INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts are hitting the field for the first time in 2018.
The Colts today are holding their first of two veteran minicamps this offseason, in which the team will get the opportunity to start implementing its brand new offensive and defensive schemes and approaches under Frank Reich and his staff.
Usually, teams are only allowed one veteran minicamp per offseason, which is mandatory and is typically held in mid-June. But the Colts are taking advantage of a league rule that permits teams with first-year head coaches to conduct one additional minicamp earlier in the offseason, just as long as:
• It’s voluntary
• It’s held before the start of the NFL Draft (which is Thursday evening)
• It’s held no earlier than Week 3 of the club’s offseason workout program
• It’s held after at least one week of the two allotted of Phase One activities
The Colts on Friday wrapped up Phase One of their offseason workout program, which consists exclusively of strength and conditioning work, as well as time in the meeting room installing plays with the coaches. Indianapolis is one of seven teams expected to hold an additional minicamp this offseason.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard said Friday he’s already very much encouraged by the progress he’s seen with the players and coaches, including new Director of Sports Performance, Rusty Jones.
“Good to see our team back in the building,” Ballard said. “Watching Frank [Reich] and his staff work meeting-wise, watching Rusty Jones who I was with for years in Chicago, watching him work the players and the things that he and his staff are going to do that I think is really going to benefit us long term, not only from a player development standpoint but also from a health standpoint. He’s the best in the business, and I feel very fortunate for him to be here right now.”
So what are items to look for when it comes to this week’s veteran minicamp?
*• *The team can hold three days of minicamp practices, and must adhere to Phase 3 offseason workout rules, which stipulate:
— No more than six hours per day
— No pads can be worn except protective knee and elbow pads; helmets are permitted, however
— No live contact permitted
— Team can do 7-on-7s, 9-on-7s and 11-on-11 drills
• With that in mind, this week will be the first opportunity for the Colts players to actually go out on the field and put the new coaching staff’s playbooks into action. On offense, what will Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni’s more up-tempo, time-based approach look and feel like? On defense, the Colts will be in a 4-3 base front for the first time since 2011. How will defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus start to arrange the pieces, especially for those switching from outside linebacker to defensive end? And on special teams, the same familiar faces are back at kicker, punter and long snapper, but the team has a new coordinator in Bubba Ventrone, who will have his own schemes and approaches to implement.
• While the practices themselves are set to be closed to the media — outside of the first 15 minutes or so — select players are scheduled to talk to reporters today and tomorrow, with Reich also being made available on Wednesday. So don’t expect a depth chart — or anything resembling it — to be released, but one might expect to get an idea where certain players are lining up this week.
• Same goes for the status of the team’s various injured players, some of whom may practice in varying levels of participation this week — and some of whom might not. Here’s a list of some guys, among others, to keep an eye on:
— Quarterback Andrew Luck: Luck, who continues to do rehab work on his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder, told the media a couple weeks back not to expect to see him much, or at all, during the early portion of the offseason workout program. But perhaps Reich or his teammates can provide an update on just where Luck is in his rehab process? Keep an eye out for that.
*— Safety Malik Hooker: *Hooker suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Colts’ Week 7 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. The 2017 first-round draft pick — who was putting together a fabulous rookie season at the time of his injury — said recently he’s been encouraged by his rehab work, but he isn’t running full-speed as of yet, so it’s probably very unlikely you see him participating at all in a team setting this week.
*— Defensive lineman Henry Anderson: *Anderson’s season ended in Week 9 last season when he suffered a bizarre throat injury against the Houston Texans. After undergoing surgery to repair the issue, Anderson — who has dropped 15 to 20 pounds in an effort to get quicker for the switch to the 4-3 defense — said he’s good to go for the offseason program. What role will he play moving forward? Stay tuned.
*— Center Ryan Kelly: *Kelly suffered through a multitude of injuries throughout 2017, including a foot injury that kept him out of the lineup the first four games of the season. He then started seven games before suffering a concussion Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans, and was unable to return to the field the rest of the year. Ballard confirmed recently that Kelly is “good to go,” however. The 2016 first-round pick will be a key piece for Reich’s new offense.
*— Running back Robert Turbin: *The ever-dependable Turbin — statistically the best at converting 3rd-and-short opportunities in the NFL the last couple seasons — went down with a season-ending elbow injury Week 6 against the Titans last year. If he’s good to go, Turbin will be one of a few backs that will get a chance at more carries with the departure of former starting running back Frank Gore, who signed a free agent deal with the Miami Dolphins.
*— Guard/tackle Jack Mewhort: *After a solid start to his career, Mewhort has missed 17 games the last two seasons, mostly due to knee issues; he started 10 games in 2016, and just five last season before being placed on IR. But the Colts showed faith in the 2014 second-round pick, re-signing the offensive lineman to a reported one-year deal on March 21 after he had hit the free agent market for the first time in his career. Mewhort said when he signed he didn’t “see any restrictions as far as offseason stuff,” but one might imagine the team will closely monitor his workload this week, if he’s able to go.
*— Guard/center Matt Slauson: *The Colts signed the free agent interior offensive lineman March 20, and the 32-year-old brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team. But he’s also coming off a season-ending biceps injury suffered Week 7 last year as a member of the Los Angeles Chargers, so put him in the same boat as Mewhort as someone who could very well see some action this week, but will likely be closely monitored.
*— Cornerback Pierre Desir: *Desir, a journeyman cornerback who had worked his way into the No. 2 spot on the cornerback depth chart with the Colts last year, suffered a season-ending pectoral injury Week 13 against the Jaguars. Although the team rewarded him by re-signing the free agent on March 21, he said he doesn’t expect to be 100 percent until possibly training camp.
• What's next after this week's minicamp? Phase 2 of the offseason workout program begins on Monday, which lasts for three weeks. In this phase, the coaches are allowed on the field, and the team can do individual and "perfect play" drills, but no offense-vs.-defense or one-on-one drills can be conducted, and helmets cannot be worn. Rookie minicamp is being held May 11-13, meanwhile.