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Indianapolis Colts 2018 Training Camp: Day 9 takeaways

Coach Frank Reich can see the defense starting to improve, a running back in trouble, another solid day from Andrew Luck and many more takeaways in Day 9’s camp notes

This morning the Indianapolis Colts kicked off their ninth practice in front of another great crowd. The heat didn’t play much of an impact in terms of how the team practiced, and there was plenty to take away from it.

Only a day after their first unofficial depth chart dropped, some of what we saw within that initial release is beginning to show up on the field. Here’s what I took away from today’s practice.

Who was out?/Injury news:

Anthony Castonzo missed today’s practice after aggravating his hamstring, and looked pretty tight as he came out to the practice field towards the end of practice. Frank Reich says that he’ll be out a while, but with the line finally having some solid depth and Castonzo being one of the most reliable linemen this stings a little.

John Simon was also out with a groin injury that didn’t get much explanation, but they can be one that hangs around for a bit and the Colts need the depth at defensive end heading into the season.

D.J. White, Denzelle Good, Daurice Fountain, Josh Ferguson and Kemoko Turay weren’t suited up today either. All of these guys need to get healthy as soon as possible with crucial snaps or even a roster spot at stake in the coming weeks.

Some good news came when we saw safeties Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker get back on the grass for individual/positional drills. Both of them looked like they are in a good spot in their comebacks, but they did not participate in any of the 1-on-1 drills versus tight ends/receivers, nor did they in team drills including 11-on-11/7-on-7 work.

How did Luck look?

Today Luck looked good in terms of athletically and health. His comfort level in the pocket and ability to escape pressure is still there in spades, and Luck even went deep a few times today. The only issue — if you want to call it that — was that his touch/chemistry with the receivers on those deep balls wasn’t there today.

Ryan Grant couldn’t catch up with one after stuttering his feet downfield and even T.Y. Hilton was overshot a couple times as well. Luck went 17-of-24 with 2 touchdowns and an interception on a great play by Skai Moore.

All in all Luck continues to look impressive finding a way to navigate through plays seamlessly even when issues pop up. Jacoby Brissett and Phillip Walker also threw the ball well today while Brad Kaaya is more of a project right now.

Matching up the depth chart with what we saw:

As I mentioned above, the initial depth chart was released last evening and caused a bit of debate in the media room as well on social media between fans. For the most part we saw how things are shaking out right now on the field.

With Turay out, Margus Hunt got the initial snaps with the first team defense opposite Jabaal Sheard at defensive end. Still not Tarell Basham, who was listed behind Turay, rather we saw Hunt who was listed behind Sheard and John Simon at the one DE spot on the chart.

At linebacker we saw rookies Skai Moore (MIKE), Darius Leonard (WILL) and Najee Goode (SAM) get the nod as the starters at the three linebackers positions with Zaire Franklin, Tyrell Adams and Antonio Morrison getting subbed in to the mix regularly throughout the 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 periods.

Any way you look at it, this is going to be a young group at linebacker and it just may be a fun one too. These guys are all working hard in practice, and are working on their own after practice is over.

At cornerback we initially saw Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson outside at the boundary positions with Kenny Moore working in at the nickel spot. As the day progressed, it was Moore who began to get the No. 1 snaps in place of Wilson especially in the last session of 11s.

Nate Hairston also worked heavily in the slot early on, but he too worked outside later on in the day in place of Desir which holds true to what this coaching staff has done thus far through camp. A heavy rotation at cornerback is being explored to find the right mix of talent for a group that will be heavily reliant on quick reactionary skills and instincts to make plays.

Just as a note, in Castonzo’s absence, J’Marcus Webb saw some first team snaps at left tackle today.

Nobody has any question that Hilton is the top dog in the receiver group, but running with him in 13 personnel was Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers. While Grant does occasionally line up in both the ‘Z’ and slot positions, Rogers is the clear No. 2 at the position.

Luck and Grant have yet to really nail down their chemistry with each other downfield, and it could very well leave the door open to a guy like Deon Cain to slide in and take snaps from Grant if it doesn’t improve.

Coach Reich stated after practice that for the most part this initial depth chart means almost nothing, that it’s more of a formality, but also offered that “those guys” who were atop on position or another on the list are certainly in the running to become the starters regardless of position.

Defensive line speed is getting noticed in a big way:

If you see someone blasting through the offensive line lately in practices, it’s likely been Denico Autry. The free agent acquisition has been an animal when it comes to disrupting the backfield and getting Luck — or any quarterback — off his base. He’s quick, can pursue the quarterback or ball carrier to the sideline with purpose and is pretty consistently the one making the most powerful impact as well.

Rookie Tyquan Lewis flashed again as well today showing that he’s going to only get better and faster as the season arrives. Another guy who may be flying under the radar right now, but has been quite noticeable over the last 3 or 4 practices is Grover Stewart. He, too, is getting some pressure on the passer, forces the running backs to alter their line of travel and even swallowed up Nyheim Hines today on one of his carries.

I think even though we know there’s going to be some growing and development needed at several positions, there are absolutely some players getting noticed for the right reasons. K.J. Brent is not hype, he’s a very polished route runner with real speed. Zach Pascal and a couple other receivers — today, Steve Ishmael — have been looking really good as well as training camp continues.

Pascal, in particular, is falling in line with how Brent began to impress — route running and catching everything. Cain hasn’t necessarily been wowing the crowd the past few days, but he’s continued his solid play and is getting a lot of looks from the quarterbacks. This is good to see from the receiver group that has had some questions raised about depth at the position.

Cornerback Robert Jackson has been getting a lot of praise from his position coaches throughout practices as well. He’s getting a lot of work with the twos and is getting more consistent with his footwork which is putting him in good position to challenge the ball when he’s targeted. It’s nice to see another guy from this group start to step up too.

One guy who might be getting coal for christmas is Christine Michael. Early in camp he struggled to hold on to the ball — fumbled twice in one practice even — and today a pass from Brissett bounced off his chest, up into the air and was picked off by Lashard Durr. The very next play, Michael was wide open again in the flat and Brissett passed up on targeting him choosing to run instead.

Reich mentioned today that several ‘offensive guys’ have approached him about the defense. That they’ve been hitting another speed over the last couple practices and I think you could say that about today as well. “They’ve been flying around” as Reich proclaimed, and the offensive line wasn’t the dominant force we’ve seen in recent days.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re getting some legit results from one day of practice, but I do think you can start to see the defense coming around as camp progresses. That, my friends, is very encouraging.