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Colts Camp Notebook: Day Five

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Training Camp

The Indianapolis Colts returned to the practice field on Monday for their second session in full pads this training camp, and it was another beautiful day at Anderson University.

There were more standout performances today in camp than in the previous four practices, and it was a very good day of work overall for the team. So without further ado, here’s my training camp notebook from the fifth day of work.

  • Griff Whalen Player of the Day Award. The race for this very prestigious award came down to the very end with plenty of worth performances, but George Bremer and I gave the nod to quarterback Andrew Luck. Bremer, who charts Luck’s passes in camp, had the quarterback as 17-of-21 with six touchdowns and an interception - which was on a jump ball downfield in the one-minute drill that T.Y. Hilton might have been able to knock down in a game setting. I’ve made it no secret that Luck hasn’t been great so far in camp, as he’s looked average for the most part. But today was the closest to being Luck as we’ve seen this camp and was far and away his best performance. His best play also happened to be the play of the day: down near the goal line, Luck scrambled around looking for someone to get open before finally throwing across his body in the middle of the field and threading the needle between two defenders for a touchdown to Robert Turbin. If you remember his touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton against the Patriots last year, this play was very reminiscent of that one. It was Andrew Luck being Andrew Luck.
  • Quan Bray. If there’s one guy who really helped his roster status today, I think it’s Quan Bray. He’s the team’s top return man and so by default has been penciled in as one of the depth wide receivers. But let’s be clear on something: his spot on the roster is anything but secure, and the Colts have been giving several of the undrafted rookies a shot at returning punts in camp too. In other words, if someone shows they can impress as both a return specialist and a receiver, that would beat out a return specialist only. With all of that said, Quan Bray had a really impressive day as a receiver, something he really needed. On one play, he made a terrific sideline catch in a two-minute situation: he dragged his feet as he reached up to grab the ball out of the air, getting his feet in bounds and completing the catch. On the very next play, he caught an underneath route across the middle with some room to run. Later on in practice, he made another nice catch as well. Bray really needs to show he can do something as a wideout, and he did so today.
  • Chester Rogers. One of the undrafted receivers who has stepped up all camp and especially today was Chester Rogers. He’s a darkhorse player to keep an eye on I think, and today made some good grabs. One of them shouldn’t have had to be a great catch as Rogers was open, but Scott Tolzien made a bad pass and Rogers had to dive to scoop it up before it hit the ground (he made the catch). A little later, the Colts faced fourth-and-goal from the five yard line with 5.7 seconds left in their situational drill, and Tolzien found Rogers for the score (that play prompted some nice banter between offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who was calling touchdown on one side of the field, and defensive coordinator Ted Monachino, who was saying the play clock expired before the snap. Monachino was right, but it wasn’t called by the refs so it stands as a touchdown).
  • Dwayne Allen. It’s no secret that the tight end position after Dwayne Allen is a major question mark, and even though Erik Swoope made two nice catches today that’s still the case. We saw Allen step up much more today than in the past several practices, however, as he caught a couple of touchdowns and one one of them in particular went up and grabbed it at the high point, winning a perfectly placed jump ball from Luck. Allen looked good, and one of the things I liked best was how the Colts used him. For instance, on one play Allen lined up on the right side of the formation and then ran a shallow crossing route over the middle. T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett were lined up on the left side of the formation and ran deeper routes (10-20 yards downfield), clearing the defense out to allow Allen to get wide open in the flat for a good gain on the catch-and-run. That’s a great example of how the Colts can utilize their speedster receivers and Dwayne Allen.
  • Earl Okine. Another guy who had a really impressive day of practice today was Earl Okine. He wasn’t able to practice the past two days due to an undisclosed injury (we never got an official update from the Colts), but he was back today and looked really good as a pass rusher. Early in practice in the pass rush drills, Okine embarrassed Erik Swoope twice. During the 11-on-11 work, Okine made a couple of good pushes up front, and twice he timed the snap perfectly. Then later, with the team again doing a pass rush drill, Okine made a great spin move inside on Kevin Graf to get by easily, and then a few reps later got by Austin Blythe on another impressive move. Okine looks the part and seems like a good athlete out there, so with the pass rush as wide open as it is, I think Okine has a very realistic shot.
  • Darius Butler, safety? We’ve talked before about Darius Butler playing at safety during training camp, and I even tweeted earlier today that I get the sense that Butler at safety is a very legitimate thing, but that it might ultimately depend a lot upon how D’Joun Smith plays as the third corner. And that was just based on conversations with people and observing the first few days of practice. Today was perhaps the clearest example yet, as Butler took the overwhelming majority of first-team reps at safety alongside T.J. Green (who finally returned today). Granted, Mike Adams was out (more on that in a minute), but Butler played almost exclusively at safety and was almost always the first-team guy - in fact, the only time I saw anyone but Butler at the spot was when Winston Guy took over for one series. Butler was productive at safety too, as he was able to come down and cover receivers in the slot and one time came over to cover just in time to win a jump ball battle with T.Y. Hilton for an interception off of Andrew Luck. I’ll just say this: don’t be at all surprised to see Darius Butler at safety moving forward.
  • Competition is truly open. One other thing I noticed today was that the Colts were rotating guys at some of the open positions quite a bit. At right guard, Denzelle Good has seemed to be the first-team guy for the past two days (he’s a guy to really watch as a candidate to win the job), and Hugh Thornton also got some work there too. At center with Ryan Kelly out, Jonotthan Harrison and Austin Blythe rotated (though Harrison was the top guy there today). And then at inside linebacker, both Nate Irving and Sio Moore also got a lot of work as well today. You can start to get the idea of who the favorite is at each spot, but it’s clear that the Colts are giving players a chance to compete - which is a good thing.
  • Injury update. The Colts have stopped giving us injury updates after practice, but today there weren’t really any major concerns. The obvious guys were once again out - Henry Anderson, Clayton Geathers, Darion Griswold, Curt Maggitt - and both Ryan Kelly and Marcus Leak missed practice today too like we expected after Chuck Pagano’s injury update this morning. Kelly was out at practice the entire time with the offensive linemen, however, and he even was helping out some with the drills - a very clear and obvious sign that his injury isn’t serious whatsoever. Furthermore, T.J. Green and Earl Okine were both back at practice today, as was Chester Rogers. The only new situations worth paying attention to are that Tevin Mitchel, Josh Boyce, and Mike Adams didn’t practice. Especially in Adams’s case, I have a strong feeling that’s just rest and a precaution after he walked gingerly off the field yesterday after a collision. He seemed fine after practice on Sunday and was out at practice the entire time today, so my guess is that it was just rest.