For the third time this training camp, the Indianapolis Colts were back in full pads today, which led to a very physical practice in which the Colts got a lot of good work done.
It looked sure to rain for a good part of the Colts practice, but in the end we only saw it rain very lightly for a few moments. The team wrapped practice up nearly an hour early today - to beat the rain, because they had a physical practice today, and because they have an off day tomorrow. Despite the fact that practice was shortened a little bit, we've still got plenty of notes for you in today's recap:
- Real football: live and physical. The Colts today came about as close to an actual game as you can get during their short yardage situation drills. The offense was placed in a situation where it was either 3rd and 1 or 4th and 1, and their only goal was to get a first down. The defense, then, was only trying to stop that from happening. As you might imagine taking place in a short yardage situation in which run plays are the norm, the battle is really won in the trenches, and that's exactly what happened today. The linemen were really getting physical and doing everything they could to win on the play, while the tackling was live too - the defense could take the ballcarrier to the ground (they never ran with the quarterback). It made for a fun few minutes of practice as we watched the offense and defense go at it in the short yardage situations. I thought that the first team offensive line did a pretty good job and that they seemed to win a number of times - with offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton always sure to point it out when that happened by yelling, "first down!" With that said, however, there were some nice plays by some defenders, particularly by Arthur Jones when he made a tackle for loss on Boom Herron.
- A lot of situational football. Kind of going along with that, the Colts have been working on a lot of situational football in training camp. Today, they worked in a situation where the offense was backed up near their own goal line and needed to get a first down. The highlight of this drill was Andrew Luck converting a third down on a great throw and catch to tight end Dwayne Allen over the shoulder. Another situation that they practiced today was the short yardage drills, as I already mentioned, and then we've seen the team work in other situations so far in camp - whether it be red zone, two minute drill, one minute drill, etc. They are trying to be ready for any and every situation that might come up in a game.
- Good day for the receivers… again. Every day, it seems like a different wide receiver stands out in practice, helping to show how deep the Colts are at the position. Today, both Andre Johnson and Vincent Brown made some nice plays. Johnson made perhaps the play of the day by going up for a jump ball with rookie corner D'Joun Smith and winning it, coming down with the impressive catch. Brown made several nice catches while playing with the second-team offense, including a great catch on a comeback route in which Jalil Brown had plenty of contact on the wideout. Both Johnson and Brown had good days, but just because I'm pointing them out doesn't mean that T.Y. Hilton, Phillip Dorsett, Donte Moncrief, or Griff Whalen had bad days. This receiving position looks great and looks deep. And while we're on the subject of the receivers, I thought that Dwayne Allen had his best day in the receiving day of the entire training camp, as he made a few catches - including the one on third down that I mentioned earlier that was a great throw and a great catch. He factored into the offense quite a bit, and did well while doing so.
- Good camp for Arthur Jones and Khaled Holmes. Whenever I'm asked how a certain offensive or defensive lineman is doing in training camp, I always try to mention that it's hard to judge the guys in the trenches during camp. But while preseason will go a long way toward telling us how those guys are doing, we can still see some of the players doing good things and impressing during camp, and two of those for me have been defensive lineman Arthur Jones and center Khaled Holmes. Jones has made several plays in the backfield this camp, and then showed off some nice pass rush skills during the pass rush drill near the end of camp, making his way right through the "A gap" between the center and the guard, utilizing a swim move and getting through. His best plays have been in run defense in making some stops, however, and there's a lot to like about Art Jones. That's equally true of Khaled Holmes, who continues to impress me in camp. It's not by doing anything flashy, but rather by doing the opposite - just doing what he's supposed to be doing, showing solid technique, and not making too many mistakes. He's just doing exactly what you want your starting center to do. He has held his own on most plays, and today stonewalled Josh Chapman in the pass rush drill to draw some nice cheers from the offensive line. Holmes has had a nice camp as well. Again, it's hard to tell about the linemen until we get into actual game situations, but I think that Art Jones and Khaled Holmes have had good training camps (and if you're looking for a few guys who haven't been particularly impressive, guards Lance Louis and David Arkin come to mind).
- Andrew Luck very vocal today. This year in training camp, Andrew Luck has really shown just how far he has come as a leader, something that he's been doing for the past few years as well. Most of the time, however, it's by making sure people know what they're doing and by being in complete command of the offense. He did that today as well, but also was very vocal while doing so. He was the biggest cheerleader on the field today, making sure to yell it out if someone made a nice play. It wasn't just offense, either - one time Trent Cole made a nice stop for minimal gain and Luck yelled, "nice play Trent" as he headed back to the huddle. Luck really got into it today and was yelling a lot - most of the time because a teammate made a good play.
- Learning moments. Training camp is full of learning moments, particularly for the younger players. Take Phillip Dorsett, for example. He was working as the punt returner early in practice and dove to catch a ball, nearly running into other players in a situation that would have been easy for him to fumble. Chuck Pagano ran over to him and let him know that it's ok to let the ball bounce if he can't get to it, calling out to make sure no one runs into it. And then really the entire camp has been one large learning moment for rookie cornerback D'Joun Smith. I won't lie - he's had a rough camp and has been beat a lot, but here's the thing: he might be going up against the best passing offense he'll face all year, and he's doing it in camp where it doesn't matter and where the coaches can help him get better. He figures to have a significant role in the defense this year, and he has seen some great time with the first team with Vontae Davis and Darius Butler out. He may be having some rough patches in camp in trying to guard these receivers, but it should turn out to be one great learning experience for him that should help him a ton moving forward.
- Injury Report. Cornerback Darius Butler, inside linebacker Junior Sylvestre, and running back Vick Ballard all were out again today, as were inside linebacker Nate Irving and the two PUP guys, Robert Mathis and Donald Thomas. Cornerback Vontae Davis did limited work while in shells with Irving on a side field and then came over and rode the bike some. That's progress, but he still wasn't participating today but only doing individual work. The positives were that wide receiver Duron Carter, running back Josh Robinson, and offensive lineman Denzelle Good were all back and practicing with the team today, though it didn't seem like Carter or Robinson got many reps in the team work, perhaps showing that they are being eased back into it.