INDIANAPOLIS — It’s the Indianapolis Colts’ last hurrah until a few weeks off.
And then the 2018 season really kicks into gear.
The Colts on Tuesday held their first of three days of mandatory minicamp practices at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, where the work done on the field is the final opportunity to get things into gear and establish a little momentum heading into training camp, which begins towards the end of July.
Here were the key takeaways from Tuesday’s practice (all practices this week are able to be viewed in their entirety by the media):
— Participation-wise, while head coach Frank Reich said all 90 players on the offseason roster reported for this mandatory minicamp, several players did not participate in the portion of practice open to the media on Tuesday. Those I didn’t see during the open portion included safety Ronald Martin, cornerback D.J. White, running back Marlon Mack, safety Clayton Geathers, safety Malik Hooker, linebacker Darius Leonard, guard Jeremy Vujnovich, center Deyshawn Bond, defensive end Chris McCain, wide receiver Chester Rogers, wide receiver Krishawn Hogan, tight end Erik Swoope and defensive tackle/defensive end Tyquan Lewis.
— White, Mack, Geathers, Hooker, Leonard, Vujnovich, Bond, McCain, Hogan, Swoope and Lewis also did not participate in Thursday’s final OTA practice, while Rogers was seen hobbling a bit after a play that same day. But just like OTAs, the Colts are not obligated to provide any sort of injury report during minicamp, and Reich did not provide any further information on most of the guys who did not participate on Tuesday. Reich did confirm that McCain continues to be away from the team as he works through a legal issue, however.
— Among the more notable players who returned on Tuesday after missing last week: kicker Adam Vinatieri, quarterback Andrew Luck, cornerback Quincy Wilson and tackle Anthony Castonzo.
— For Luck, he was seen throwing a football — albeit a lighter one than a regulation NFL football — for the first time since last October, when he was shut down after experiencing pain in his surgically-repaired right shoulder. It’s just the latest step in Luck’s eventual progression back onto the field, but a very positive step nonetheless.
— The first 11-on-11 session gave us an opportunity to see who was being utilized in more “first-team” roles with the offense and defense, although there is a caveat: just like during OTAs, we saw lots of bodies going in and out of the lineup throughout the day. So while these lineups certainly aren’t anywhere near being set in stone, it’s still notable to see which players appear to be frontrunners at certain positions.
— Along the offensive line, we saw a first-team look of Anthony Castonzo (left tackle), Quenton Nelson (left guard), Ryan Kelly (center), Matt Slauson (right guard) and Austin Howard (right tackle). While left tackle through left guard has been consistent since the start of OTAs, we did see Denzelle Good break in with the first team at right tackle last week, and Howard was working with the second team. But Howard was back with the ones, and Good was back with the twos, on Tuesday.
— Up front defensively, we saw the same four working with the first team that we’ve seen all of OTAs: Jabaal Sheard and Tarell Basham at defensive end, and Al Woods (one-technique) and Denico Autry (three-technique) at defensive tackle. At linebacker, the Colts showed an original look of Tyrell Adams (WILL), Anthony Walker (MIKE) and Zaire Franklin (SAM). The cornerbacks first seen on the field were Pierre Desir and Nate Hairston, while the safeties were Matthias Farley and T.J. Green.
— A “second-team” offensive line we saw consisted of Tyreek Burwell at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard, Joe Haeg at center, Braden Smith at right guard and Good at right tackle. Le’Raven Clark also got some reps with this unit at right tackle.
— A “second-team” defensive unit we saw consisted of John Simon and Anthony Johnson at defensive end, Grover Stewart and Margus Hunt at defensive tackle (Hassan Ridgeway also worked his way in), Jeremiah George and Najee Goode at linebacker (Adams played some with this group, too), Kenny Moore II and Chris Milton at cornerback and George Odum and Chris Cooper at safety.
— In actual practice action, second-year tight end Darrell Daniels had quite the day. First, quarterback Phillip Walker threaded the needle on a pass through traffic to his right to Daniels, who had a big gain on the play. Then, Daniels, this time in the seam to the left, caught a bullet from Jacoby Brissett for another big chunk of yards. Finally, Daniels made another big play, this time across the middle, on a play from Walker; the crossing pattern was cleared out by the rest of the offense and left the tight end wide open.
— The Colts had eight players in on a tryout basis on Tuesday: wide receiver Paul McRoberts, cornerback Juante Baldwin, cornerback Keenan Lewis, running back Jordan Huff, safety Tim Scott and defensive ends Jacquies Smith, Evan Panfil and Christian French. Baldwin made a nice play to strip a wide receiver on a play near the sideline, possibly getting the ball in the hands of the defense (a ref might’ve ruled the play dead beforehand in a real game setting).
— We did see rookie running back Nyheim Hines, who was holding the back of his left leg, come up limping early during 11-on-11s. No update was provided by Reich, but we’ll keep an eye on this one.
— Wide receiver Kasen Williams made a terrific play to outjump his defender in the defensive backfield and make an impressive catch on a fade route to the left side of the field. Williams, a second-year Washington product, is one of several players at the wide receiver position hoping to earn one of two to three spots on the final roster.
— With Hines and Rogers not able to participate, the Colts had just T.Y. Hilton and Josh Ferguson back to field punts during a special teams drill after the initial 11-on-11 session. Milton and Green looked to be the primary gunners sprinting down the field after the returners.
— Wide receiver James Wright made a nice play to hustle down and catch and down a punt inside the five-yard line, earning praise from special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone and his teammates.
— Getting back into the second round of 11-on-11s, Quincy Wilson was seen playing with the No. 1 defense, which originally came in with a nickel look with an extra cornerback, Moore, playing in place of Franklin at the SAM linebacker.
— There were a couple luck/focus plays that led to tipped balls being caught by receivers during 11-on-11s; K.J. Brent made the first play, and then a few plays later, quarterback Brad Kaaya found tight end Ross Travis, who couldn’t quite get a grip on the ball — which conveniently fell into the waiting hands of wide receiver Reece Fountain.
— A couple plays after that would-be play to Travis, the tight end got a good bit of revenge, as Kayya found him over the middle for a touchdown from about 25 to 30 yards out. The play design forced the linebackers to vacate the middle of the field, where Travis was able to sneak his way in and catch the ball around the 10 and sprint the rest of the way into the end zone.
— George dropped what would’ve been an easy pick-six, but the play showed good instincts and quickness from the fourth-year linebacker.
— We did see a little bit more out of rookie defensive end Kemoko Turay on Tuesday. Turay, who has been battling his way back from an unspecified injury and missed a good portion of OTAs, was getting some quality reps along the edge on Tuesday with the second team defense.
— The strong day from the Colts’ tight ends continued through the end of Tuesday’s practice. First, Brissett delivered a pass to Jack Doyle along the left sideline that Doyle dove all-out across his body and made a nice play to hold on and maintain possession through the catch. Then, a couple plays later, Brissett found his other tight end, Eric Ebron, this time on the right side, but another big gain.