Believe it or not, today was the third-to-last day of training camp for the Indianapolis Colts, but it was another productive day as they prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles in their preseason opener this Sunday.
The team couldn't have asked for better weather today, as the temperature was perfect with a nice breeze and the sun was out. We've had great weather for all of training camp so far, and it has made for an even better training camp atmosphere. Today the players really seemed to get into it and have fun and it was another strong day of work for the team. Let's take a look at the notes from practice:
- Drew Rosenhaus attends practice again. As he did one day last week, agent Drew Rosenhaus was at practice today. He represents Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (among other players) and is in town to continue conversations with the Colts' brass about a long-term extension for the star wideout. The two sides were meeting after practice today. I continue to expect a deal to get done for Hilton before the regular season begins.
- Chuck Pagano the DB coach? If I were to attend training camp and have no idea who any of the coaches were, I would likely think that Chuck Pagano was the defensive backs coach. That's how involved Pagano has been with the unit. Most days during positional drills, Pagano has been with the defensive backs and working with them, and today was perhaps the best example yet. Pagano spent the entirety of the positional drills working with the defensive backs, and he wasn't just observing but was actively coaching. He was giving players tips on what to do, was running with them to help show what he meant, and was helping to organize the drill. The work the defensive backs were doing today was largely information-based and about knowing what they are supposed to do on certain plays and in certain situations, and Pagano was doing a great job helping them and teaching. He has been especially involved with the defense this camp, but his work with the defensive backs in particular has really stood out.
- Good coaching. Another tidbit about the coaching that I wanted to share was something that I loved that Mike Gillhamer, the secondary coach, did today. During the drill in which receivers go one-on-one against defensive backs, safety Clayton Geathers lined up on tight end Dwayne Allen. Considering that Geathers is likely going to be helping to guard opposing tight ends a lot this year, I was interested to see how he did. And Geathers had perfect coverage on Allen; he stuck with him, adjusted to the route, and just played it perfectly. And yet Andrew Luck still made a perfect throw and put it right on the money to Allen for a completion. There really wasn't anything that Geathers could do about it, and I liked how Gillhamer came over to Geathers and said, "that's ok, you stayed on top of him" and told him to just keep doing what he did. I like how the coach acknowledged a great play from the offense and encouraged Geathers to just do the same thing he was doing, because sometimes a great quarterback can make a great play to beat great coverage, and it's not worth criticizing over. It's a small thing, but I respected Gillhamer for it in practice today.
- Another nice day for Jalil Brown. If I had to pick one defensive standout from training camp so far, it would be cornerback Jalil Brown, who seems to have solidified his spot as the fifth cornerback. Today, with both Vontae Davis and Darius Butler out, Brown saw a lot of playing time with the first team and had to guard Andre Johnson most of the time. To be certain, Johnson made some great plays and still had a good day, but I thought that Brown did a pretty nice job covering Johnson, all things considered. Here is a veteran receiver who is a borderline Hall of Famer one day going up against a guy who, coming into camp, was very much of a question mark and to some degree still is fighting for a spot. Brown made a couple of nice pass breakups and stuck with Johnson most of the time. It was a bigger test for Brown, but I still thought he did a pretty good job.
- On the Philadelphia. With the Colts' first preseason game this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Colts began working a little bit with that game in mind. It's not game planning or anything like that, but the team used Bryan Bennett to show some read option stuff and help illustrate the Eagles offense a bit, while the Colts also gave backup quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck and Bryan Bennett some more reps today since they will be playing quite a bit this Sunday.
- Another solid day for Duron Carter. Wide receiver Duron Carter has really stood out in training camp so far, and today he did the same, as he made a couple of nice plays in the passing game. On one play, he wrestled a ball away from Deveron Carr for a touchdown. And then, as practice drew to a close, Chuck Pagano gathered the whole team around to watch a couple of one-on-one battles that the team really got into. Andrew Luck stood in the middle of the field, and on the first play Duron Carter lined up one-on-one against D'Joun Smith. Carter made a quick cut on the slant route and caught the touchdown from Luck. The offensive players then all ran to the back of the end zone to mob the wide receiver after his score. He continues to make his presence felt in camp and is doing a good job.
- Some good plays from the running game. It's hard to tell too much from the running game simply from training camp, and thus it's hard to get too excited right now. But with that said, Frank Gore is looking very good in training camp, and he did so again today. On one play, Gore made a beautiful cut that propelled him through a hole in the offensive line and he then went for a long touchdown. The best thing that Gore has shown in camp (where there's not as much contact and it's not always live) is his ability to find a hole, make a cut and burst out of it very quickly. He looks very good in that regard. On another play, it was left tackle Anthony Castonzo who made the play, as in the red zone Luck pitched it to Gore to the left, while Castonzo got out in space and sprung the block that propelled Gore into the ends one for the score. It was a very nice play by Castonzo. And then finally, since so many have been wondering about the rookie running back Josh Robinson, he made his best run of training camp so far. He started off left, then cut back right around the edge of the line for a very nice gain. Again, it was Robinson's vision and ability to change direction and get around the outside quickly that made the play, and it was a very nice one by the rookie. Hopefully, we'll see more of that in the final two days of camp and then into preseason.
- Great opportunities for younger guys. With both Vontae Davis and Darius Butler still out of practice, it is a great opportunity for a couple of the younger guys - particularly D'Joun Smith and Jalil Brown. Both of them have been seeing a ton of reps with the first team defense and it certainly should help them, as they're going up against one of the league's best quarterbacks and one of the league's strongest wide receiver positions. While having two important players like Davis and Butler sidelined isn't ideal, the opportunities it gives to guys like Smith and Brown should pay dividends down the road.
- More situational football. We've seen the Colts prepare for a number of different in-game situations so far in training camp, and that continued today. The Colts worked on red zone drills today, but they also worked on a one-minute situation. In this drill, the offense has to get as far down the field as possible in around one minute, setting up Adam Vinatieri for a field goal. Some of it looked very good (Andrew Luck and the first-team unit slicing their way down field thanks to Coby Fleener, T.Y. Hilton, and Andre Johnson) while others didn't (Matt Hasselbeck getting sacked; Jonotthan Harrison not snapping the ball for a spike despite Hasselbeck's repeated calls for the hike). Lastly, the Colts did a situational drill in which they had 13 seconds to get a completion and then clock the ball to bring on Vinatieri for a field goal.
- Andrew Luck's go-to guy. Speaking of those two drills (the one-minute and then 13-second drills), it showed one thing very, very clearly: T.Y. Hilton is still Andrew Luck's go-to guy. With the clock ticking and the team needing yardage quickly, Luck turned to Hilton often. It makes sense, given the fact that the two have played together for three years, but it also goes to highlight that, while Luck does a great job of spreading the ball around, when it comes down to crunch time T.Y. Hilton is still his go-to guy.
- Some great route running. Speaking of T.Y. Hilton, he put on a very nice display of route running today, even though he may not have made as many notable plays as in past practices. On one play, he ran a perfect route right along the goal line, and Luck made a perfect throw… only for it to be dropped by Hilton. That's not something you see often, but Hilton still ran a beautiful route. But perhaps there's a better example: on another play earlier in practice, Hilton took off running quickly down the field. He made a very sharp cut and ran a comeback route, but Greg Toler just kept running down the field and was late to adjust to the route. Luck's pass sailed past Hilton out of bounds, but the route itself elicited amazement and cheers from the crowd. How often does a route cause a number of fans in unison to go "woah!!"? That's what Hilton did today, and though it wasn't his best day of practice, he ran some phenomenal routes.
- Terrific day for Adam Vinatieri. The star of today's practice? That might very well be kicker Adam Vinatieri. He's in his 20th training camp and is the oldest player in the NFL, but he's still one of the best kickers. Today, Vinatieri was 16-for-16 kicking field goals, and he hit five kicks of 50 or more yards. He also hit two kicks from 60 or more yards out, including one from 64 that was right down the middle with plenty of distance. He was fantastic today - he's been good throughout the entire camp, but today he took it to another level.
- Robert Mathis the coach. Robert Mathis has not yet returned from the PUP list, but he's working out on a side field trying to get back and is always out there watching during team drills. Today, he was watching during the pass rush drill and he was offering up tips and advice to players - notably to Zack Hodges. Mathis would get down in his stance and act like he was about to rush, but in reality he was helping to demonstrate and teach Hodges on how to be a more effective pass rusher. Mathis isn't out there practicing yet, but he's still making an impact and contributing to the team.
- Injury update. In addition to the guys on the PUP list (Mathis and Donald Thomas) and Nate Irving (who still hasn't practiced), Donte Moncrief, Vontae Davis, Darius Butler, Vick Ballard, Junior Sylvestre, and Daniel Adongo didn't practice. For Davis and Butler, they are still nursing groin injuries and are day to day. For Moncrief, he also has a groin injury, but he said on 1070 the Fan after practice that he'll be ready to play on Sunday. Adongo missed practice with an oblique injury, while Sylvestre is still nursing a hamstring injury. Lastly, Vick Ballard is still out with his hamstring injury. It looked like he might return today as he had his helmet and shoulder pads, but instead he ended up just doing work on a side field with some of the other injured guys.