The Indianapolis Colts returned to the practice field today for their fourth practice of training camp, a day after having a player’s day off.
It was by far the largest crowd of training camp yet on a perfect summer day at Anderson University, and there were plenty of fans excited to see the Colts work as they prepare for their 2016 season debut a week from today in the Hall of Fame game against the Green Bay Packers. The team was only in shells today so there wasn’t as much physicality, but it was still a good day of work overall. Here’s my training camp notebook for today, including the debut of a fancy new training camp award that is quite prestigious.
- Griff Whalen Player of the Day Award. My friend George Bremer and I came up with the idea during practice today of the Griff Whalen Player of the Day Award. If you’ve paid attention to the Colts in the past you’ll know that Whalen had four years in a row of terrific performance in training camp, but he’s now gone. That means someone else needs to take his place, or how about several people? This will become a new staple of my camp notebook as George and I consult each day on the award, and today it goes to undrafted wide receiver out of Cincinnati MeKale McKay. He made several nice plays today and was all over the field, narrowly beating out cornerback Tevin Mitchel for the award. McKay had a really nice touchdown catch on a post route from Scott Tolzien, and there was another play where Tolzien threw a dart to McKay along the sideline for another good grab. Toward the end of practice in 7-on-7 drills, McKay cemented his status as today’s winner by grabbing an impressive pass near the corner of the end zone for a score.
- Nice day for Tevin Mitchel. As I said above, Mitchel came close in the running for the Griffer Award, as he had a very good day as well. He made a great pass breakup on one play, and a little later he made a diving interception off of a dropped pass by Jordan Todman, making a nice adjustment to make a play on the ball. As we’ve said before, Mitchel is a guy to watch because of the way the Colts treated him last year: they claimed him off of waivers even though he was hurt and was going to miss the season, and they kept him on their active roster until they could place him on IR without beign subjected to waivers. He’s a guy to keep an eye on.
- Play of the Day. The play of the day today, however, was made by neither of them. In 7-on-7 work, linebacker Edwin Jackson made a nice read on a Scott Tolzien pass and jumped the throw, intercepting it and taking it all the way down the length of the field for a touchdown. He celebrated his score by diving into the end zone and doing a little touchdown dance, as he was obviously excited to get the pick-six.
- Welcome to the Colts, Konrad Reuland. The Colts signed Konrad Reuland today, sending out the press release just minutes before taking the practice field. Less than a half an hour into his first practice with the Colts, Reuland got the unenviable privilege of going against Robert Mathis in a pass rush drill. Let’s just say Mathis embarrassed him. Welcome to Indianapolis, kid. How’s that for your first practice?
- Erik Swoope, number three tight end (by default). Let me say this as clearly as possible: if Dwayne Allen gets hurt (and there’s precedent there), the Colts are in serious trouble at the tight end position. Jack Doyle is the number two and he’s been getting a lot of first team reps (much more than you’d expect), but after that it’s wide open. Darion Griswold and Mike Miller had made just as much of an impact so far as Erik Swoope and Chase Coffman, and Griswold hasn’t practiced and Miller isn’t on the team anymore. That previous statement might be an exaggeration, but you get the point: no one has stepped up yet at all. Swoope obviously gets the nod by default, and he did make his first standout play of camp today on a nice jump ball in the corner of the end zone on 7-on-7 drills for a touchdown.
- T.Y. Hilton has a good day. There has been a lot of talk about the Colts’ fourth and fifth wide receiver spots, but let’s not forget the star at the top of the position: T.Y. Hilton. He has had good timing with Andrew Luck all camp and made several good plays today. On one, Luck threw a beautiful fade pass to Hilton for a score. On another, Luck hit Hilton in the back of the end zone for a touchdown (his feet were barely out of bounds, but the refs didn’t see it) on a nice throw. Then in 7-on-7 drills came perhaps Luck’s best throw of the day, as he rolled to his right and threw an absolute dart to Hilton, who stretched out and grabbed it as Luck put it just past the reach of a defender. Hilton had a big role in the offense today, and it’s clear that will continue.
- Jon Harrison, center? As I’ll get to in just a minute, Ryan Kelly left practice early, leaving Jonotthan Harrison to step in at center. It seems he’d currently be the guy to step in and start if Kelly goes down, and that was the case today (though Austin Blythe did wind up getting some first team reps). And guess what? He had a bad snap that didn’t get to the quarterback. Some things never change, and it’s no surprise why the Colts have been playing him at guard quite a bit as well (because he doesn’t have to snap the ball there).
- Ron Thompson stepping up. It’s been only four days and only one of them has been in full pads, so it’s important to note that we haven’t really been able to get a great picture of the pass rush situation yet. But Ron Thompson has quietly had a very nice camp, as he impressed on Friday and then had another nice rush today in the pass rush drill. For a team as desperate for young pass rushers as the Colts are, Thompson is a guy to watch when the preseason rolls around.
- Random thoughts. As always, there are a few plays that are worth mentioning but that don’t get their own bullet point. * Andrew Luck made a really good throw as he was on the run near the sideline to Phillip Dorsett, who was in a crowd of defenders - Luck placed it perfectly. It probably wouldn’t have worked out so perfectly in a game, but it worked in practice today. * Josh Ferguson had a couple of touchdowns today, as he caught two from Scott Tolzien. * Fans still seem to really love Andrew Luck’s sliding, as that seems to draw some of the loudest cheers. * “Touchdown T.Y.” McGill has had a really good training camp so far, and today he made a couple other nice plays. He’s showed some things in pass rush drills, and then today he had a really good rush to get by Joe Haeg. * The Colts split their running backs out wide today quite a bit, which is an interesting feature we could see at times this year - particularly if that back is a good receiver like Josh Ferguson. * Nate Irving embarrassed Trey Williams in the pass rush drill with an excellent spin move. To his credit, though, Williams came back a few reps later and held his own against Antonio Morrison. * The Colts today had Marcus Leak, Andre Debose, Quan Bray, T.Y. Hilton, and Phillip Dorsett returning punts today. While Hilton was likely just to get a couple of reps in instead of seriously considering him, the Colts are giving some of their younger receivers a shot at showing something in the return game too - because if someone can show something as both a returner and a receiver, Bray’s spot as a return specialist taking up a spot as a depth wideout would get even less secure.
- Injury update. The Colts declined to give an injury update today after practice, as head coach Chuck Pagano instead said he will update us tomorrow morning. But there are a few injury situations to note today. The most prominent one is obviously regarding starting center and first round draft pick Ryan Kelly, who had his left shoulder wrapped midway through practice. He wound up getting the wrap taken off by the end and appeared ok, so it might just be precautionary. The word from the Colts is that it’s nothing serious, though more details will be available tomorrow. Later in practice, Mike Adams collided with Jonotthan Harrison down the field and Adams walked off the field a little gingerly, though it doesn’t appear to be anything serious and nothing more than something to note. Furthermore, safety Andrew Williamson was carted to the locker room with an injury earlier in practice. Defensive lineman Sterling Bailey headed to the trainer’s tent midway through practice and remained there, while wide receiver Chester Rogers and defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin were new additions to the players missing practice. Earl Okine, Curt Maggitt, T.J. Green, Henry Anderson, and Darius Griswold all were still out today as well.