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3 things to watch heading into the Colts’ joint training camp practices with the Ravens

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Colts training camp is in its final week, with tomorrow at 7pm being the start of the last night practice. Perhaps more interesting will be the Friday practice, which is the first of two joint practices with the Ravens. Those practices create a unique opportunity for the team to go up against players with different technique, skill sets, and strengths than what they’ve faced so far in camp. Here are 3 things to watch for if you get to make it to one of those joint practices.

Wide receivers vs Ravens secondary

Those opportunities presented by joint practices are especially valuable for the many young players on the Colts’ roster. The Ravens had the 3rd ranked passing defense in the NFL in 2017, and seeing the young wide receivers going up against their talented defensive backs will be an excellent way to continue separating out the starters from the players who likely won’t make the roster come final cuts.

Reece Fountain was back at practice today, and the Colts need him to step up in a big way, because the loss of Deon Cain puts him solidly in the spotlight as a player they need to grow up fast. Ryan Grant has begun showing up more in practice lately, but hasn’t been a major factor most of the offseason, being reliable but not flashy.

However, the greatest pressure is on guys like K.J. Brent and Zach Pascal, who are fighting it out to be on the roster at all. The reality is that Chris Ballard will be watching carefully during cutdowns, looking to add talent and depth at any and all positions. With a thin and unexperienced receiver corps, these guys need to shine, and this is a chance to do that.

Quenton Nelson vs Ravens defensive line

Tell me you don’t want to see Quenton Nelson in one-on-ones with defenders from different teams. The guy has been involved in some dust-ups with his own teammates throughout camp because he is the kind of guy who just can’t help but manhandle defenders until the absolute echo of the whistle. He is a beast, as Brett has pointed out, both in run blocking and pass blocking.

No one likes getting embarrassed by another team in front of your teammates, especially by a rookie. However, that’s exactly the kind of thing Nelson has the ability, and inclination to do. It would actually be shocking to me if there wasn’t a scuffle between these two teams, and if Quenton Nelson wasn’t the catalyst.

Colts defensive line vs the Ravens offensive line

We don’t know how involved players will be in practice by the time these joint practices begin. What will be interesting is seeing the Colts’ smaller pass rushers pitted up against the larger linemen of a 3-4 scheme. One of the concerns about reliance on speed is that you sacrifice power, so it will be interesting to see how our pass rushers stack up.

John Simon has done better than almost anyone but him expected that he would in his transition to this new role. How he does against the Ravens will be telling, because his size disadvantage will be on full display. Jabaal Sheard has continued to look good, but we need to see something from guys like Basham and McCain, as well as getting Kemoko Turay healthy and competing. It would also be wonderful if we got the version of Hassan Ridgeway that showed up in the first preseason game to show up to practice.

These practices are carefully controlled. The goal is for everyone to get better and to get out of it healthy and whole as a team. However, with such a raw roster for the Colts, this will prove an invaluable opportunity for teaching and growth by this coaching staff, which has proven they care about such things.

The opportunistic, turnover-seeking mentality of the Ravens’ defense is one that I’m sure Chris Ballard and Frank Reich would love to see the Colts co-opt. Additionally, working with a team like the Ravens gives first hand access to Chris Ballard to get eyes on possible players who could be picked up once cuts are made.