INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have a month-and-a-half break staring them in the face.
But there’s still three very important days ahead of them before taking off for a few weeks.
The team today held its first of three days of mandatory veteran minicamp practices at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, where the players were able to carry over what they had been working on in three weeks of OTA practices, while at the same time getting a taste of the training camp grind.
“Although we’ve had such good attendance it just feels like we are continuing to work,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “Excited for these last few days of work, finish on a high note with high intensity, get after it, clean up details (and) find ways to get better these last couple days. So we are looking forward to this work that we are going to get.”
So what were the top takeaways from Tuesday’s first day of minicamp practices?
» Andrew Luck, Reich confirmed, will be held out of practice this week as he continues to deal with a nagging calf injury, meaning the quarterback will miss the entire on-field portion of the offseason workout program. Both Reich and Luck talked to the media on Tuesday, and both expressed the need to be ultra-conservative this time of year; both were also extremely confident that Luck will be good to go by the time training camp rolls around in late-July.
» In a couple positive developments on the injury front, the team on Tuesday saw the return of tight end Eric Ebron and defensive end Jabaal Sheard. Ebron, who underwent a minor groin procedure earlier this offseason and had missed all of the on-field work for Phase 2 and OTAs, participated mainly in individual and positional drills before watching the rest of Tuesday’s practice from the sidelines. Sheard, meanwhile, had missed all three OTA practices that were available to be seen by the media with an undisclosed injury, but was able to participate in team drills on Tuesday.
» Others who missed last Tuesday’s open OTA practice that returned to the field for the Colts today included wide receiver Parris Campbell, cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, safety Rolan Milligan, linebacker Skai Moore and defensive end Kemoko Turay.
» Those who were not seen participating on Tuesday included wide receiver Penny Hart, wide receiver Deon Cain, Luck, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, safety Clayton Geathers, cornerback Nate Hairston, cornerback Chris Milton, cornerback Quincy Wilson, defensive tackle Jihad Ward, linebacker Darius Leonard, defensive end Carroll Phillips, tight end Jack Doyle and defensive tackle Denico Autry.
» An early one-on-one drill between the pass catchers and the defensive backs resulted in some quality plays on both ends. And while these drills are intended to be more offense-friendly — after all, the quarterback and receiver know where the pass is supposed to be headed — it was the defense that seemed to win this particular part of practice. Top cornerback Pierre Desir was simply dominant, winning all three of his reps. Corner Jalen Collins had one impressive rep, showing his fight and hustle and ripping the ball away from wide receiver Steve Ishmael to force an incomplete pass. And the rookie Ya-Sin was up to the task in bump-and-run coverage against wide receiver Jordan Veasy, earning an incompletion on a fade route.
» The offense took on the early challenge from the defense into the very first play of 11-on-11s, however, as quarterback Jacoby Brissett connected with wide receiver Devin Funchess on a bomb down the right sideline. Funchess emphatically spiked the football at the end of the play, and it was the start of a solid day for the 6-foot-4, 225-pound wideout, who made several plays in space for Indy’s first-team offense.
» The Colts’ defense came out in a single-high safety look to start 11-on-11s, meanwhile. They had Sheard and Justin Houston at defensive end; Margus Hunt and Tyquan Lewis at defensive tackle; Anthony Walker (MIKE), Bobby Okereke (WILL) and Adams (SAM) at linebacker; Desir and Ya-Sin (outside) and Kenny Moore II (slot) at corner; and George Odum at safety.
» After a special teams drill, the offense and defense were matched up against each other once again for 11-on-11s. Coordinator Matt Eberflus started the defense out in the nickel package: Al-Quadin Muhammad and Houston at defensive end; Hunt and Lewis at defensive tackle; Walker (MIKE) and Okereke (WILL) at linebacker; Desir and Ya-Sin (outside) and Moore II (slot) at corner; and Malik Hooker and Odum at safety.
» Houston made sure the first snap of this 11-on-11 session would be won by the defense, as he jumped up to get his big paw on Brissett’s pass attempt at the line of scrimmage. Colts fans can get used to Houston knocking down passes at the line; he has 32 career passes defensed in his eight-year NFL career, including two seasons of six apiece (2012, 2015).
» Desir continued his dominating ways in 11-on-11s, blanketing Funchess in coverage and deflecting the ball into the air, which was intercepted by Okereke.
» The Colts remained in nickel when the second-unit defense came onto the field. Those in the alignment included Ben Banogu and Turay (defensive end); the recently-signed Caraun Reid and Grover Stewart at defensive tackle; Zaire Franklin (MIKE) and Adams (WILL) at linebacker; Marvell Tell III and Collins (outside) and Shakial Taylor (slot) at cornerback; and Khari Willis and Matthias Farley at safety.
» The Colts also had nine players participating in Tuesday’s practice on a tryout basis. Stay tuned in case any of these guys made enough of an impression to earn a spot on the 90-man roster.