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Practice Notebook

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Practice Notebook: From Alec Pierce to Rodney Thomas II, Colts' 2022 Rookie Class Is Already Making A Big Impact

The Colts have already got major contributions from rookies like Alec Pierce, Jelani Woods and Rodney Thomas II, and will continue to lean on a number of first-year players during the 2022 season. 

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A quarter of the way through the 2022 season, the Colts are leaning heavily on a number of their rookies – and seeing that trust pay off with strong play and good production:

  • Wide receiver Alec Pierce (second round, No. 53 overall) has 15 catches for 222 yards over his last three games, and is growing into a trusted target of quarterback Matt Ryan no matter the situation.
  • In Week 3, tight end Jelani Woods (third round, No. 73 overall) caught two touchdowns, including the game-winner, in the Colts' 20-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
  • The plan is for the Colts to stick with left tackle Bernhard Raimann (third round, No. 77 overall) as their starter at that spot going forward after he made his first career start in Week 5.
  • While safety Nick Cross (third round, No. 96 overall) hasn't played on defense the last two weeks – the Colts turned to veteran Rodney McLeod Jr. – the team sees plenty of upside and talent in the 21-year-old, who defensive backs coach Ron Milus said last month has been training at free safety as well as strong safety during practice.
  • Defensive tackle Eric Johnson II (fifth round, No. 159 overall) has played 32 snaps as a rotational interior defensive lineman.
  • With Julian Blackmon (ankle) out since the second quarter of Week 3, safety Rodney Thomas II (seventh round, No. 239 overall) has stepped in and not only made splash plays – like his interception against the Broncos in Week 5 – but played with a high level of focus, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said.
  • Two undrafted rookies have contributed on special teams, too: Linebacker JoJo Domann is fourth in special teams snaps (84) and tied for the team lead in special teams tackles (four), while cornerback Dallis Flowers forced a fumble and returned a punt nine yards in his NFL debut in Week 5.

A few things we've heard about a handful of these rookies this week:

  • How wide receiver coach Reggie Wayne has helped Pierce: "He's really big on technique," Pierce said. "He's a guy that's really helped with my route-running, definitely my releases, my route-running — top of the cuts, top of the breaks, just eliminate all unnecessary movement, getting all my body and feet correct in the right spot so I can come out of the break most efficiently. And also he's been someone just with the mentality — he's been great for me just going out there, talking to men and letting me know what I need to do today, like what to focus on and what to do, and just go out there, relax and play ball." 
  • Blackmon, who's participated in both of the Colts' practices this week, on Thomas' playmaking: "I think that it just gave everyone else — okay, we're good, 2-5's back there and he can make plays," Blackmon said. "So it was really good for him to see that he can do it as well at this level. Because we've been telling him hey, if you make plays in college, you can come here and do the same thing."
  • Head coach Frank Reich on Raimann, who committed four penalties in the first half of Week 5 but saw his play improve over the course of Thursday night: "He did some good things," Reich said. "I know there were some calls and some stuff, but that's just going to be part of the process. We feel like that was a good pick. We feel like he's got a lot of upside."

Thursday's practice report:

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