The Indianapolis Colts held their lone night practice of training camp tonight in front of more than 7,300 fans at Anderson University, and it also happened to be the first practice in full pads for the team. The weather was perfect, the atmosphere was great, and there was Colts football on the field. All in all it made for a very exciting night.
Owner Jim Irsay was on hand to watch his team practice, and it was a night that was largely dominated by the defense. It was their first time in full pads and therefore helped even the playing field a bit, and they took advantage of it. Here are the notes from tonight's practice:
- Defense dominates. Entering tonight, quarterback Andrew Luck had yet to throw an interception, but tonight he threw two in 11-on-11 drills and a couple of others in other drills tonight. The first interception came by Vontae Davis, who was covering T.Y. Hilton and made a great play on the ball. The second was made by Darius Butler on a short pass from Luck, as he was going to Andre Johnson on a fade route in the end zone. In 7-on-7 drills, Greg Toler made a great play and won a battle with Andre Johnson for the ball, picking off Luck. And then there was the play that Jalil Brown made on a pass thrown by Matt Hasselbeck. Brown read the quarterback all the way and jumped the route perfectly for an interception in stride as he took it back the other way for a score. Brown had a very good night, making the pick and a couple of nice breakups. There were several other nice plays, and even guys like Raymon Taylor got in on the action - as Taylor had a nice pass breakup on a post route. The secondary looked good tonight, and then so did the rest of the defense. Jeris Pendleton in particular stood out, as he made some nice plays in the backfield against the second team offense - including a "sack" of Matt Hasselbeck (who seems to be having a bit of a rough camp so far).
- A few injury notes to keep an eye on. There are two main injury notes that I want to mention right now to keep an eye on. The first one was the injury to offensive lineman Ben Heenan. It was unclear what happened to him, but as he came off the field he went over to the trainers and then walked gingerly off the field (indicating that, perhaps, it was a leg injury). After talking with the trainers some more on the sidelines, he was put on the cart and taken to the locker room. We didn't see him the rest of the night. We haven't received any updates on him but will be sure to pass anything along when we get it. Secondly, near the end of practice defensive lineman Kendall Langford was going up against right tackle Jack Mewhort in pass rush drills and seemed to lose his footing and fall to the ground. He stayed on the ground a bit and then tried to walk it off, but talked with the trainers and walked slowly over to the team huddle to end practice. It's unclear what the injury was because practice ended and so we couldn't really see if he was just needing to walk it off or if there was something more there, so we'll just have to wait and see. It's nothing to worry about yet, but it's at least worth noting. [UPDATE: One of our readers noted that they saw Langford walking around after practice and signing autographs, so it appears as if he is indeed ok - which is good news for the Colts.]
- What competition? The Colts might be saying that the center and left guard spots are a competition right now, but we haven't seen much of it. Every single time the first-team offensive line has been out there so far in camp, it has been the same group: Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Lance Louis at left guard, Khaled Holmes at center, Todd Herremans at right guard, and Jack Mewhort at right tackle. If there is a competition, the Colts aren't showing it - instead leaving the same five on the field. Perhaps we'll see it change a bit once preseason action gets underway, but for now, it has been consistently the same five.
- Jack Mewhort looks fine. With tonight being the first night in full pads and, therefore, the first real chance to get an idea about some of the players in the trenches, I kept my eye on Jack Mewhort quite a bit tonight to see how he was doing. And I came away feeling the same as I did entering practice: I'm not too concerned. He did a good job at right tackle and seems to have the technique down. He did get beat once or twice in pass rush drills, but he also made a few nice plays and, in 11-on-11, he did a very good job. His biggest miss of the night (that I saw) came when he was at the second level blocking for the run game and whiffed on a block, but when he was at right tackle he looked good. I'm sure he'll have a few bumps along the road as he adjusts to right tackle, but I thought he did a good job tonight and I think he is adjusting well to the techniques and details of the spot.
- Frank Gore still impressing. Frank Gore didn't seem to get as many opportunities tonight as in the first few practices, but he certainly made the most of the carries he got. He made some very nice cuts and had a quick burst out of it. On one play, Gore made a great cut and then accelerated quickly to break a 50-yard touchdown run. The back looks quite good so far in camp.
- Fight! Ok, kind of. As far as training camp fights go, this one wouldn't rank anywhere near the top, but when compared to the rest of Colts camp, this one was significant. In the pass rush drill at the end of practice (an offensive lineman one on one with a defensive lineman or linebacker), center Khaled Holmes got into it with a couple linemen - first with David Parry, and then after those two were broken up, he got into it with Arthur Jones. The rest of the team quickly surrounded them and it was broken up before it got serious, but it was a bit of a scuffle. Then after a few more minutes, several linemen got into it again before it was broken up. It was the first night in pads and that led to a lot of energy from the linemen - and it was good to see, to be completely honest.
- A bit of an off night for Pat McAfee. It's nothing to be concerned about, but Pat McAfee wasn't his usual self when kicking field goals tonight in front of the large crowd. He hit his first five kicks but then missed his last three - from 53, 58, and 65 yards out. The kick from 65 he missed short - the first time I've seen McAfee miss a field goal short. The misses from 53 and 58 yards out were questionable - they appeared good but the referees said it was missed, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Either way, it was the first time I'd seen McAfee miss a field goal short - though, again, it's nothing to worry about but is just a tidbit from tonight's practice.
- An update on D'Joun Smith. Smith, the Colts' third round draft pick, has been seeing quite a bit of time in training camp. Even, at times, he has been with the first team unit when Vontae Davis isn't in there (such as yesterday, when Davis had the day off). It's clear that the Colts like Smith and are planning on getting him involved. With that said, he's had a bit of a rough training camp so far, as he has been beat quite a bit - especially in one-on-one drills when the receivers go up against corners. I'm not worried, but it does show that Smith has some work still to be done. That makes the reps in camp and preseason even more important, especially since it appears he will have a significant role this season.
- A bit of a rough night for Dwayne Allen. Allen has had a good training camp so far, but he had a rough night tonight. He made a few nice catches, but he had two bad drops. On one, he was wide open in the middle of the field and had the pass go right through his hands, and on the other he had the pass hit him in the hands and he dropped it. It was likely nothing more than a few bad plays from Allen, but it made for a rough night overall.
- Play of the night? As far as I'm concerned, the play of the night tonight was made by wide receiver Griff Whalen. Matt Hasselbeck threw a fade route to him in the end zone. Whalen made a fantastic adjustment on the ball and turned his body around to make a nice catch, and to top it off he got his feet in bounds for a touchdown. It was a terrific play by Whalen.
- Downfield passing game. It's just a quick note, but it's something that we've been seeing quite a bit of from the Colts this year in training camp: the Colts' downfield passing offense looks very good, and it looks to be a major part of their offense this year. And so far in training camp, it has been very successful, too.
- Robert Mathis looks good. Working out on the practice field away from the stadium was Robert Mathis (and Donald Thomas and Nate Irving), all of whom are still recovering from injury. As far as his movement and athleticism goes, however, Mathis looked good. He was running well and cutting well, and while I'm sure that he's not ready to return to football activities yet (thus the PUP list), he at least is clearly making progress and looks good when running and cutting.
- Vick Ballard's night off. Yesterday in practice, running back Vick Ballard suffered a tweaked hamstring that caused him to sit out the rest of practice, and he wasn't practicing tonight either. All indications are that this is simply the Colts being extra cautious with Ballard and taking it slow, as there's no need to push it right now.