Perhaps no Colts Minicamp practice in history received more national attention than Tuesday’s. If you were hoping for the same kind of attention and excitement from Wednesday, you will come away disappointed. There is no doubt that Andrew Luck’s throwing progress and return to health is a major national story but the focus broadened a bit more to other players after Tuesday’s circus ended.
Before we get to the biggest revelations from Wednesday, we will address Luck’s continued progress.
Luck Throws the Duke
The primary criticism from all of Tuesday’s excitement for Andrew Luck was that he chose to throw a football that is slightly smaller than Wilson’s regulation NFL football — “the Duke.” He laid those concerns to rest today by not only increasing the distance he threw the ball but by throwing to his teammates and making many of those throws with “the Duke.”
Luck getting more of a passing tree experience today, deeper routes to receivers and tight ends.— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) June 13, 2018
Looked like at least a couple of throws with The Duke.
FWIW. Andrew Luck with a slightly heavier workload during early portion of practice. Throws still limited, but had more zip on the ball. After positional drills, headed indoors. Indications are he amps up work a bit when he goes indoors.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) June 13, 2018
Look, he still has a long way to go. He isn’t anywhere close to leading a full practice. He isn’t close to simply “letting it rip” with every route, at every distance. However, a season ago at this time Luck looked like the main character from Stephen King’s novel Thinner. He wasn’t anywhere close to throwing a football at that time and, unbeknownst to the entire fan base and pretty much everyone in the organization, was at least four months away from throwing a ball publicly for the first time after surgery.
This year he looks like he is months into training for the Mr. Olympia competition, has been to the Netherlands and California to work with handpicked trainers, and is making throws publicly before we get to the summer break portion of the off-season. I feel confident saying that Colts fans will gladly take this version of events over the one they had to suffer through a year ago.
Without further ado,
girls jumping on trampolines Andrew Luck throwing a football.
Little longer distance throwing for Luck today, which was expected.— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) June 13, 2018
No work for him tomorrow throwing wise. Rest day. pic.twitter.com/nr9Vjsbt3P
Luck throwing as scheduled #colts pic.twitter.com/ZrQPDskCGM— Chris Widlic (@Chris_Widlic) June 13, 2018
Deon Cain Biggest Surprise of Colts Off-Season Program
It would be unfair to say that Deon Cain has been the best Colts rookie this spring, as that honor has to go to guard Quenton Nelson. However, it would be entirely fair to say that Cain has outperformed expectations more than any other player in Ballard’s draft class.
It is important to acknowledge that Cain went much later in the draft than many projected. A senior season without Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams, along with some dropped passes, hurt his draft stock. If he had entered the draft after his junior season, it is unlikely he would have fallen all the way to the sixth round. While Williams certainly overshadowed him, there is no doubt that he was recognized as a legitimate receiving threat who could transition to the next level.
None of that changes the fact that Chris Ballard selected Daurice Fountain before him in the fifth round and signed free agent wide receiver Ryan Grant to compete for one of the top three spots on the roster at the position. Cain entered the spring training activities as a likely candidate to compete for one of the final spots on the roster at wide receiver with hopes that he could show something in a rotational role at some point in the season.
No one would comfortably declare that Cain is a Week 1 starter but he is certainly very much in the mix to become a much more involved part of the offense than many would have expected when he was picked in the sixth round. His scouting report would tell you that he can beat defenses over the top with his combination of size and speed. His performance this spring has started to earn him a reputation as a potentially dangerous red zone weapon.
Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni added a nod toward another important attribute to his game.
Nick Sirianni is a big fan of Deon Cain and Nyheim Hines. Likes Cain’s ability to get out of breaks and separate from defenders. Likes Hines versatility and how quickly he’s picked up the offense and learned multiple positions. #Colts— George Bremer (@gmbremer) June 13, 2018
Let’s face it, winning as an NFL receiver requires one thing above all else — getting separation. We already knew Cain had size and speed but if he can get separation out of his breaks, he could be quickly inserted into the Colts offense by Sirianni. Reich’s quick release, fast-paced offense may require clean breaks above all else.
Matt Eberflus Declares the Linebacker Depth Chart Wide Open
There is a lot of uncertainty about how well and how quickly the Colts defense will be able to make a monumental scheme transition. In that uncertainty, no position is hazier than linebacker.
Chris Ballard brought in a lot of new faces to the linebacker room to add speed and athleticism in a defense that demands more from players who play at the second level of the defense. Najee Goode, Tyrell Adams, Darius Leonard, Matthew Adams, Zaire Franklin, and Skai Moore are all in the mix. There is a strong chance that four of these players will be on the roster when the team enters the regular season and not one of them was with the franchise in 2017.
No matter how these players found their way to Indianapolis, defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus made it abundantly clear that no spots have been handed out. Every position is wide open and will remain open throughout the season.
Matt Eberflus on the LBs: There are 10 guys in the room, and he’s told them they have no idea who is 1 and who is 10 right now. Wide open competition. #Colts— George Bremer (@gmbremer) June 13, 2018
When training camp finally arrives and you’re not fixated on watching Andrew Luck throw a football, keep an eye on the linebackers. It could easily be one of the most entertaining and potentially spirited competitions of the entire summer.
Anthony Walker Suffers Injury
Speaking of linebackers, second-year player Anthony Walker has possibly received more time with the first team defense than any other player at the position. He has been getting a very close look in the MIKE role and has received a relatively positive response from the media.
Today he suffered an unknown injury that left him down on the field for minutes before he was finally carted away.
Colts LB Anthony Walker is being taken off the field on a cart after appearing to suffer an injury. https://t.co/PfeRQFfNFA— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNFL) June 13, 2018
While some have indicated that it might not be as serious as it sounds, there has been no official word from the Colts front office or coaching staff.
Veterans Making Their Own Impressions
For a second straight day, Jack Doyle made a noteworthy play. This time, during a period of heavy rain, he snagged a pass across the middle that caught the attention of onlookers.
#Colts are currently practicing in a torrential downpour. House of Pain is blaring on the loudspeaker. And soon-to-be two-time Pro Bowler Jack Doyle is making ridiculous catches over the middle.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) June 13, 2018
While it is a bit early for Pro Bowl votes, it is certainly positive to hear that Doyle has entered the summer program in great shape and continuing to put in the kind of blue collar effort that has made him a fan favorite, and a leader in the locker room. If he can play at the top of his game, it bodes well for the rest of the tight ends.
Veteran receiver T.Y. Hilton has also made a big impression on offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and has been getting the attention of media members. If he is as focused on improving as it sounds and if Reich and the Colts offense intends to be as aggressive down the field as they suggest, he will be in for another big year. The prospect of a healthy Luck returning to throw to a reinvigorated Hilton is enough to make any Colts fan smile.