On Monday, the Colts wrapped up their 14th and final practice before the Cleveland Browns come into town. It was a fairly light practice, as it only lasted an hour, and the team mostly focused on 11 on 11 and kick team. Here are my notes and observations from the day:
The Colts sat multiple players for Monday’s light practice. The list of players includes QB Andrew Luck, PK Adam Vinatieri, WR Penny Hart, WR T.Y Hilton, WR Parris Campbell, OT Le’Raven Clark, DE Justin Houston, DT Denico Autry, DE Jabaal Sheard, OG Quenton Nelson, CB Nate Hairston, and RB Jordan Wilkins.
Tight end Ross Travis returned to practice after missing the last couple days.
Rock Ya-Sin steals the show
The star of training camp continued his strong play on Monday with another great day of practice. In the 11 on 11 drill, he had a remarkable interception where he ripped the ball away from Devin Funchess and returned it for a score. He also did a great job of locking down Funchess for two incomplete passes in the 2 minute drill, and he was one of the main reasons the first team offense stalled out in their series. Overall, Ya-Sin didn’t just look like the best rookie out there, he looked like one of the best players on the field.
Other Rookies Standout
Outside of Ya-Sin’s great day, the other rookies from the 2019 Draft class deserve their fair share of praise for their days in practice. Second round pick Ben Banogu was getting back into the action after missing some time and he put in some really good work today. He looked quick and strong in the bag drills and had a couple good rushes in 11 on 11 work. Once he gets back up to full strength, I expect his impact to be even greater on this defense.
Fourth round pick Khari Willis also continued his run of good practices. With Clayton Geathers back today, Willis mostly ran with the second team defense. He made a few nice plays in 11 on 11, including stuffing a run that he diagnosed at the snap near the goal line. I had the pleasure of watching practice with Coach Rick Venturi and he is completely sold on Willis being a starting caliber safety on this team for years to come.
Fifth round pick Marvell Tell also made quite an impact today. He looked good in man coverage with the bigger receivers on the third team and made a few plays in pass coverage. He also came off a blitz early in 11 on 11 and came up with what would have been a sack in an actual game. He did get beat by Deon Cain for a deep pass down the sideline, but he had sticky coverage on the play, regardless. Overall good day, though, for the corner convert.
WR battle heating up
The most intriguing aspect of this year’s Colts team may be the depth at the wide receiver position. From a group that was barren with little talent, to now having a deep group, the Colts will have some tough cuts at the position. Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal both worked almost exclusively with the ones today. Rogers didn’t see many targets but he appears to be a starter on this team with Parris Campbell out of the lineup.
Pascal had a pretty good day, in my opinion. He played a lot on the kick and kick coverage teams and got a few targets in the passing game. He nearly came down with a big catch down the sidelines in 11 on 11, but a big hit by Clayton Geathers broke up the play at the last second. His highlight of the day, however, was when he blocked Kenny Moore into the ground on a basic run up the gut play. Plays like that will make him hard to cut. He always does the dirty work and gives it all each and every day.
Deon Cain stole the show late in practice. Him and quarterback Chad Kelly got into a groove in their two minute drill and they were able to drive the offense down the field for a touchdown. The highlight of the practice for him was a remarkable catch down the sideline with Marvell Tell blanketing him in coverage.
Krishawn Hogan and Daurice Fountain also had good days catching the ball as Hogan had a nice touchdown catch over the middle against Quincy Wilson and Fountain had a couple targets as well. Both have had great camps so far as they fight to make the bottom of this roster.
2017 Draft Class making the jump
With the historic 2018 Draft class and the promise of the 2019 Draft class, people seem to be forgetting about all the quality players that Ballard found in his first draft with the team. Of that draft class, a few notable names stood out to me today as players who could break out as starters or even as stars this upcoming year.
Grover Stewart looks like a new man on the field. He has obviously slimmed down a bit, and he looks much faster and stronger. He was one of the standouts on the bag drills and was getting some good pressure up the interior during the 11 on 11s. Watch out for Stewart this year as he looks to take a more prominent role in this defense.
Speaking of players who could break out, let’s talk about Quincy Wilson. After a fairly rough rookie season and first half last year, he looks primed for a big year. He looks slimmer, quicker, and much faster on the field and he is playing with a ton of confidence. He was hard to beat in coverage today as he even locked up Eric Ebron on a deep pass from Jacoby Brissett early in practice.
QB Chad Kelly
Kelly continues to look like the best quarterback on the practice field. He is quick and decisive and he can make plays with his legs as well as his arm. He delivered a strike for a touchdown to Mo Alie-Cox in the two minute drill, and also ran for a score early on. He is having a pretty good recent stretch of football.
Every day feels like Odum is making plays in practice. He had a good day today, as he was lock down in coverage. He also grabbed an interception off of a deflection by Bobby Okereke early in the practice. As each day goes by in practice, Odum only solidifies himself more and more as the backup to Malik Hooker at FS.
First Team Defense
The first team defense was simply lock down today as the first team offense couldn’t get anything going. Even with missing the entire starting defensive line outside of Margus Hunt, the offense couldn’t muster up any positive traction. The secondary looks really good and confident whenever they get on the field together and the linebacker group led by Darius Leonard looks as strong as ever. It could be a very good year for the Colts’ defense.
Overall it was a fairly light day of practice indoors before the big practices against the Browns later in the week. The team looked good, especially in the secondary. Seeing that group in person compared to last year has me believing they will take a big step in the right direction in year two under defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
Today was my first day at practice since I started covering the Colts a little over a year ago. The atmosphere of the practice and the fans were absolutely great. I would also like to shout out Rick Venturi. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to sit with him and talk about things such as defensive back techniques and Nick Saban. Overall, the Colts looked good out there and I expect some great practices against the Browns later in the week.