You can say whatever you want about Ryan Grigson as a general manager, and I will agree that he has had some big, glaring failures during his time with the Colts so far. But when he's on the radio doing an interview (something that doesn't happen much, unfortunately), he does a terrific job. He is very informative and, for the most part, tells it like it really is.
Today, Grigson joined Dan Dakich on 1070 the Fan to talk about training camp and about certain players - something that caught our attention and that we want to bring up here. We'll share what Grigson said and then some commentary on it.
Grigson on Donald Thomas:
"Well Donald Thomas, first of all, he's getting better. Obviously it's two traumatic injuries that he's had. The first time he got hurt, in 2013, the rupture of his bicep and his quad, that's a lot for anyone to overcome just one time. The guy's a warrior; he's been out here getting on the field, doing things, so that's more of a day-to-day thing and I have to rely on our medical people on that and then rely on Donald and what he wants to do. But it's pretty amazing to me that he's as far along as he is and as close as he is regarding what he's come from. Like I said, it's devastating injuries. We don't even have really anything to go off of from people who have had that injury twice in a row. But he looks good."
Many have wondered why the Colts didn't move on from Thomas this offseason, as it would have been a move that saved significant amount of cap room but it sounds like Grigson is still at least somewhat optimistic. He spent much of the time talking about how impressive it is for Thomas to come back from the same injury twice, and it is indeed impressive, but we'll have to see him return to the field and play for the Colts before we can tell how he might be able to help the Colts.
Grigson on Hugh Thornton:
"Hugh is obviously, because of his pure talent, we've had a coach that actually coached him in college who's on our staff. With Hugh, I've talked to him, Chuck's talked to him, he knows what's at stake. He knows that the hourglass is not as full as it once was, because when you have someone as talented as he, you want them to produce every week. And I think it's something that he knows, and he has to be more consistent. So this training camp is going to solve a lot of questions we all have in certain position groups. And right now he looks great, he's very athletic and 324 pounds. He's a former wrestler, and I think he's, physically, as gifted as anyone we have, if not the most gifted lineman we have."
Thornton has started a number of games for the Colts over the past two seasons, but the 2014 season was especially rough for him in which he played poorly and struggled through injuries. He clearly does have a lot of talent, and his youth and that talent might make him an especially intriguing player for the Colts, but Grigson was honest enough to say that Thornton knows what is at stake. The 2015 season, and really even training camp and preseason this year, are going to be very important for the lineman.
Grigson on Bjoern Werner:
"Bjoern needs to stay healthy. I mean, Bjoern needs to stay healthy. He's got to improve as a pass rusher, the tape doesn't lie. But when he was fresh mid-season, he's different from the other guys we have. He's not a pure speed guy. He's our biggest outside linebacker, he can set an edge, and he makes plays in space. He's more of a disrupter than he is a finisher in the passing game, but I liked how he was playing until he started having some issues with some parts of his body that really significantly slowed him down. So we have faith in Bjoern, we know he's a very good football player or else we wouldn't take him in one [round one in 2013], but we've got to make sure that he's right physically and mentally to get the best out of him."
Health is something that Werner himself has mentioned before to explain his struggles, and it sounds like Grigson still really likes Werner but that health is the biggest issue. During an interview in which Grigson wasn't afraid to be honest about players needing to improve and impress, it was especially interesting to hear how upbeat he is about the outside linebacker - despite his struggles over the past two seasons.
Grigson on Josh Chapman:
"Well Josh has got to show us that he can play, in this league, consistently at a championship level. We know he knows what to do up there, we know that he's a smart player, but everyone on that defense needs to play at a winning level and a championship level. So, by the first three days of practice, Josh is doing a great job, he's a great kid, but there is competition. And nothing's going to be handed to anyone in this camp, and Chuck and I talk about it all the time. It goes back to what he said from day one: man sharpens man as iron sharpens iron. It's a cliché and all that stuff and everyone gets tired of hearing it, but that's the only way you get the right 22 guys out there on opening day."
Again, Grigson shows nice honesty here to say that Chapman still needs to show the Colts that he can play. The Colts don't really have a ton of options at nose tackle, but it's clear that Grigson is still looking to see something more from the defensive lineman than he has in Chapman's first three years.
Grigson on Jack Mewhort moving to right tackle:
"In retrospect, we always kind of felt like he could play right tackle. You put him at left guard, there was a significant hole there last year, and we thought he was the best man for that job. We had Gosder at the time who was coming off a solid year. So the guy's played a lot of tackle, I've done a lot of comparisons in my mind to guys that he reminds me of. I think he's got plenty of athleticism to hold down that spot, and I darn know for sure that he is wired just like [Anthony] Castonzo, like Andrew [Luck], to where they're not going to get beat because they didn't know what to do or that they're making the same mistake twice. If they get beat, someone's going to be significantly better than them or more talented, but it's not going to be because of their technique or the ‘want to's. I know as an offensive lineman that Jack Mewhort can play right tackle in this league, but it's sure going to be fun in the preseason to watch and to see how he does, because I know he can run block, I know that he's a technician that can play in a really good bet at any position, but we've got to see him versus some speed and we know that now in camp, and see how he responds. We have plenty of offensive linemen, I think, that can move around, because it is a war of attrition, but right now I think Jack's in a good place and he keeps getting better everyday."
It's not a surprise to hear Grigson say that the Colts alway thought he could play right tackle, as that is a position he played in college and even started at for the Colts in one game last year. Grigson has a lot of confidence in Mewhort's abilities to play well at right tackle too, and I think there certainly is plenty of reason for that optimism.
Grigson on Dwight Lowery as the starting safety:
"Lowery? Gosh, I need to talk to you in a week or so. Because movement-wise, Lowery looks great, he's got nine starts last year, he's got a lot of snaps behind him, but he's going to be pushed. There's no doubt about it. We've got some young guys that are going to be pushing some of these veterans, and that's a good place to be as a team."
Dwight Lowery was certainly brought in to compete for the starting spot and, right now, it's his job to lose. But keep an eye on rookie Clayton Geathers, who the team likes and who certainly is talented. He could make a push for the starting spot, though it's currently Lowery working with the first team and he is still the one expected to wind up starting alongside Mike Adams.
Grigson on whether he expects T.Y. Hilton's extension to get done:
"Yes. I feel like, with the T.Y. situation, and even Anthony Castonzo, first and foremost they're two of our most talented young players. You of course want to get them locked up. But at the same time, those guys are all in all the time, and you like to reward guys, and our owner likes to reward guys, that are shining examples for the rest of their teammates. Those guys don't say jack, they just work and work and they get better everyday. Those two guys, they produce almost every rep."
This shouldn't be a surprise. In fact, it's sounding more and more likely that Hilton and Castonzo's extensions could get done before the regular season even begins.
Grigson on drafting wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the first round:
"The talent was glaring on the board, and there's about twenty people that were in there that saw that name standing alone by itself on our draft board, and as an old scout, for me to dip down into another position group that we felt a lesser talent, that would be foolish and that would anything I stand for or I was ever taught."
Grigson took some criticism after selecting Dorsett in the first round, including from me and this site, but like others, I've come to like the pick more as time has gone on. And really, sticking to the draft board is something to be commended. Perhaps some might still disagree about whether Dorsett should have been the top available on the board, but he's a good player and Grigson should be applauded for sticking to his board.
Grigson on if he has confidence in Vick Ballard and Robert Mathis this year:
"If they're healthy, heck yeah. I think that they're trending in that way. Vick, I haven't had a chance to see him yet I've been trying to kind of wait and just tell him the other day, yesterday or two days ago, it was the first time he kind of got let loose and broke off some runs, and I saw some quickness and some suddenness and some cutting ability that it was nice to see because it's been so long. He's got a little tweak right now but I think that goes with the territory of not actually playing football for two years. You can go run hills and do everything else, but until you're actually out there on the turf and making cuts and following your instincts, your body can't really respond to that until you start conditioning in that way again. So I'm bullish on both those guys, because I think that medically we'll get them to where they need to be and I think they're both mentally strong enough individuals to get to where they need to be."
Ballard has returned to the field, while Mathis is still on the PUP list, and both players face uncertainty about how effective they will be or if they can stay healthy. But if they stay healthy and are productive for the Colts, they could have significant impacts for the team - particularly Mathis, who when healthy can be one of the best pass rushers in the league.
To listen to the whole interview on Grigson, such as his take on deflategate, the offensive line, and more, you can listen to it here.