As we head into the final day of Colts training camp practice, the process of evaluation continues to evolve. This summer the coaching staff has moved left guard Jack Mewhort to right guard, moved Darius Butler from cornerback to safety, and is now moving safety T.J. Green from safety to corner — maybe. Over the last two days, Green has continued to see work at corner and is projected to get in-game reps at the position against Dallas.
T.J. Green at Corner
Following Wednesday’s practice, Indianapolis made defensive coordinator Ted Monachino available to the media for questions. One of the biggest topics of discussion surrounded Green’s move to corner, if he is capable of the transition, and how it impacts the rest of the roster.
What led to the decision to give T.J. Green a run at corner?
A really sound, solid performance on Sunday against Detroit. I think that you see he has got a lot of talent. We have all known that, we are just at this point trying to scratch around and find out who our best four guys are. If T.J. is one of those four, then we need to find him a place to play because that safety group is strong.
Monachino’s comments don’t clarify whether Green is still a functional part of the safety group or if the players ahead of Green are strong, and therefore Green needs to find another position. However, I think it does go without saying that he’s not a projected starter at safety and is very likely not in the top three on the depth chart once Clayton Geathers returns. Getting him repetitions at corner might be his best chance to see meaningful defensive reps in 2017.
Monachino also commented on whether Green can successfully make the transition to corner:
T.J. (Green) is still a young safety. It is difficult, but the one thing that we know he can do is that he can get his hands on people and he can run. Those are two major, major factors with corners. I think that as he learns more and more about technique and more and more about eyes and leverage, I think that he is going to prove to be a guy that we can consider at that position. He is not there yet, but right now he can go out there. Like Stephen (Holder) said, he can play cat coverage. We can line him up over anybody and say, ‘Cover that guy,’ and he will do his best to cover him and is athletic enough to stay in touch.
While it may strike fans as odd that a player who has struggled in coverage as a safety would be able to now cover NFL wide receivers one-on-one, there is no doubt that Green is a nasty physical match-up on paper. He has the length and foot speed that could make him an option as a press cover corner whose sole job is to stick with and shutdown one of the opponent’s receiving options. But Monachino also expressed confidence in his growth in the defensive system and how that will impact his ability to have success on the field.
Last year, he was kind of a one-man show. He didn’t understand the whole structure. Now he understands the structure, knowing where he needs to pour things. Knowing where he needs to help us in the run game. That transition from safety to corner, that’s a transition, but he still understands the structure so he has a chance. He has a fighting chance.
While coach commentary is hard to get a good read on at times, fans should know that the attempt to move Green is serious. He will be given opportunities in practice and during the preseason to show some growth at the new position.
One concern that has been expressed is that Green’s switch will hurt the team by taking reps from Wilson or other corners. Monachino addresses that concern as well:
We are just trying to level out as many reps as we can by position. We have got some depth at safety, so being able to play him at corner has allowed us to balance some things out outside.
With so many corners currently hurt and missing time on the practice field there are some snaps available for someone else in the rotation. Consider that Rashaan Melvin would very likely be seeing some reps with the first team at this point and he’s missed some practice. While Wilson and others might have an opportunity for increased reps with the first team, the team is comfortable managing the snaps to keep players fresh and continue evaluations.
Colts Evaluate Rookie Corner Quincy Wilson
There has been quite a bit of variance between fans on rookie Quincy Wilson’s NFL debut in Sunday’s preseason match-up with the Detroit Lions. Some fans came away feeling really good that a rookie corner appeared to maintain close coverage throughout plays and force receivers to make difficult catches. Others felt like Wilson was abused all game long.
Monachino appears to side more with those who felt reasonably good about his first performance:
Quincy had the guy covered on the touchdown throw. He just didn’t locate the ball. There have been a lot of young guys that it takes time to realize that it is an eyelash. That is the only thing that separates open and not open. I think he learned a lot in the game. I was pleased with a lot of the things he did. He knows he has to play better and he is determined and focused on getting better. The biggest thing right now is to get him as healthy as he can be come Saturday night.
Fair or not, the coaching staff has tempered expectations for rookies. There is little doubt that if the Colts expect to have success in 2017 it will need major contributions from its rookies but there is also an almost absolute certainty that there will be some growing pains and hard knocks for these young players as they develop in their new roles.
Expect to see Marlon Mack on Saturday
When asked about how Mack has developed and what fans can expect, Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski stated:
We’ll get him in and we’ll give him plenty of action to see what he can do and see how far we can take him.
For those who have been waiting to see if the explosive back and bring something new to the backfield, Saturday will bring the opportunity. As long as Mack can enter the weekend healthy, expect to see him get plenty of reps.
Chudzinki’s Expectations from the Offense Against Dallas
Anyone who has been following the Colts throughout training camp will be able to tell you that very little positive has been shared about the offense. It obviously hurts quite a bit to not have Andrew Luck but no single factor rocked the confidence of Colts fans more on Sunday than the inability of the offense to get anything going and an apparent lack of ability at backup quarterback.
Chudzinski explains that part of the reason things might have looked so bad is that there was a very basic game plan — which will likely be in place again this weekend — but that he does expect to see these young players show improvement and the offense do a better job of producing.
I’d like to see us clean up. We had a very simple, basic game plan that really was just base stuff that we were running. We had a number of guys who were here for two or three days going into that game and playing. I’d like to see growth from that perspective, of guys knowing what to do. It’s not just knowing what to do, it’s the how to do it. So being more efficient in that way, and obviously cutting out some of the penalties and seeing the production show at the end of the day.
As we have stated all week, there is no confusing the fact that the Colts had a rough day against the Lions. The quarterbacks were uninspiring, the offensive line gave up pressure and generally struggled to get anything going on the ground, there were too many costly penalties, and nothing seemed to spark the offense until Stephen Morris took the field with Troymaine Pope midway through the fourth quarter.
It is easy to forget that very new players were on the field but after another week with the team, a lot of those new players will have a chance to show progress in their development — or at least they better if they hope to have a chance to get an opportunity in the NFL.