While I was unable to get my Day 10 practice notes together ahead of Tuesday’s practice, here are some of my observations from Monday.
The starting unit was nearly back to full force. The group included Muhammed, Hunt, Autry, and Houston. The second team unit included Green, Stewart, Lewis, and Turay.
The highlights from the defensive line in team drills included a series where Margus Hunt batted down two of Jacoby Brissett’s passes in a row. The second one was almost a no look block as his back was to the line and he reached back to knock the pass down. Later in team drills, Denico Autry got a lot of penetration and would have likely recorded a sack during live action in a game. Carroll Phillips also made a nice read to stuff a run against Jordan Wilkins.
The Colts continued to pit rookie corner Rock Ya-Sin against physical receiver Devin Funchess. The two have held a ongoing battle throughout camp with each player besting the other at different times. On one red zone drill, Funchess ran a corner route and attempted to complete the touchdown only to have Ya-Sin cause him to bobble and go out of bounds. Ya-Sin would later knock down a pass in 7-on-7 drills.
Safety George Odum picked off a pass in team drills in the end zone and ran it out. He ran the ball all the way back to the other end zone, though no one attempted to pursue him.
Cornerback Kenny Moore made a nice diving pass breakup in team drills.
Nate Hairston was working hard to cover his man in the end zone on a broken play. The pass came in his direction and he laid out to make a play on the ball. The pass was overthrown and incomplete but Hairston was clearly in some kind of pain. He went over to the sideline to get some attention from trainers.
Jordan Wilkins and Jonathan Williams receive heavy work out of the backfield during many of the team sessions in training camp practices. Marlon Mack gets a very limited set of reps and Nyheim Hines is also involved with the first team but Wilkins and Williams carry much of the burden.
Williams had an impressive showing on the ground early in team drills. He had three straight touches that yielded impressive results. The first was a tough inside run where Williams showed no fear in lowering the boom to get extra yards. The second was an athletic rush to the right side of the field where he bounced the play wide of the defense for a nice gain. The final play was a dump-off pass that he took in for a touchdown.
The offense worked heavily on two minute drill, red zone, and timing routes in the practice. This challenged the quarterbacks, primarily Jacoby Brissett, and the running backs. In early reps, Hines was targeted but the pass was too far ahead of him. He made a nice effort but couldn’t haul it in. The next play resulted in a completion, in front of E.J. Speed who was running with the second team on Monday.
Hines had a pair of nice runs during team drills including a play where he caught a seam to the right for considerable yards in the red zone. The second was a nice run up the middle for a first down in a similar situation.
Hines brought in two other passes of the dump-off variety later in practice. The running back check down was in full effect.
Jordan Wilkins had a couple of nice red zone runs to start his day. He was running with the second team offense and was included in the early down passes on short out routes.
Early in practice, Mo Alie-Cox was targeted during the short-timing route plays. Brissett was firing missiles covering short distances and the first pass bounced off of Alie-Cox’s hands. The coaches came right back to the same play and were awarded with a completion.
The two big catches of the day were hauled in by Reece Fountain and Devin Funchess. Fountain ran a nice deep post route and got behind Jalen Collins for a pass in the middle of the field. He had to leap into the air to make a play on the ball and brought it down for a big gain during two minute drill work. Funchess also brought in a deep pass for 25-30 yards in two minute drills from Jacoby Brissett.
The distribution to receivers and tight ends was very even throughout the day. I noted catches made by Krishawn Hogan, Chester Rogers, Jordan Veasy, Hale Hentges, Gabe Johnson, another completion to Reece Fountain, and two completions to Marcus Johnson.
One pass intended for Hogan was batted down by corner Shakial Taylor during team drills. Fountain also dropped a pass from Chad Kelly in red zone drills.
Jacoby Brissett and Phillip Walker have separated themselves from Chad Kelly to this point. However, Brissett had one of the worst series of the day in a goal line situation where all three of his passes were thrown well above the head of any of his intended receivers. The coaches didn’t even give the first team offense a chance to get in on fourth down.
Kelly had another rough showing during red zone 7-on-7 drills. He hasn’t shown enough consistency to continue getting consistent looks with the second team and doesn’t seem to be a threat to Walker on the depth chart to this point.
NICK SIRIANNI INTERVIEW
Mike Chappell led with a question about what Sirianni looks for during pre-season games. He responded by talking about winning one-on-one match-ups and identifying individuals who stand out being the primary goal. Winning the game is always a goal but secondary.
He noted that sometimes players who don’t stand out as much during practice do big things when the lights are on against an actual opponent. While he acknowledges that some players are “practice players” and others are “gamers,” as Chappell put it, it’s the coaches’ jobs to fix that and make it so players are consistently showing their skills, no matter the environment.
Regarding Phillip Walker and his chance to play a big role in the preseason, Sirianni said it is a huge opportunity for him and for all of the players. He noted that Walker has more to offer than what you see in practice and has a special ability to move around in the pocket and improvise. He also mentioned it as a chance to get tape out there for the entire league to see.
Regarding Reece Fountain, Sirianni noted that he is looking for him to find consistency. Currently, Fountain is showing flashes of big play ability. He put it on the coaching staff to develop that consistency in players. He said that Fountain is on his way where they want him to go.
The final question surrounded the consistency Chester Rogers has shown during training camp. Sirianni made a number of interesting comments in response to this question:
He has been great. I can’t say enough about the type of camp that he’s had. He is competitive. I think we all know that he sees a guy that comes in and wants his spot and he is saying uh uh. He competes his butt off. He is tough. He is consistent. Love what he has done. Love what he has done. I can’t say enough how good his camp has been so far. We still have some days to go and I want to continue to see that with Chester because he has built a lot of trust up with us as coaches.
This type of praise has been atypical of coach interviews during training camp. Much of the reactions deflect away from an individual player and onto expectations that the coaches have for all players. Sirianni even did a lot of that type of deflecting in earlier questions on the quarterbacks and Reece Fountain.
There was no subtlety when he got to speak about Rogers. If it is any indication about how the coaching staff feels, it seems very likely Rogers will make this team.