The Colts have a huge offseason ahead of them, and this week marks another step in the decision-making process. While the combine is by no means an end-all be-all in the process of whittling down prospects ahead of the draft, it is certainly an important part of the path to draft day.
With uncertainty at the quarterback position, that is naturally the focus for many Colts fans. Fortunately for them, with tight ends, quarterbacks, and wide receivers available to the media Tuesday, it was certainly the focus as the combine got underway.
I heard from Jacob Eason, Justin Herbert, and Jordan Love Tuesday, as each attempted to manage a barrage of questions from the scrums that formed around them, and comport themselves with dignity and poise throughout a process that could see each of them potentially joining rosters in the first round of the draft. Here are my takeaways from each of them.
If they were giving out an award for the player most prepared to bore reporters in a press conference, Jacob Eason takes the win easily among these three. That isn’t a knock on him necessarily. Players are taught coachspeak early, and most of what is said on a week-in, week-out basis in player interviews is fluff that is designed to sound like it isn’t.
Jacob Eason talked for 15 minutes this morning, but didn’t say much. He was asked all the typical questions you get at an event like this, and his answers were pretty plain. He talked about loving this process and being excited for Thursday’s workouts. When asked what he needed to improve on, he said that he is always looking to improve and then listed every trait attributable to a quarterback as an area he hopes to improve.
If you were looking to be wowed by Eason in this setting, you were disappointed. He and Peyton Manning could potentially have a competition for who could better utilize generic terminology to say nothing for longer. It might be the sole football activity in which he could best Manning, but probably not. He did however, say that Peyton Manning looked like his dad, which was his reason for following the legendary Colts QB as a kid. So there’s that.
The point is, if you were sold on Eason because of his work on the field, this press conference didn’t really do anything to damage that assessment. If you were looking for more, it probably didn’t provide that either.
I’ll admit, I’m not a huge Herbert guy. I didn’t love what I saw on tape from him, but I’m willing to admit that I am not perfect in my assessment of players, so I’m not about to shut the door on a guy who has obvious potential.
When Herbert stepped to the podium, therefore, I was there to hear him solely to report that information for the benefit of Colts fans. He followed Eason at the podium, and if the room was drifting after a monotonous interview, Herbert grabbed ahold of it and commanded the full attention of everyone there.
From the jump, he was engaging, passionate, and focused. Naturally, there was a lot of the same kind of verbiage. Players in this setting aren’t programmed to give up a lot of information. Herbert tiptoed around questions about teams he had met with, and gave the normal obligatory, “I’d be thrilled to play anywhere that wants me,” line as well.
He tackled some of his challenges this offseason head on, discussing how he’s had to work on getting time under center after operating primarily out of the shotgun, and how he has to convince teams that he can do that effectively. When asked about how he changed over his time in school, he cited his demeanor as the biggest area, specifically in terms of how outspoken and vocal his leadership style has become from where it once was.
The most telling quote from Herbert, and when he really shone was this one:
The Colts have talked time and again about how important having guys who play for one another is to the organization. Here Herbert details exactly that. Putting the team first to help achieve their mutual goals. Hard not to like that from a young prospect.
I’ve liked what I saw on film from Jordan Love for awhile. Sure, there are questions, and he is likely to be a player who is a big boom or bust prospect. However, the potential for greatness is there, and the question the Colts will have to ask before pulling the trigger is if Love has the drive to reach that potential.
He had a strong showing at the podium today, coming out of the gate hot by addressing his down year and the interceptions immediately before they were even brought up. When asked what he thought was the cause, Love pulled no punches. He said that much of the time he had forced plays and rather than take a checkdown, he had tried to go for the kill shot.
One of the questions he was asked provided him a chance to cast some blame on his supporting cast, noting that they had a great deal of turnover in terms of offensive line, receivers, and even a new coach. Love didn’t take the bait however, still choosing to take on that blame himself.
In terms of his preparedness in the offseason, he said he had stayed busy:
“Since this season ended I’ve been training hard, every day with my quarterback coach out there. Just trying to become a better quarterback, you know whatever it is. Footwork, fundamentals. Being able to break down defenses on the board and stuff like that, so I’ve been doing everything I can do.”
While many will question just how good Love can be, he embraces his comparisons to guys like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, pointing to his ability to excel at off-platform throws and in situations where plays break down. He brought up time and time again how much room there is for his improvement and cited his growth under the Lions’ staff during the Senior Bowl as a major learning experience already.
In total, I found Love to be engaging and appreciated his easy demeanor. His sense of humor made what could be a long morning of interviews a lot lighter, but he struck a very good blend of humility and self-awareness with confidence. There aren’t many guys who can tell you they compare to Patrick Mahomes, and also say honestly and vulnerably that they need to grow and stop making stupid mistakes that cost their team. That’s exactly what Love did today, and the Colts will almost certainly have to take a very long look at him. Coincidentally, Love did say he had met with the Colts already.
Stay tuned throughout the week as we continue to get you updates from the combine!