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2017 Colts Training Camp post-practice interview highlights from week one

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NCAA Football: Central Florida at South Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout training camp, Stampede Blue will keep the community up to speed with quotes coming out of training camp from coaches and players that might be relevant to expectations for the coming season. In an effort to save your eyes, these comments will be cut down while doing our best to maintain the substance of each statement.


Offense

Marlon Mack

Head Coach Chuck Pagano:

He’s got great athleticism; he’s showing great vision out there. We’re doing one-on-one pass protection drills against the linebackers and he’s physical. He’s not afraid to stick his face in there and pick up blitzers and then he’s a weapon out of the backfield on third down. He’s got a ways to go, like everybody else, but he’s picking things up. If he can master all three phases of being a good running back, he’s going to be a special player I think.

Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski:

He has had some nice runs and has been able to catch the ball well. He has done a really good job of protection, which is always something for a young back that you look for. Pleased with where he is at. He needs to continue to progress and I expect that he will.

Word out of camp to this point is that Mack has surprised people with how confidently he has been able to run between the tackles. If he puts everything together quickly, he could be a much bigger part of the offense as a rookie than anyone expected.

Le’Raven Clark

Chudzinski:

He has improved in the areas you would expect him to improve. I think he understands the tempo, pace and techniques. Obviously, the playbook, he’s learned that.

Strangely, there has not been a great deal of discussion about the offensive line at this point. Other than moving Mewhort and Haeg around at the guard spots, much of the focus of questions and camp reactions have been at other positions.


Defense

Tarell Basham

Pagano:

He’s young, he’s making some mistakes, which is to be expected. He’s big and strong. He’s got a good get-off. He came in with a pretty decent toolbox of pass rush stuff. He’s got ability to set the edge in the run game, we’re finding that out.

Everything we’ve heard out of camp indicates that Basham will likely be a work-in-progress as a pass rusher, though he might be better at setting the edge than coaches expected at this point.

Jabaal Sheard

Pagano:

I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have double-digit sacks for us this year. He’s good against the run, he’s hard to block, he plays with great leverage, he’s got good length and he’s got good strength. If we do our job on first and second down and we get in third-down situations, Ted (Monachino) and those guys are going to put him in position. He’s going to have his fair share of singles and then we’ll do some stuff to try to get some free runners.

It sounds like Sheard will be featured in pass rush situations and used in multiple ways to generate pressure. He may play more of an edge setting role on first and second downs.

Jabaal Sheard on working with Robert Mathis:

I mean, being around a GOAT like that, somebody that’s been around the game and who’s led the team in sacks, led the league in sacks. Any time you get a chance to work with him one-on-one you want to.

One of the very positive words out of camp has to surround the amount of time and work Sheard is putting in to honing his craft as a pass rusher with Robert Mathis. After having some questions about his consistency in New England last year, signs of a strong work ethic can only be a good thing.

Quincy Wilson

Pagano:

He’s got some bright spots, and then he’s got some not so bright spots. So, he’s a work in progress. But you can’t coach length, and you can’t coach the measurements and those types of things. I think as a young guy, he’s learning and everybody else is learning what you got to do and how you got to compete on a daily basis out here.

As with Basham, it is not a surprise that there are growing pains and that there is a learning curve. The good news is that others have noted that he is getting better every practice.

Al Woods

Pagano:

We have a lot of one-on-one pass rush stuff out there against the offensive line, and he’s put on tape some really good rushes. It isn’t just bull rushes. He’s got some quickness for a big man.

One of the more interesting and somewhat unexpected camp stories so far is that Woods is projected to not only start at nose tackle in base packages but he will also potentially be used on passing downs. If he is as versatile as coaches have indicated, he will be a huge plus for the Colts defensive line.

Safety Situation

Pagano on a potential starting group of Butler and Hooker:

You don’t show your hand. I think it’s easy for your opponent if you line up and they see on tape this guy is always the guy that’s the box safety when you outnumber them, add the extra guy to the front, and this guy is always in the post... having guys that can play down in the box and be physical enough down in the box to get guys to the ground and play deep in coverage in man situations, in zone situations, from a disguise standpoint it helps your defense.

Defensive Coordinator Ted Monachino:

Well, the first thing is we’re going to be really good in terms of range and ball skills. Those guys, generally, those are the things you look for in those free safety-types. The other thing is it gives you some flexibility in who plays down and who plays up when you’re playing some of the down safeties, single-high stuff. Right now, we’re in the position where we’re just looking for the two best football players to put out there. If there are three of them that can fit into sub then that’s how we’ll play them.

With Hooker taking more first team reps and Geathers set to start the regular season on the PUP, it is quite possible Butler and Hooker will take the field together to start the season. This should be a very strong combination against the pass. There are concerns about how Butler would be able to hold up against the run though.

Pagano on whether Butler can fill the box safety type role:

Darius is smart. Darius knows how to get guys down on the ground. Darius can get guys on the ground, so it doesn’t matter about size. Some guys just have that natural instinct and that innate ability.

Monachino:

He’s not going to look like a dime linebacker down there ever. He’s going to look like a smallish down safety. The one thing about Darius is he’s got tremendous courage and he’s a great communicator. Because he’s played so much down there in nickel it’s not foreign to him.

It is true that Butler has not been one to shy away from contact and is experience enough in the league tackle running backs but I feel like it isn’t an ideal situation, for him or for the Colts.

Malik Hooker

Monachino:

The ball production out of this kid in a lot less reps is very comparable to the ball production of our other safeties with more reps. He’s got a great feel; he’s got great instinct. He’s got enough smooth and enough length and enough size to make some plays on the football. Yeah, it’s what we thought it was.

To this point Hooker has been as advertised from a speed and range perspective. He continues to improve and that is a good sign for 2017. He is still on a pitch count though and it should be expected that his reps will continue to be monitored as the season approaches.

Matthias Farley

Monachino:

When you’re evaluating him, you say ‘This guy is a football player.’ When he’s out there, we can all breathe a little easier because he’s going to be where he belongs, he’s going to say what he needs to say, he’s going to help where he needs to help and he’s going to tackle. We’re right where we need to be with Matthias and he is too, on the depth chart.

The biggest thing you can take away from this statement is that Farley almost certainly has a spot on the roster absent injury. It seems like he may play the box safety role until Geathers can return -- in certain packages.

Inside Linebackers

Monachino on the combination of Antonio Morrison and Jon Bostic:

... you’ve got two guys that don’t only communicate well with the guys around them, but even more importantly they communicate well together. Any time that Jon sees Antonio has got an issue, Jon will make the right call to get Antonio the help he needs and vice versa. If there is something that Jon misses formationally, Antonio spots it right away. They work very well together.

Morrison and Bostic have currently carved out the starting spots at inside linebacker. Barring improvement from other players, the two seem to work together. This has been affirmed by people Matt Danely and others who have attended practice.

Antonio Morrison

Monachino:

My opinion is the hardest thing to teach one of those, especially inside linebacker guys, is to have some patience and to expand his vision. Antonio a year ago at times saw the game through a straw. Now, he’s seeing it through a bay door so it allows him to slow down a little bit. He’s got a great feel for formational things. He’s got a great feel for depth and for route concepts. He just continues to play beyond what his limitations are to where you almost don’t recognize the limitations anymore. We count on a lot of Antonio and he brings that to us every day – the toughness, the intelligence, the vocal leadership all that stuff is there with No. 44 for sure.

Another player who could end up being a potential gift for the Colts is Morrison. Many were not convinced he would even make the team with two free agent signings and a new draft pick added to the mix in the off-season. If his improvement is so vast that he holds down a starting position, it will make a huge difference for the Colts in 2017.

Injuries

Pagano on Mewhort and Haeg after Saturday’s practice:

We held both of those guys out. Just precautionary, just rested them. They should be back out there tomorrow afternoon. Haeg got a burner in practice, so we just held him out, precautionary.

Mewhort returned to practice on Sunday and it sounds like the team is being cautious about any minor issues that pop-up. This is pretty standard camp stuff for veterans and projected starters.

Pagano on David Parry following Friday’s practice:

He had a little groin strain – something he was doing in the weight room, unfortunately. But good to have him back out there.

The number of practices Parry has missed hurts his chances to compete for a spot on the roster. It does him no good to go out there at less than 100 percent but it is very possible that it will cost him a spot on the roster if he can’t get healthy.


Remember that Monday is a rest day for training camp. The second full week of camp gets under way on Tuesday.