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Colts Training Camp Practice: Day 4 Notebook

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NFL: JUL 28 Colts Training Camp Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts returned to the field for their second padded practice, their longest of training camp. Lasting over two hours, the fans and coaching staff got to see a much heavier dose of team drills, which is similar to a controlled scrimmage. Here are my observations.


HEALTH

As promised, many of the players who did not practice on Saturday were back on the field Sunday. Included in that list: Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle, Penny Hart (briefly), and Margus Hunt. Sitting out included: Jabaal Sheard, Denico Autry, and Gabe Holmes.

The best news of training camp to this point is that no player has suffered an injury serious enough to be placed on Injured Reserve. Any player placed on Injured Reserve during training camp will be ineligible to return to the field in the coming season. Additionally, outside of the injuries to Jabaal Sheard and Spencer Ware, there haven’t been players who are likely to miss considerable time.

It was encouraging to see Penny Hart return to the field on Sunday but discouraging that the same hamstring that held him out of Saturday’s practice ended his day early.

Following practice, Frank Reich informed media that Denico Autry’s absence was simply for maintenance. He also noted that Parris Campbell cut his practice a little short with some hamstring soreness. I noticed him working with trainers on the sideline before they shut him down for the day and he didn’t appear to be seriously injured, but it isn’t surprising to see the team approach this time of the year with caution.


DEVIN FUNCHESS

On the field, it is encouraging to see Funchess make contested catches and display some impressive route-running skills. He showed how his size can help make him a red zone target in a one-on-one rep against Pierre Desir in the corner of the end zone and then showed the quickness to shake a corner on a skinny post route. He also was able to haul in a deep pass in team drills.

Off the field, Funchess is different than most of the other players. The team is composed of players who are as visibly happy and exited to be alive as Eric Ebron, players who are very busy doing their work and who show very little emotion throughout the day, and a player like Funchess who is visibly emotional but has clear ups and downs.

I can relate to this attribute. I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeves. Make no mistake, fans will be able to tell when Funchess is having a good time and enjoying himself, when he is clearly upset, and will not have to wonder what he thinks because he will likely share his thoughts with teammates, coaches, and officials.

While this is somewhat different from many of the leaders on the team, it’s important to acknowledge that he has been one of the most engaged players with fans at training camp. It will be interesting to see the impact the incredible team atmosphere in Indianapolis will have on Funchess throughout the season.


PARRIS CAMPBELL

Coming into the league, Campbell was recognized for his world class speed. It was assumed that he could use that speed to get behind defenses to catch deep passes. However, his role at Ohio State kept him bottled up. His route tree was limited and he was used more as a gadget option and on short crossing patterns than was used as a true wide out.

All of that has started to change. Observations started early on from Colts scouts discussing how Campbell was asked to run a more developed route tree at the Senior Bowl and showed that he can do it. During the Colts spring program, others observed that he looked comfortable running a variety of routes.

On Sunday, Campbell did some things with his speed and route running that got everyone’s attention. Perhaps the most impressive of them is an out route on the goal line against Jalen Collin that he caught for a would-be touchdown.

While it is fair to note that Collins is fighting for a chance to make the team and likely not for a starting spot, he has made some nice plays at training camp and has not been made to look silly as he was on this play. This is more Parris Campbell doing something that few corners would be able to defend than it was Collins representing an inferior challenge.

The days of being a gadget player are quickly coming to an end. It is safe to say that Frank Reich’s excitement on draft day continues to look very warranted.

Let’s hope the hamstring issue is minor and that Campbell can return to the field quickly. A day off on Monday should help.


ROCK YA-SIN

For me, Rock Ya-Sin was one of the more enticing stories in the NFL Draft. Not because he was drafted in the early second round by the Colts but because his path to the NFL was so uncommon. His first three collegiate seasons were at small Presbyterian. Facing off against lower levels of competition can be particularly challenging for a cornerback hoping to take a step up.

After his junior season, he was eligible to transfer to a larger program and jumped at his chance to join Temple’s program. Yet again, not a power house program but one that certainly would test his skills against better competition. He blew away coaches and teammates with his toughness and work ethic during the summer so much that they voted for him to be one of the team’s 9 toughest players — awarding him with a jersey number in the single digits. During the season, Ya-Sin was a force on the field and a nightmare for opponents.

After the season ended, Ya-Sin stood out as perhaps the most polished and dominant cornerback at Senior Bowl practices. His performance there started to drive his value up charts with many expecting that he would be drafted in the first round.

Flash forward to his introduction to playing against NFL competition. He is a long and strong corner who is unafraid of contact and willing to mix things up at the line of scrimmage. He has shown the ability to mirror and stick with receivers on the outside and has also shown incredible vision and awareness in zone.

He used the combination of speed and awareness to pick off two passes on Sunday. Both were deflected but this coaching staff has made it clear that takeaways are the name of the game on defense. Ya-Sin has earned an early reputation for being a guy who can help create them.


OTHER OBSERVATIONS

  • Punt returners included Parris Campbell, Penny Hart, Nyheim Hines and Chester Rogers.
  • The offensive one-on-one drills were filled with some exciting plays. Eric Ebron made one of the of biggest catches of the day during this segment.
  • Jalen Collins stayed in tight coverage to break up a pass intended for Marcus Johnson on a corner route.
  • Mo Alie-Cox moves very well for a man his size. He ran a nice route to get Khari Willis on his heels and then used his speed to create some separation. If he has a step and the ball is on target, life will be difficult for smaller secondary players.
  • Jack Doyle out-muscled Clayton Geathers on a short post route for a would-be touchdown.
  • T.Y. Hilton made a nice deep catch on a pass from Jacoby Brissett in team drills. The pass was a little short and Pierre Desir was in tight coverage but Hilton brought the ball in anyway.
  • With Autry resting, Jihad Ward was taking the field as the 3-technique in base packages and Tyquan Lewis was taking reps at the 3-technique in sub packages.
  • Andrew Luck didn’t have a particularly efficient day in 7-on-7 drills but it appeared to be more related to nice defensive plays and a couple of drops than it was to a problem with accuracy.
  • It’s also worth noting that Chad Kelly ran with the second team offense ahead of Phillip Walker during team drills. Brissett running with the first team while Luck continues to ease his way into practice.