The Indianapolis Colts returned to the practice field on Wednesday afternoon to finally and officially wrap up a long offseason. Today marked the first day of training camp, and it was a perfect day at Anderson University.
Things didn’t go so perfectly for the Colts, unfortunately, as the story of the day is dominated by injuries - though none serious, which we’ll get to in a minute. It was a routine practice that saw a fair number of miscues - about what you’d expect from the first day of camp. The defense clearly won the day with an impressive performance and several nice individual plays.
I’ll bring you my thoughts from camp notebook style, just like I’ve done for the past several years in what always ends up being one of our most popular article series of the year. Without further ado, here’s the recap of the first day of practice for the Colts:
- Injuries dominate the day. Without a clear standout performance from any one particular player today, my MVP of the first day of training camp goes to the training staff. They were continually stretching players out, carting players to the trainer’s tent, and treating them in the tent. I’ll give you the good news right up front: none of the injuries were serious. The Colts told us that each of the five players who left practice today left due to cramps and that their absences afterward were simply precautionary. It wasn’t even close to the hottest day we’ve had at training camp in recent years, however, so hopefully it was just a product of the first day of practice. Rookie safety T.J. Green was getting stretched and worked on by trainers for quite a while very early in practice, and then walked gingerly to the trainer’s tent where he then had his left calf wrapped. He stayed in the tent for a long time before then leaving (with the wrap off) and walking very gingerly to watch the rest of practice. It didn’t look like just cramping to me, but hopefully it was. Another rookie, tackle Le’Raven Clark, was carted to the tent, where he had a towel draped over his head (which appeared to be an early indication that it was cramping). Rookie defensive end Sterling Bailey went to the trainer’s tent during practice as well to get treated. Rookie running back Josh Ferguson was stretched out quite a bit on the field before being helped to the sideline, where he sat until a cart picked him up. The cart that picked him up had also just picked up another player who had to be helped off the field, safety Winston Guy. Those are the injuries that happened during practice, while the other injured players (Henry Anderson, Clayton Geathers, Darion Griswold, and Mike Miller) were all obviously not practicing today. Geathers had a boot on his right foot and was driving a golf cart around to watch practice. As for Miller, we hadn’t heard what was wrong with him but I saw a brace on his right ankle.
- Several players return. It’s not all bad news when it comes to injuries, however. Several players who missed time during the offseason program were back today, which though it’s no surprise is still a good sign. Donte Moncrief was back practicing today and appeared to be running fine, though it’s unclear whether he was limited (he didn’t receive as many snaps during 11-on-11 drills as I would have thought). Art Jones was clearly limited in terms of how many reps he received, which is something Pagano said would happen with the injured players. Nevertheless, Jones was back out on the field and dressed for practice. Cornerback D’Joun Smith also returned and made a couple of nice plays while seeming to get quite a few reps, which is a good sign. Guard Hugh Thornton also returned to practice and appeared to pick right up as the first team right guard. Speaking of which...
- Offensive line combinations still uncertain. If there’s one thing we learned today when it came to the offensive line positions, it’s that the Colts don’t know who will start at right guard yet. Everything else seems to be pretty set for now: Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard, Ryan Kelly at center, and Joe Reitz at right tackle. They didn’t really mix that up today, and so those four spots seem to be set for the time being. The real competition appears to be taking place at right guard, where Hugh Thornton technically appeared to be the first team guard, but Jonotthan Harrison and Denzelle Good also saw time with the first team at the spot. Harrison could be the wild card on the offensive line to keep an eye on, as he was working as the second-team center, second-team guard, and first-team guard at varying points today in practice. As for the second-team offensive line, Kevin Graf appears to be the left tackle, Joe Haeg appeared to be the left guard (though Adam Redmond saw some reps too), Jonotthan Harrison and Austin Blythe seemed to split the reps at center, Denzelle Good and Jonotthan Harrison seemed to split the reps at guard (when Harrison was at center then Good was at guard, but when Blythe was at center then Harrison was at guard). And Le’Raven Clark was at right tackle, and after he went out Jeremy Vujnovich filled the spot.
- Andrew Luck wasn’t great. Now this is very important: Don’t turn this into a headline that says, “Luck sucks at practice, will 2016 season be a disaster?” Don’t do that. Luck didn’t have a very good practice today, but it’s the first day of camp and most of his misfires can easily be chalked up to a lack of timing with his receivers. For instance, a number of his misses were overthrows of receivers, which comes with time - and that’s what training camp is for. But Luck had a couple of passes intercepted and a couple of others thrown over the head of his intended receiver. One throw that was a bad one but that can also be attributed to lack of timing was an interception: He threw a post route to Josh Boyce, but it was behind the receiver and Winston Guy made the interception. Luck surely doesn’t have near as much practice throwing to Boyce as he does to other receivers, so that’s something to work on in camp. It wasn’t all, bad, though - Luck made an absolutely beautiful pass early in practice to Phillip Dorsett. It was an over the shoulder throw that he dropped right over a defensive back for the completion.
- Defense wins the day. The Colts’ defensive unit outperformed the offense today, as they picked off a couple of passes and broke up a few others. Patrick Robinson made a really nice play early in practice to intercept Andrew Luck, as Robinson fought through Phillip Dorsett and jumped the comeback route for the pick. Winston Guy also had the aforementioned interception today off of Luck. Earlier in practice, T.J. Green made a nice pass breakup in coverage (with the PFF guys in attendance to watch!!) on Jack Doyle. On another play, Trent Cole had a nice pass rush around the edge to get to Luck and disrupt the play (as much as he could without actually hitting the quarterback).
- Some unheralded players get plenty of reps. I’ll just throw all of this into one category because it’s all getting at the same point: there were a number of players today who received more playing time than I think many expected. Jack Doyle saw a lot of reps with the first team offense. He was all over the field and used in a variety of ways, but Doyle saw quite a few reps today with the ones. Trevor Bates got a couple of rushes in with the first team, and even Delvon Simmons saw a few reps with the ones along the defensive line. As I noted earlier, Denzelle Good also saw some reps at right guard with the first team. And then Josh Boyce and Brian Tyms saw plenty of reps at wide receiver (Quan Bray did too), with both the first and second teams.
- Josh Ferguson impresses. Before he went out with cramping, Ferguson made a couple of nice plays. I want to emphasize that it’s so hard to tell much from the running game when players aren’t in pads, but Ferguson made a couple of nice runs, displayed the quickness getting through the hole, and caught a couple of passes out of the backfield. He made several plays and looked good doing so. I was talking with Rick Venturi for a bit today about Ferguson, and I’ll just say that I have high hopes for the running back.
- A few other lineup notes. The inside linebacker competition is one we’ll be paying attention to, and it seemed like Nate Irving and Sio Moore rotated there, with both seemingly splitting the first team reps. And then with Henry Anderson still out with injury, it was Zach Kerr filling in for him at defensive tackle with Kendall Langford at defensive end and David Parry at nose tackle.
- Depth is a concern. I’ll elaborate more on this in another article soon, but the depth on this team should scare Colts fans. That became much more real today as I was watching practice. For one, Clayton Geathers and T.J. Green both were out, so the safety position was an obvious concern (with Winston Guy seeing the reps there). But all over the roster, it’s easy to see positions where there isn’t much depth. At tight end, if Dwayne Allen gets hurt (again) the Colts are in trouble. At wide receiver, after the first three it’s anybody’s guess who will be playing. There are spots on this team that don’t appear to have much depth, so with the injuries happening today and with us finally getting a chance to see everyone in action, I think it’s a concern worth noting.