WESTFIELD, Ind. — Today was Day 7 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:
— The Colts were in pads Thursday for a second straight day, leading to some loud popping of the pads at several junctures as the team drilled goal-to-go and hurry-up scenarios for a good portion of practice.
— Among those who did not participate in Thursday’s practice: wide receiver Penny Hart, wide receiver Deon Cain, quarterback Andrew Luck, wide receiver Parris Campbell, wide receiver Devin Funchess, running back Jordan Wilkins, tight end Ross Travis, linebacker Ben Banogu, tackle/guard Braden Smith, tackle Anthony Castonzo, center Ryan Kelly, tight end Jack Doyle, tight end Eric Ebron, defensive end Jabaal Sheard, defensive tackle/end Denico Autry and defensive end Justin Houston.
— Of those players, the team said Cain, Castonzo, Autry and Houston were having a maintenance day off.
— Among those returning to practice Thursday were wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, safety Clayton Geathers, tight end Billy Brown, defensive end Kemoko Turay and defensive tackle Margus Hunt. Turay was back in action for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury last Friday.
— The defense was able to come out victorious in the one-on-one drills pitting the pass catchers against the defensive backs, winning 13-of-24 (54.1 percent) of the snaps. The defenders that “won” their reps — meaning the pass fell attempt was incomplete without any penalties — were Quincy Wilson vs. Marcus Johnson; Darius Leonard vs. Mo Alie Cox; Kenny Moore II vs. Daurice Fountain; Nate Hairston vs. Zach Pascal; Pierre Desir vs. Ashton Dulin; Darius Leonard vs. Hale Hentges; Marvell Tell III vs. Johnson; Shakial Taylor vs. Chester Rogers; Wilson vs. Fountain; Matthias Farley vs. Hentges; Rock Ya-Sin vs. Jordan Veasy; Jalen Collins vs. Alie-Cox; and Chris Milton vs. Roger Lewis.
— In one-on-one coverage drills pitting the running backs against the linebackers and safeties, the two sides split their six reps: Clayton Geathers def. Nyheim Hines; Marlon Mack def. Ahmad Thomas; Jonathan Williams def. Zaire Franklin; Keith Ford def. Malik Hooker; Khari Willis def. Hines; and Bobby Okereke def. Mack.
— For the second day in a row, we saw some pass protection drills pitting running backs vs. linebackers and safeties. In this drill, there is a target on the ground, and the running back essentially has to block the defender and keep them as far away from the target as they can. The running backs won five of the 11 (46 percent) reps, with a “win” meaning either the defender was able to get past the blocker upright in a reasonable time, or the offensive player kept the defender at bay. Here is how it broke down: Okereke def. Mack; Williams def. Franklin; Hines def. Thomas; Ford def. Skai Moore; Geathers def. Mack; Williams def. Willis; Okereke def. Hines; Franklin def. Ford; Mack def. Thomas; Moore def. Williams; Geathers def. Ford.
— Next up was the individual offensive vs. defensive lineman drill. For this one, we awarded 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 11-8 (58 percent) in favor of the offensive line, here were the matchups: Joe Haeg def. Margus Hunt; Mark Glowinski def. Tyquan Lewis; Josh Andrews def. Grover Stewart; Quenton Nelson def. Jihad Ward; Al-Quadin Muhammad def. Le'Raven Clark; Jackson Barton def. Gerri Green; Daniel Munyer def. Caraun Reid; Stewart def. Evan Boehm (Stewart really showed his drive and power on this rep, causing Boehm to jump and backpedal the whole way; Ward def. Jake Eldrenkamp; Carroll Phillips def. J'Marcus Webb; Kemoko Turay def. Haeg; Ian Silberman def. Sterling Shippy; Reid def. Boehm; Eldrenkamp def. Lewis; Antonio Garcia def. Obum Gwacham; Barton def. Hunt; Reid def. Silberman (flag on Silberman); Stewart def. Munyer; Nelson def. Ward; Turay def. Clark.
— Three starters not participating in Thursday’s practice meant opportunities for others to step in and show what they can do. The Colts had Le’Raven Clark working in at left tackle, Josh Andrews working in at center and Joe Haeg working in at right tackle with the first-team offense.
— Clark had a terrific block on a delayed run play early in 11-on-11 work, getting to the second level to take linebacker Darius Leonard out of the play and spring running back Marlon Mack forward for about a 10-yard gain.
— T.Y. Hilton seems to do something special every day at camp, and he had two of those moments back to back on Thursday. First, quarterback Jacoby Brissett found Hilton on an out route to the left sideline, as the eighth-year receiver ran a picture-perfect route, and received a picture-perfect pass, to get about a 20- to 25-yard gain right in front of safety Clayton Geathers, who dove all-out to try to knock the ball down.
— The next play to Hilton two snaps later really elicited some ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd at Grand Park, however. Finding a matchup in coverage against linebacker Matthew Adams, Hilton ran the sail route towards the left sideline — in a similar spot to where he caught his previous pass — and it first appeared as if Adams was going to do enough to get in front of the receiver and force an incompletion. But Hilton seemed to come out of nowhere to sprint to a spot and look back over his shoulder and somehow catch the ball with his arms stretched out, much like a shortstop running out to grab a looping liner into left field in baseball.
— The second-team offensive line most commonly seen on Thursday included Antonio Garcia (left tackle), Jake Eldrenkamp (left guard), Evan Boehm (center), Daniel Munyer (right guard) and Jackson Barton (right tackle). J’Marcus Webb (left tackle) and Ian Silberman (right guard) also worked their way in up front.
— Quarterback Chad Kelly continued to show development in the offense on Thursday. He had a nice rollout to his right to buy time and find Steve Ishmael, and then on the very next play he made a good read on a blitzing cornerback, Nate Hairston, to find Krishawn Hogan on a quick slant in the area vacated by Hairston.
— While the Colts don’t have their “blocking” tight end from last year’s team, Ryan Hewitt, on this year’s roster, there is a possible candidate to fill in that role on this year’s roster. Hale Hentges, who went undrafted out of Alabama, has been a consistent presence since the offseason program, and with the pads on, you can see a bit of his blocking prowess. On Thursday, he had a real nice seal block in the run game against defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, for example.
— You don’t usually have to force offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni to let you know how he’s feeling, which is how we know he was a bit unhappy with the offense when it was lined up inside the 10-yard line and Chad Kelly tried to draw the defensive offsides with a hard count. Instead, Garcia was called for a false start. “Why are we going for a hard count?” Sirianni said. “We get two yards!”
— Brissett got into a little bit of a roll in red zone work towards the middle of practice. On one play from the defense’s 20-yard line, he had two pump fakes to the right — drawing the defenders that way — before throwing a swing pass to the left to Mack, who beat the defense to the end zone for the touchdown. Shortly after, Brissett found Marcus Johnson, this time in the right-back corner of the end zone, for another touchdown.
— Brissett was 4-of-4 in 7-on-7 work Thursday, completing passes to Hilton, Nyheim Hines, Gabe Holmes and then Hines again for a touchdown. That scoring play was impressive itself — Hines beat Darius Leonard in coverage to go up and get the throw — but the hard spike of the football by the running back was a clear indicator of just how satisfying it was. Hines took many hard hits throughout Thursday’s practice, and each time he hopped right back up.
— Phillip Walker was 0-for-3 in 7-on-7 work, while Chad Kelly was 2-for-3, connecting with Lewis and running back Keith Ford.
— Both the first- and second-team offense put in work in two-minute drills to wrap up practice on Thursday. Starting at the 1:50 mark, the starting unit moved the ball 61 yards in 13 plays, getting to the opposing 4-yard line and setting up an easy 21-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal with three seconds left on the clock. Brissett completed 7-of-10 passes on the drive, and two of his incompletions were throwaways, while the other was a miss to Hilton in which the veteran wide receiver was begging for a holding call on rookie cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, who seemed to bite on a double move. Brissett found comfort in guys like Hines and tight end Mo Alie-Cox (two receptions each) as the unit quickly moved the ball down the field in chunks.
— Walker led the final drive in the two-minute drill. Also starting at the 1:50 mark, the drive would end with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Daurice Fountain, who ran a perfect fade route and made perhaps the play of the day to win the day for the offense.
(via Andrew Walker/Colts.com)
— The first-team defense opened up 11-on-11 drills in their base defense: Hunt (LDE), Stewart (NT), Lewis (DT), Muhammad (RDE), Anthony Walker (MIKE), Darius Leonard (WILL), E.J. Speed (SAM), Pierre Desir (LCB), Kenny Moore II (RCB), Hooker (FS) and Geathers (SS).
— The team's first-team nickel package featured: Hunt (LDE), Stewart (NT), Lewis (DT), Muhammad (RDE), Walker (MIKE), Leonard (WILL), Desir (LCB), Quincy Wilson (RCB), Moore II (nickel CB), Hooker (FS) and Geathers (SS).
— The team's first-team dime defense featured: Hunt (LDE), Stewart (NT), Lewis (DT), Muhammad (RDE), Walker (MIKE), Leonard (WILL), Desir (LCB), Nate Hairston (dime DB), Geathers (dime DB), Hooker (S) and Willis (S)
— At the end of practice, the team practiced its two-minute drill. The first-team defense was: Muhammad (LDE), Ward (NT), Lewis (DT), Phillips (RDE), Okereke (MIKE), Leonard (WILL), Rock Ya-Sin (LCB), Wilson (RCB), Moore II (nickel CB), Hooker (S) and Willis (S).
— Also getting first-team reps at various points were defensive tackle Caraun Reid, defensive end Gerri Green and cornerback Jalen Collins.
— There was a lot of red zone work done today, and the Colts' first-team was up to the task. The unit allowed no clear touchdowns, made a few plays at the goal line and even got an interception in the end zone.
— While the teams did 11-on-11 work with the offense lined up at the defense's 10-yard line, quarterback Jacoby Brissett hit Hines on a dump-off to the left side, and Hooker met Hines there instantly. Hooker not only popped his pads onto Hines, but he was able to strip the ball away for an incompletion.
— Still on the defense's 10-yard line, Brissett rolled out to his right, flung a pass into the end zone, but was intercepted by Desir, who jumped in front of the target.
— During the two-minute drill portion of 11-on-11s with one minute remaining, Collins was quick to dislodge the ball from a receiver along the right sideline. Out of clear sight, it was difficult to tell whether it was called incomplete or a fumble. Regardless, the drill continued.
— The defensive tackles came to play today during 11-on-11s. Lined up on the defense's 10-yard line, the offense ran a play where Mack took the handoff to the left side, but Stewart broke through and smothered Mack immediately. Later in live drills, quarterback Chad Kelly rolled out to his left while being feverishly chased down by Lewis. In a live game scenario, Lewis likely would've pushed Kelly out of bounds for a sack or no gain.
— Hairston was one of the league's best slot defenders while blitzing as a rookie in 2017, and he looked great doing it again on Thursday. There was one play where he likely would've sacked quarterback Philip Walker, and he got pressures at least a couple other times. On the day, Hairston got some looks with the first-team dime unit as well as playing outside corner in the nickel.
— The Colts' defensive rookie are really pushing for significant snaps. Okereke, Speed, Willis and Ya-Sin all continue to get some occasional snaps with the first unit, and they don't look bad doing it. Defensive end Ben Banogu fits into this as well, but he was out today. Speed has seen his reps with the first unit at SAM linebacker increase over the last few days, and then he saw action as the WILL with the second and third units.
— It can't be ignored how explosive Okereke looked in the one-on-one pass rushing drills. He showed great upper body strength and overall drive, sometimes overwhelming the competition. We already know he's fast, but pass rushing could be something to keep an eye on as a deciding factor in getting more snaps.
— Throughout the one-on-one reps between the pass catchers and the defensive backs, defensive backs/cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon kept repeating, “Slow it down!” Because the drills were being done in the red zone — with less field to cover behind them — Gannon wanted his guys to remember to slow their footwork down.
(via Jake Arthur/Colts.com)
— Kicker Adam Vinatieri was clutch today (go figure, right?) He started out the regular field goal session going five-of-seven on field goal attempts, connecting from 36, 40, 44, 50 and 53 yards. His misses were from 38 (wide left) and 58 (short, wide left). Later in the two-minute drill, he was as money as ever, hitting kicks from 23 and 51 yards with the clock melting closer to zeros.
— Cole Hedlund did a light version of Vinatieri's workload today, going a perfect three-of-three in the field goal portion (34, 37 and 41 yards), and then nailing it from 33 yards during the two-minute drill.
— Special teams also worked on punts today. Seeing action at gunner were Chris Milton, George Odum, Hairston, Marcus Johnson, Matthias Farley, Ya-Sin, Ashton Dulin, Collins, Krishawn Hogan, Shakial Taylor, Marvell Tell III, Daurice Fountain and Roger Lewis. The punt protectors were Geathers, Willis, Zach Pascal, Hines, Rolan Milligan and Farley, and the returns were Hines, Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal.
— The punt team initially began work backed up in its own terrirtory. This started out with punter Rigoberto Sanchez backed up as far as possible into his own end zone while the rest of the punt team lined up in maximum protection. Afterward, they began migrating upfield while still working in their own territory.
(via Jake Arthur/Colts.com)