2019 #ColtsCamp Notebook, Day 3: Colts Throw On The Pads

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WESTFIELD, Ind. — Today was Day 3 of the Indianapolis Colts’ 2019 training camp practices at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind.

Here were some top takeaways from the day’s session:

TEAM

— Quarterback Andrew Luck was one of several players to have a “maintenance day off” from practice on Saturday. Others on that list included wide receiver Penny Hart, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, tackle Anthony Castonzo, tight end Jack Doyle and defensive tackle Margus Hunt.

— Defensive end Jabaal Sheard missed his second straight practice with a knee injury. Head coach Frank Reich said Friday that Sheard “had some soreness and swelling in his knee, so we are evaluating that.” While Reich didn’t talk to reporters on Saturday — it was the offensive and defensive coordinators’ weekly post-practice media session — we’ll see if Reich has an update on Sheard on Sunday.

— Defensive end Kemoko Turay also did not practice Saturday. Reich said Turay “had a little bit of a shoulder (injury)” late in Friday’s practice.

— Among those back Saturday who missed Friday’s practice: wide receiver Deon Cain, safety Clayton Geathers, defensive end Justin Houston and tight end Ross Travis. All four of those players were given a maintenance day off Friday.

— Saturday’s practice was the first in full pads for the Colts this training camp. Expect to see this quite often — the Colts practiced in full pads for about two-thirds of their eligible practices last year.

— The addition of pads allows the pass catchers and defensive backs to execute some live one-on-one drills. On Saturday, the offense “won” 12 of the 21 (57 percent) reps, with a “win” meaning the pass was caught or defensive pass interference was called. A “win” for the defense means any other result. Of those pass catchers who won on Saturday: Zach Pascal (three times; once on a defensive pass interference call), Devin Funchess (twice), Chester Rogers, Mo Alie-Cox, Steve Ishmael, Jordan Veasy, Daurice Fountain, Hale Hentges and Ashton Dulin (who made a nice diving catch). Those defenders who “won” included Malik Hooker, Nate Hairston, Clayton Geathers, Marvell Tell III, Chris Milton, Khari Willis (who jumped the route against Billy Brown and intercepted the pass), Quincy Wilson, Matthias Farley and Kenny Moore II.

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OFFENSE

— The Colts have multiple weapons at slot receiver, and an early drill highlighted the versatility those players bring to the fold. A quarterback would line up in the shotgun with a running back to his right, for example, and a slot receiver lined up to the left would move in motion to the backfield to the quarterback’s left. These designed sweep plays can be very dangerous, especially with speedy guys like Parris Campbell or Chester Rogers back there.

— Coach Tom Rathman has an old-school approach, and his running backs are well-aware of what he expects. There’s a position drill in which the backs line up a couple yards in front of a blocking sled and, on the snap, have to drive their shoulder into the sled, knocking it back, before spinning off in a particular direction. And while you’ll often hear “low man wins” as a football cliché, Rathman knows from experience just how important it is to stay low as a running back, whether it’s in pass protection or whether it’s meeting a defender in the open field. “Stay low!” Rathman yelled Saturday. “Keep your pad level down!”

— Wide receiver Deon Cain and Ross Travis were back on the field Saturday after sitting out Friday’s practice as more of a maintenance day off. Both are working their way back from torn ACLs, both of which were suffered last preseason (Cain in the first preseason game, Travis in the last preseason game). Travis on Saturday was able to ditch the bulky knee brace he was wearing in Thursday’s practice, and looked to be moving around much more naturally.

— Cain made highlight play after highlight play as a rookie in training camp last year, which made his season-ending knee injury all the more disappointing. On Saturday, however, Cain seemed to get right back on the highlight play wagon for the first time in this camp. He made a slick diving catch near the far sideline, diving all out and hauling in the pass from quarterback Phillip Walker while staying in bounds and maintaining possession. If he’s able to keep getting stronger, Cain could be a real wild card at the wide receiver position for the Colts in 2019.

— With Anthony Castonzo out on Saturday, the team utilized fourth-year veteran Le’Raven Clark as its first-team left tackle, playing alongside the usual starters up front in Quenton Nelson (left guard), Ryan Kelly (center), Mark Glowinski (right guard) and Braden Smith (right tackle).

— Others who lined up for the offensive on the first play of 11-on-11s were Jacoby Brissett (quarterback), Marlon Mack (running back), Mo Alie-Cox (tight end) and Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal and Devin Funchess (wide receiver). Eric Ebron, of course, got plenty of first-team run, and Pascal seemed to be the next man up with Hilton out on Saturday.

— Brissett seemed to put a little extra “oomph” on his next pass attempt after an early interception by safety George Odum. He fired an absolute bullet over the middle into the gut of Alie-Cox, who had no choice but to hang on, despite excellent coverage from Nate Hairston. Alie-Cox, by the way, had a strong spring, and that play has carried over into camp so far.

— With the pads on Saturday, you got a much better sense of where the Colts are in their run game. The offense broke a few big runs on the day, including an off-tackle run play by Mack in which he found some daylight and picked up some nice yardage. Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni — clearly enjoying the blocking and running — shouted “Yes!” the whole way through.

— The “second-team” offensive line consisted of Antonio Garcia (left tackle), Jake Eldrenkamp (left guard), Josh Andrews (center), Evan Boehn (right guard) and Joe Haeg (right tackle).

— Boehm, who also got in at center, had a solid seal block to open a lane for running back Jonathan Williams during a “move-the-ball” period in the middle of practice.

— The “third-team” offensive line consisted of J’Marcus Webb (left tackle), Boehm (left guard), Daniel Munyer (center), William Poehls (right guard) and Jackson Barton (right tackle).

— Walker seemed to take most of the second-team snaps on Saturday. He had been mostly splitting second- and third-team snaps with Chad Kelly the first couple days of practice. Walker had a few strong throws throughout Saturday’s practice, including a perfectly-placed pass to Steve Ishmael on a sail route about 20 yards away along the left sideline. He also found wide receiver Krishawn Hogan in stride on a crossing route for a nice gain.

— Brissett had a strong effort in 7-on-7 work, completing all five of his pass attempts — two to Funchess and one each to Mack, Ebron and Campbell.

— Walker was 2-for-4 in 7-on-7 work, completing passes to Daurice Fountain and Ishmael, and missing on attempts to … Fountain and Ishmael.

— Kelly was 2-for-3 in 7-on-7s, completing passes to Fountain and Jordan Veasy, and missing on a pass attempt to Billy Brown.

(via Andrew Walker/Colts.com)

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DEFENSE

— When 11-on-11 drills began, the theoretical first-team defensive lineup was a unique one. It appeared to be Justin Houston and Al-Quadin Muhammad at end, Denico Autry and Grover Stewart at tackle, Darius Leonard and Clayton Geathers at linebacker, Pierre Desir, Kenny Moore II and Nate Hairston at corner, and Malik Hooker and George Odum at safety. This could mean the defense opened up in its dime package. The next round of 11-on-11s was a more familiar base and nickel alignment. The base featured Muhammad (LDE), Houston (RDE), Autry (DT), Stewart (NT), Leonard (WILL), Anthony Walker (MIKE), Matthew Adams (SAM), Desir (CB), Moore II (CB), Hooker (FS) and Geathers (SS). When they went to the nickel defense, Quincy Wilson took over for Moore II as an outside corner while Moore II moved into the slot.

— Saturday had perhaps the most defensive lineup shifting we've had so far. Among those also seen getting reps with the first unit were Ben Banogu (DE), Carroll Phillips (DE), Tyquan Lewis (DT), Jihad Ward (DT), Bobby Okereke (LB), Rock Ya-Sin (CB), Jalen Collins (CB), Marvell Tell III (CB), Matthias Farley (S) and Khari Willis (S).

— In the second play of 11-on-11s, quarterback Jacoby Brissett rifled a pass down the right center of the field about 15 yards, and it was tipped by Moore II while Odum dove to make the interception. Later in practice, Hairston would nearly intercept one of Brissett's fastballs, jumping a bit and getting two outstretched hands on it before the ball hit the turf.

— With this being the first day in pads, it was obviously the most physical practice we've had so far, and there were some big hits involved. Early in the scrimmages, Hairston met tight end Mo Alie-Cox over the middle. Although the pass was completed, Hairston made sure the offense knew yards weren't coming cheap today. Near the end of practice, quarterback Phillip Walker threw a quick flare over to receiver Deon Cain on the left side, and Wilson was immediately there to meet him, giving him a big pop and ensuring an incompletion.

— There were some good pass rushing reps today in 11-on-11s, one coming with Houston stunting inside and crashing the pocket on Brissett. There was no doubt about the sack on this one, as they blew the play dead without the ball getting out.

— In general, the defensive front seven came to play today on each unit. For the most part, they did a good job against the run and short passing game. They set the tone physically, making sure the first padded practice would be felt by everyone tomorrow morning.

— There were also some nice plays from the defensive side of the team's rookie class. First, Ya-Sin got his hand in late on a Brissett-to-Devin Funchess shallow slant pass and knocked the ball out for an incompletion. Later, linebacker E.J. Speed came crashing in on an outside run play to the right side, blowing the play up before running back Aca'Cedric Ware ever had a chance to do anything.

— Farley showed off especially good awareness in the secondary on one play as quarterback Chad Kelly looked about 25-30 yards down the left sideline to Cain. Farley, playing deep, saw it coming the whole way through and met Cain at the potential catch point. Cain, making a wise decision, elected not to sacrifice himself to Farley in a practice situation.

— In the full offensive line vs. defensive line drills, Ward and Caraun Reid each had nice reps cutting through the line to bust up the carry. The momentum carried over into other portions of practice for both players. On one play, Reid and end Obum Gwacham met in the backfield for a would-be sack on Phillip Walker. Ward would also have a couple of nice plays on some one-on-one drills against the offensive line, showing off his athleticism showcased in his 287-pound frame.

— With the pads on for the first time, the team began one-on-one offensive line vs. defensive line drills. For this drill, we’ll award “wins” and “losses” based on if the defender was able to get past the blocker upright in a reasonable time, or if the offensive player kept the defender at bay. With it scored 19-8 in favor of the offensive line, here were the defensive wins: Muhammad def. Braden Smith; Autry def. Quenton Nelson; Ward def. Evan Boehm; Autry def. Nelson; Reid def. Jake Eldrenkamp; Ward def. Mark Glowinski; Autry def. Ryan Kelly; Houston def. Le'Raven Clark.

(via Jake Arthur/Colts.com)

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SPECIAL TEAMS

— Kicker Adam Vinatieri showed off a bionic leg today, going 6-of-8 on field goal attempts and connecting from 26, 32, 38, 50, 54, 60 and 65 (!). The 65-yarder would stand as the longest kick in NFL history had it been in a game. Of Vinatieri's two misses, the first was from 44 yards out and hit the right upright, and the second was a 68-yard attempt that fell just short of the crossbar.

— The special teams also practiced punts today. The first gunners up on the punt team were Chris Milton and Odum, with Geathers as the punt protector. The second group was Hairston and Marcus Johnson at gunner, with Nyheim Hines as the protector. The last group was Farley and Ya-Sin at gunner, with Hines as the protector. Chester Rogers was the first punt returner with Parris Campbell coming in next.

— Campbell has been solid as a returner since rookie minicamp, but he didn’t have his best day in that area on Saturday. Offensively, he continues to impress and certainly seems like he'll contribute all around the formation — and not just in the slot — while he'll continue working on his special teams prowess to try to make his mark in that area, as well.

(via Jake Arthur/Colts.com)

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