After an off day on Wednesday, the Indianapolis Colts returned to the practice field this afternoon. Unlike Tuesday night’s practice, which was sluggish and dull, today’s practice was crisp and lively. The Colts ran a lot of team drills rather than walkthrough stuff, and that led to plenty of observations and highlights.
All things considered, this was the best day of work for the Colts so far in training camp. The weather cooperated for the most part, though there was a period of rain midway through that the team practiced during. It was the third straight day in pads, and it was easily the most 11-on-11 work the team has done in a practice this year in camp.
So with all of that said, let’s jump into the notebook:
- Griff Whalen Player of the Day award. There were several deserving candidates today, but George Bremer and I agreed on giving it to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. He made five catches during team drills with the first team offense, and four of them went for first downs - they weren’t the short dump-off routes underneath but rather routes run 10-15 yards down field. On one play, Luck hit Hilton across the middle of the field despite nice coverage from Vontae Davis, and Hilton took a hit from Davis but still held on. Luck and Hilton displayed their chemistry once again and T.Y. made a legitimate impact.
- Josh Ferguson. The undrafted running back received a lot of reps today. In fact, he took the clear majority of reps with the first team offense, and he also saw some work elsewhere too. Ferguson was in the mix plenty today, and he also had the play of the day (though it was an overall team effort that made it great). The Colts were practicing drills in which they were backed up against their own goal line at the 2 yard line, and they handed it to Ferguson on one of the plays. The left side of the offensive line (Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort) opened up a huge hole, and Ferguson was through it very quickly, continuing running for a big gain. The play excited Andrew Luck, as after the handoff he turned, saw the hole, and saw Ferguson dash through it and yelled loudly, “Yeah! Wow! Wow! Wow!” He was happy, and it was a nice play all around - both by the offensive line and by Ferguson.
- Andrew Luck. I should also add that Andrew Luck was much better today. In fact, I’d say it was easily his second-best practice of camp behind Monday’s session (when he won the Griffer award). It wasn’t all great, but it was a very good practice. Here’s what I mean by that: he still made some great throws, but when he didn’t he worked on it. There was one play where Luck felt the pressure and had a hand in his face, but threw it across the middle to Phillip Dorsett perfectly in stride. On other plays, he dropped it in perfectly to T.Y. Hilton. So he still had good plays like that and looked good throwing the football. But the thing that impressed me most about his practice was what he did toward the end. The Colts were running a drill in the red zone, and he threw a perfect lob pass to the corner of the end zone intended for Dwayne Allen, but the tight end let the ball go through his hands. After the team drills were done and everyone was working on special teams work, Luck took charge. With no coaches around (the offensive coaches were with the linemen on the side field), Luck gathered Scott Tolzien, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, and D’Qwell Jackson down near one end zone. From there, the first rep he ran was with Allen on the exact same route they missed earlier. That was impressive, and Luck was in complete control - telling players where to go as stand-in defenders to get the best feel possible and throwing to all of the receivers as they worked on certain things. That was easily the most impressive thing Andrew Luck has done in camp if you ask me, as it showed leadership and a hunger to continue improving and working on things.
- Pass rushers. The Colts have four primary young pass rushers in training camp: Earl Okine, Trevor Bates, Ron Thompson, and Curt Maggitt, and the first three have all had very impressive camps (Maggitt has missed some time due to injury). Today, Okine, Bates, and Thompson all flashed once again. Okine had two “sacks” (which are judgment calls in camp). Bates generated some good pressure at times too, and Ron Thompson helped crash the pocket on two different occasions (once of which was on the same play as one of Okine’s sacks). I think all three guys have done a good job as pass rushers during training camp, and while it’s important to caution not to expect much early on from them, I think the Colts at the very least have some intriguing developmental talent to keep around. I’m still very skeptical of the pass rush for this year, but the hope is that some of these guys will continue to develop. As for Maggitt, he returned to practice today after missing several days, and the most interesting thing I noticed today was where he was working. It’s important to not make too much of it right now, but Maggitt was working in coverage during the 7-on-7 drills despite the fact that the pass rush drill - involving Okine, Bates, and Thompson, among others - was going on at the same time. Could that perhaps indicate that the Colts view Maggitt as the better overall linebacker and the better one in coverage, meaning he could play behind Erik Walden on the strongside? It’s too early to tell what that means, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
- Adam Vinatieri. The oldest player in the NFL still has it. He hit 14-of-14 field goal tries today, some of which were pretty long kicks (we couldn’t tell the exact distance from where we were standing, but one was well over 50 yards and perhaps close to 60). There should be no worries about the team’s kicker.
- Offensive line thoughts. The first-team offensive line remained the same today, meaning that I’ve become increasingly convinced as each day goes on that Denzelle Good is the favorite at right guard and also the player the Colts want to win it, as he’s getting the bulk of the first team reps. That happened once again today. With Ryan Kelly still out, Jonotthan Harrison took the bulk of the reps with the first team at center. The right tackle spot, however, is the position I especially want to talk about today. Joe Reitz has taken every first team rep in camp so far and has already been proclaimed the starting right tackle, but today he left two-thirds of the way through practice. We later saw him with a wrap on his upper left thigh, so that’s an injury situation to monitor - he stayed on the sidelines and wasn’t being tended to, however, so the indications are that it’s not serious. The note I want to make is that with Reitz out, it was Joe Haeg moving to the first-team right tackle. Keep in mind that this is the first time we’ve seen Haeg work at tackle, so that’s certainly significant. Here’s why I think it’s worth paying attention to: if Anthony Castonzo gets hurt, it would be Joe Reitz moving to left tackle like he did last year. That would create a void at right tackle, and Denzelle Good would be the obvious leading candidate to fill in there, right? He is... unless he’s the starting right guard, in which case the Colts might not want to blow everything up by switching left tackle, right tackle, and right guard. In that case, they might bring someone in at right tackle, and today revealed that the next man up might be Joe Haeg (who is much more NFL-ready than fellow rookie Le’Raven Clark). My point(s) is this: 1) I think this is a further indication that Denzelle Good is the frontrunner at right guard, as the Colts didn’t give him any reps at tackle today despite Reitz leaving; and 2) I think it’s possible that Joe Haeg is the next man up at right tackle if something happens during the season.
- Jalil Brown. A standout in training camp and preseason last year, Jalil Brown had a very good day today. He broke up two passes, including a very nice one downfield on Quan Bray (who didn’t have the best of days). And while it wasn’t as obvious as those PBUs, Brown also had good coverage on several other plays. With the depth in the secondary lacking right now, Brown stepping up could help his stock quite a bit.
- Random stuff. There were also a few other things that I noticed today that are worth mentioning here. * Jordan Todman seems to be able to hold his own in a pass rush drill that features linebackers going against running backs. Most of the backs (naturally) struggle a bit in this drill, but Todman did a good job for a running back at holding off the defender. * Dezmen Southward made a good play on a ball intended for Dwayne Allen early in practice during one-on-one stuff, as he broke it up. * Tevin Mitchel, who wasn’t practicing for the third straight day, was standing along the sidelines mimicking some of the motions the players on the field were doing at times (mainly during the special teams stuff), trying to get the motions down for whenever he does return. * Emil Igwenagu (yes, you read that right) beat Winston Guy badly in a one-on-one matchup. So maybe that’s why Darius Butler has been working some at safety... * Scott Tolzien made two really good throws to Tevaun Smith, the second of which was a touchdown. Tolzien put a little air under the ball and hit Smith in the end zone, finding the gap in the coverage. * Stephen Morris, getting a bit more work today (likely in preparation for Sunday’s game), threw a pick-six to Stefan McClure. It was an easy play for McClure, who jumped the route at full speed and was off running the other way.
- Injury update. The PUP/NFI guys were once again out today (Clayton Geathers, Henry Anderson, and Darion Griswold), though Anderson was hitting the sled and working on a side field and Geathers was walking and wasn’t in a golf cart today. Marcus Leak, Tevin Mitchel, and Ryan Kelly once again didn’t practice, while Josh Stangby didn’t work either. As already mentioned, Joe Reitz left during practice and was spotted with a wrap on his upper left thigh, though there were no trainers around him when we saw him and he stayed around watching the drills. It’s likely that’s not too serious, though the Colts have stopped giving post-practice injury updates so we won’t know an update for sure until tomorrow.