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Colts Training Camp: Safeties shine in joint-practice with Chicago Bears

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Indianapolis Colts safeties Rodney Thomas II and Nick Cross talk between plays during Colts Training Camp practice
Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

WESTFIELD – Colts safeties Nick Cross and Rodney Thomas II picked off Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields in Wednesday’s joint-practice at Grand Park.

The intensity of the two-hour scrimmage ignited early on during 1-on-1s, with the Colts’ chief defensive back pressed up in coverage against the Bears’ premier receiver for the first individual matchup. Kenny Moore II shut down the initial slant route, denying the pass from Fields.

The Colts’ nickel cornerback recalled 1-on-1 battles with D.J. Moore during the preseason of his 2021 Pro-Bowl campaign – before the Bears acquired the star receiver from the Carolina Panthers – when Indianapolis hosted Carolina for training camp. Moore mentioned the Colts defense displayed tremendous energy, with intentions to establish an identity before the season opener.

“Best on best,” Moore replied. “We are just trying to get better. That’s what practice is for. Everything is off the record, but we are trying to compete at the highest level we can. Be a professional and get the job done.”

The Colts secondary sprinted to celebrate in the end zone as Cross scored a pick-six against Bears’ second-string QB PJ Walker and punted the football sky high. Cross made a diving effort inches off the ground to collect his second interception of the night during the next team session as Fields overthrew tight end Cole Kmet and the football tipped off the hands of the Notre Dame product.

“I think it’s great, just the energy and the competitive nature it brings out,” Colts head coach Shane Steichen said. “You go against each other in camp for so many weeks, and now you get a chance to go against another opponent. It just brings up the level of energy and excitement for everybody. The players are fired up about it and as a coach, I love it.”

Last week, Cross was asked what differences he notices in the communication aspect of playing strong safety.

“It’s the same defense, but I realized that strong safety has a lot on their plate,” Cross said. A lot of communication between the linebackers, safeties, corners, d-line. You’re communicating with every level of the defense, and it requires you to know what you’re doing, know how to do it. Not only know what you’re doing, but know what everybody else is doing as well so that you’re able to help everybody else.”

Colts defensive end Gerard Avery was carted off the field after suffering an apparent leg injury. McTelvin Agim, Adetomiwa Adebawore and Eric Johnson II rotated with the first-team defensive front in place of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who did not practice with a foot injury.

Fields found his groove in the 7-on-7 drill, distributing six consecutive completions to five separate targets with open space and unlimited time. The Bears’ third-year QB hit Equanimeous St. Brown on a curl, Darnell Mooney on a hitch, and Robert Tonyan on a drag.

While aiming to let loose in the next team session, Fields launched his deepest throw on a post intended for Mooney, but Thomas II jumped the route for an interception. Fields worked downfield during the four-minute drill with a 30-yard pass across the middle to a wide open Moore, and followed up with a 45-yard bomb inside the red zone to Velus Jones. Colts CBs Dallis Flowers and Tony Brown Jr. made diving pass breakups on consecutive plays to thwart the Bears’ two-minute scoring opportunity.

Steichen intended to establish the ground game behind guard Quenton Nelson to start the 4-minute drill, with consecutive inside runs to running back Deon Jackson. Richardson used the RPO to convert on 3rd-&-short, finding TE Kylen Granson open in the flat to move the sticks.

The Colts rookie QB connected with WR Michael Pittman Jr. on consecutive plays, first sitting in the open area on a slant, then near the sideline after executing the RPO. Richardson targeted Pittman on three consecutive plays to begin the two-minute drill for Wednesday’s final practice session. He fired a bullet on a curl route and connected across the middle, before leading Pittman to the shadow realm. Bears safety Eddie Jackson lit up Pittman near the sideline on the next play, as both players were slow to get up.

“We had called a few shots and then he checked one down to the back off play-action which went down the sidelines for about 10 or 12, which was really good,” Steichen said. “That’s great growth, right? Don’t force it, right? Take the completions and move on from there. Like I said, we’ll watch the tape and get the corrections made.”

The Colts will host the Bears at Grand Park for a second joint-practice on Thursday from 6-8 p.m. before Saturday’s Week 2 preseason matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.