Believe it or not, the Indianapolis Colts only have one more day of training camp left before they break and head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in the preseason opener. The team was back in full pads today on their second-to-last day of camp and it was another great day out at the practice field at Anderson University.
Of course, the big news of the day is that wide receiver T.Y. Hilton signed a five-year contract extension with the team worth $65 million with $39 million guaranteed, and it's great news that the Colts are keeping Hilton around long-term. While that's the big news of the day, however, there's still plenty to talk about from today's practice, so let's jump into today's notes:
- The 65 million dollar man. All eyes were on T.Y. Hilton today with his contract extension, and that led to another nice day of work for the receiver. The best play? Hilton streaking open downfield while Andrew Luck hit him in stride for a 60-yard score. On another play, Luck threw a perfect pass right over the defender's outstretched arms and perfectly into Hilton's hands for a touchdown in the back of the end zone. Once again, the prolific passing duo was on display today.
- Vick Ballard is back. We also saw the return of Vick Ballard today, which is the first time that he has practiced since early in training camp because of a hamstring injury - the third day of practice, to be exact. That was over a week ago, and while he was in his helmet and shoulder pads yesterday, he only did work on a side field. Today, he was in full pads like the rest of the team, and he worked in both the positional and team drills. He said earlier today not to rule him out of Sunday's game, and perhaps that should be the case since he returned to practice today. I'd expect the Colts to continue to take it slowly with him, but it's a good sign that he was back on the field.
- Quan Bray continues to impress. You've heard about T.Y. Hilton, about Andre Johnson, about Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, and Duron Carter. Many of you have heard about Griff Whalen and Vincent Brown, too. But someone that might not be as well-known among the Colts' receivers? Quan Bray. Rather quietly but still impressively, Bray has had a very good training camp and has made plenty of plays. He continued that today. In the DB vs. WR drill, Bray beat D'Joun Smith and caught a touchdown perfectly in stride. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton yelled, "I see you, Quan!" and that's the perfect summary of his camp: now many people are starting to see Bray and how impressive he has been. In the battle for the sixth wide receiver spot, Quan Bray has to be among the leading candidates after his performance in camp.
- Sean McGrath's strong camp continues. Another guy who has had a good camp is tight end Sean McGrath. He seems to make just about every catch you would expect and has done a solid job. He caught a nice over the shoulder touchdown today, and he routinely makes catches and is impressing. The biggest issue that McGrath faces is trying to convince the Colts to keep four tight ends (after Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, and Jack Doyle), and I'm not sure if McGrath has been quite good enough to do that, but based on training camp he would seem to be the leading candidate for that fourth tight end spot if the Colts ended up keeping that many players at the position.
- Goal line running game on display. The Colts practiced goal line situations today, and that meant quite a few running plays. A player who really stood out during the drill? Rookie running back Josh Robinson. He earned the nickname "bowling ball" in college, and in this drill it was easy to see why. He would plow through people to get into the end zone, and it gives reason to be excited about the rookie. He could be a big goal line threat for the Colts this year. Furthermore, second-team guard David Arkin had a very nice block that opened up the hole for Zurlon Tipton to score on a run play - but make no mistake, it was Arkin who made the play and sprung the touchdown. On another play, Andrew Luck rolled to his right and found Jack Doyle along the sidelines in the end zone as the tight end made a fantastic catch for a score. On another play, Luck hit an offensive lineman for a touchdown - more on that in just a minute. And lastly, the Colts may have found their fullback, but it might not be who you expect...
- A new fullback? During the goal line drill, rookie nose tackle David Parry was working as a fullback. The Colts don't carry a fullback on their roster anymore, so that leaves either Dwayne Allen or Jack Doyle to fill the role, but could David Parry play there in short yardage running situations? It seems very possible. He made some nice plays today in the goal line drill, paving the way for a couple of scores. It will be interesting to see if the Colts continue to utilize him in that area or not.
- Touchdown, Anthony Castonzo! Remember last year in the game against the New England Patriots when left tackle Anthony Castonzo caught a touchdown pass and then did an epic celebration afterward? Perhaps we'll see something similar this year, because the play is still in the playbook. The Colts called that particular play today while down near the goal line, and Andrew Luck hit his left tackle for the score. Unfortunately, however, we didn't get the same epic celebration this time around.
- Some special teams notes. There's a few random special teams notes that I felt like including but that didn't really fit anywhere else, so here it goes. Firstly, early in practice Pat McAfee pulled off a fake punt pass, as he hit Jack Doyle for a nice completion and then yards after the catch. Secondly, McAfee was the field goal kicker today (backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was the holder with Griff Whalen out) and he 9-for-11, including a make from 63-yards that cleared easily. He then missed from 68-yards out wide left, but he had a nice day overall kicking field goals. McAfee also was practicing some onside kicks, as during the 11-on-11 portion of practice, McAfee headed to a side field where he worked on onside kicks by himself. He had the most successful onside kicks of anybody in the league last year, and it could be a weapon the Colts utilize again this season. Lastly, I found it interesting that the Colts had Phillip Dorsett playing on the kickoff coverage unit today. He's worked a lot as a returner, but today he was with the coverage unit - perhaps the Colts think his speed could be something they might be able to take advantage of with him as a gunner? It might be worth watching to see if the Colts do that again or if it was just a one-day trial (I'd guess it was the latter, but we'll see).
- Injury update. Inside linebacker Junior Sylvestre (hamstring), cornerbacks Vontae Davis (groin), Darius Butler (groin), and Donald Celiscar (unknown), wide receiver Griff Whalen (groin), and tight end Dwayne Allen (illness) all missed practice today, along with the normal players who are out (inside linebacker Nate Irving and the two PUP players, Robert Mathis and Donald Thomas). One injury occurred today during practice that initially appeared to possibly be serious but that turned out to simply be cramps. Defensive lineman Montori Hughes came jumping off the field after a pass rush drill and immediately went to the ground after he was away from the action, and a number of trainers came running around him and knelt down around him as he lay on the ground. He was clearly in a lot of pain as trainers worked on his leg, and after a couple of minutes they brought the cart over for him. Hughes refused the cart, however, and tried to walk it off, obviously limping and walking slowly but making it to the trainer's tent without using the cart. After practice, the Colts said it was cramps, which is good news.