had less opportunities and still wasn't great. His best play of camp so far this year came on a nice grab in double coverage that got the fans excited. While I don't mean to be nit-picky, however, the double coverage on that play was largely due to the fact that Rogers rounded off the in route way too much, when in reality it needs to be a sharp cut inside. The rounded cut allowed the safety to close on him and make the play much harder than it should have been. But I'll give him a pass and credit him for the nice catch. Furthermore, however, early in practice when the receivers were working on simple crossing routes, Rogers nearly ran into another receiver because he wasn't sharp enough in his route running. And, on an interception by Marcus Burley, Rogers failed to fight for the ball and allowed Burley to go get it, picking it off. The good news is that Rogers did see extended time with the first team offense, but the downside is that Andrew Luck hardly ever threw to him - mainly because Whalen was always open. There were a couple of times, however, when Luck had to teach/instruct Rogers as he came back to the line. Luck does that with guys even as established as T.Y. Hilton, so we can't overreact, and also that's what training camp is for. I don't hate Rogers and in fact he looked better today than he did yesterday, but he's yet to have that really impressive moment that reminds you of the "potential" that he has. Hopefully he shows that soon.
- Reggie Wayne is incredible, and that's something we all already knew. But his attention to detail and dedication is amazing. He's a guy guaranteed beyond any doubt of a roster spot, but he still goes above and beyond what is expected. Whether it's bringing a guy over in receiver drills to give him some defensive coverage when nobody else is working with defense or whether it's redoing a play that he didn't get perfect, Reggie's dedication is clear. Also, it's pretty amusing how Reggie will only catch passes from Andrew Luck. There was one time today when in drills two quarterbacks threw to a receiver. Reggie's turn came up in line and he realized that Matt Hasselbeck was his quarterback while Luck was on the other side. Reggie stopped, stepped back, and let someone else take his place for that route. Then after that play, Luck and Hasselbeck switched and Reggie ran a route - of course, with perfect timing with Luck.
- Hakeem Nicks didn't do a whole lot yesterday, but he was much, much more involved today. He saw much more first team reps today than he did yesterday and he made several catches. The one down-side was a pass across the middle where Nicks dropped a pass that was then picked off. But overall, Nicks had a good day and it was clear that he is getting involved with the offense and getting his rhythm. He should just be getting started, so it'll be fun to keep watching him as camp goes on.
- 7-on-7 - I'd put the Colts 7-on-7 unit up against any in the league. Andrew Luck at quarterback, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, and Hakeem Nicks at wide receiver, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener at tight end, and Ahmad Bradshaw at running back. All seven of those guys have been the number one guy at their respective positions at some point in their career, and they all have that number one potential. I feel for the Colts defense, having to go against this offense in practice, but it's good experience.
- Safety blitz - If the first two practices of camp are any indication, the Colts will be blitzing their safeties often this year. Often, the player they have blitzed in camp has been Delano Howell. He's actually done a very good job at timing those blitzes, and today would have had a sack on Andrew Luck if he could have hit him. He forced a quick throw from Luck, however, that fell incomplete. It's something to keep an eye on, but through the first two days the Colts have been blitzing Howell a lot.
- Robert Mathis didn't get as much work today, because the Colts are trying to get Bjoern Werner work, but Mathis was still involved heavily by coaching guys and teaching them. That's something you can't coach, and it's a huge boost for the team. Andrew Luck has done quite a bit of coaching in camp so far as well.
- Defense! The defense today was the most impressive unit, and that led to a terrible day from Matt Hasselbeck. Marcus Burley, Loucheiz Purifoy, and Mike Adams all picked off number 8 and two of them returned them for touchdowns. The highlight pick was when a pass went through Hakeem Nicks' hands (not on Hasselbeck) and then Adams made a shoestring pick, then taking it back to the end zone. Also, Purifoy showed some great quickness and speed on his return too. Furthermore, the secondary had several passes defensed, including nice plays by guys like Jerrell Freeman and Bjoern Werner. Matt Hasselbeck had a rough day, yes, and misfired on several throws, but it was mainly the secondary that went out and got it - and Vontae Davis and LaRon Landry weren't even practicing. The secondary has their hands full covering guys like T.Y. Hilton, but other than the elite receivers that give even the best of corners problems, the secondary looked good today. As a bit of a lineup note with the secondary, it appears that Josh Gordy is clearly the number four corner. He was playing on the outside while Darius Butler played in the slot, with Greg Toler occupying the number one corner role with Davis out. Gordy seems entrenched at that spot right now, but that could change as camp goes on.
- Jim Irsay made his first appearance of camp today, making his way out onto the field for the last hour of camp with general manager Ryan Grigson.
- Tomorrow (Saturday) is scheduled to be the first day in full pads, so stay tuned for updates.