The Indianapolis Colts returned to the practice field on Wednesday for the second day of their three-day mini-camp, and today's session was the heavily anticipated open practice at Lucas Oil Stadium.
It provided the first chance for Colts fans to see the 2016 team, and it was a fun-filled day of festivities for fans. The doors opened a few hours before practice and fans were able to take part in plenty of activities on the field before players then came out to sign autographs before practice. Around 5:20 then, the team took the field to practice.
It was about what you'd expect from an offseason practice, but it gave us the best look at the team yet. I'll write this wrap-up similar to my popular training camp notebooks, but understand that it's still way too early to make any sort of definitive conclusions yet. With that said, here are my observations from today's practice.
- A few weeks ago, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said that T.Y. Hilton was having as good of an offseason as anyone and was playing really quick and making plays. Let me just say this: he wasn't lying. One of the most obvious aspects of watching practice was just how heavily Hilton was involved in the Colts' offense. I wasn't keeping track of the exact number, but Hilton's catches were numerous and occupied a fair number of Andrew Luck's completions. There were fade passes, underneath passes, crossing routes, and more - and Hilton caught them all.
- While Hilton was impressive, perhaps the star of the day today was tight end Erik Swoope. I certainly wasn't expecting to see him make as many plays in the passing game as he did, but he made a number of nice catches. On one, Scott Tolzien rolled out to his right and fired a bullet pass in to the end zone to a tightly-covered Swoope for a score, but the tight end's best play of the day came on a fingertip catch in the corner of the end zone for a score on a Tolzien pass. A nice practice in June doesn't really mean much, but it's a nice sign to see Swoope impressing early on. This is likely a make or break year for him, and with the third tight end spot wide open it appears that Swoope is the (very) early favorite.
- Defensive lineman T.Y. McGill made an impact early on in red zone 11-on-11 drills, as he batted down a couple of passes at the line of scrimmage. On one, he reached up and batted down a Scott Tolzien pass, and then a few plays later he reached to the side and batted down an Andrew Luck pass. It's so hard to truly evaluate players in the trenches when there's no pads and no contact, but McGill made an impact in the passing game by batting down some passes.
- Since it seems one can't adequately cover the Colts without obsessing about Andrew Luck's slide, I'll say this: his slide is improving. He kept the ball on a bootleg on one particular play and capped it off with a pretty good looking slide. Announcer Bob Lamey even exclaimed "did you see that slide?" afterward, and the play was greeted by a nice ovation from the fans.
- Kicker Adam Vinatieri still has it: he drilled a 60-yarder during practice today, eliciting a big cheer.
- Jalil Brown made one of the more impressive plays of the day, grabbing an over-the-shoulder interception in the end zone. Brown saw significant reps today with the first team, as I didn't spot Patrick Robinson practicing.
- Speaking of those players not practicing, it was about the normal: Hugh Thornton, Henry Anderson, Arthur Jones, D'Joun Smith, and Donte Moncrief were among those not going. Frank Gore, Patrick Robinson, Chester Rogers, and Antonio Morrison also didn't appear to be working, though it's unclear as to why.
- I know one of the most popular questions from offseason workouts has been about the offensive line combinations. Let me just say this up front: this is very much subject to change. After all, we haven't even made it to training camp yet, and Hugh Thornton hasn't worked much at all either. So this could change, but I noted the first and second team units at practice today. As for the first team, it was Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard, Ryan Kelly at center, Jonotthan Harrison at right guard, and Joe Reitz at right tackle. That's the same as it has been for most of the offseason program, so nothing new there. As for the second team, it was Kevin Graf at left tackle, Joe Haeg at left guard, Austin Blythe at center, Denzelle Good at right guard, and Le'Raven Clark at right tackle. There aren't many surprises there either.
- The Colts return to practice on Thursday with the final day of mandatory mini-camp, after which they will disband and go their separate ways until training camp.