INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, wide receiver Parris Campbell and cornerback Xavier Rhodes talked to local reporters today via video conference. What did Buckner have to say about facing double teams? What did Campbell have to say about his strong 2020 debut? And why is Rhodes looking forward to Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings? Here's the latest edition of "Colts Chatter."
Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner
» After making his Colts debut last Sunday, Buckner says it's important for him to remember that he's going to be double teamed, but to take advantage of one-on-one opportunities: Buckner has been one of the league's top interior defenders the last couple seasons, which is why the Colts traded their 2020 first-round (13th-overall) pick to the San Francisco 49ers to acquire him back in March. He made his much-anticipated Colts debut last Sunday in Indy's 2020 season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and finished with six tackles, including one tackle for loss on Jaguars running back James Robinson on the first play of the second half.
Naturally, Buckner faced his share of double teams throughout last Sunday's game. But after watching the film, he said today he came away with the impression that he didn't quite do a good enough job taking advantage of the one-on-one opportunities that came his way at times.
"I just need to go into the game knowing I'm getting the double, but also expecting each one is going to be a one-on-one opportunity," Buckner said. "Being able to go in there and expecting one-on-ones – expecting yourself to get the one-on-one, then it won't be a surprise. I just need to mentally keep that in mind."
» Buckner saw improvement from the defensive line as a whole as the game wore on: The Jaguars had success running the ball in the first half of last Sunday's opener; they had 14 carries for 85 yards — an average of 6.1 yards per attempt — over the first two quarters, with the undrafted rookie Robinson leading the way with 10 carries for 61 yards over that span.
But the Colts' defensive line helped shut that down in the second half, when the Jaguars combined to run the ball nine times for just six combined yards.
The Colts also logged three of their four sacks of quarterback Gardner Minshew II over the final two quarters of the ballgame.
Buckner could sense the defensive line getting stronger as the game wore on, and hopes that trend can continue into Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
"It always takes time working as a unit or rushing as a unit," he said. "It was unfortunate not having the offseason and OTAs to be able to work with one another out there. Obviously, it's still a work in progress with us up front and the chemistry and all that, but I feel like it's coming along. As a unit we had four sacks in the game and I can just see us gelling together even more as the weeks go on and making progressions. It just takes time working together."
Wide receiver Parris Campbell
» Campbell's strong Week 1 performance was "reassurance" that his hard work this offseason is paying off: Expectations were high for Campbell when he was taken in the second round of last year's NFL Draft; his mix of size and speed — he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine — seemed like a perfect fit within head coach Frank Reich's system.
Then the injuries came.
First it was a hamstring during training camp. Then it was an abdominal issue early in the season. Then a broken hand about midway through the season. And, finally, a broken foot would finally end Campbell's year about a week into the month of December.
Campbell worked his tail off to ensure that he'd be 100-percent ready to go for the start of training camp this year, and would end up having a strong performance throughout as he got on the same page with his new quarterback, Philip Rivers. That momentum carried into Sunday''s opener against the Jaguars, as he logged six receptions for a team-high 71 yards, as well as one rushing attempt for nine yards.
Among Campbell's receptions were plays of 21, 18 and 17 yards, respectively.
"I think it was just some reassurance that all the hard work that I put in in the offseason, all the hard work I put in throughout training camp is just starting to pay off," Campbell said. "I just felt confident out there. I felt like myself again out there."
» Campbell chalked up his personal foul penalty last Sunday to a learning experience: Facing 2nd and 5 from the Indianapolis 47-yard line late in the third quarter, Rivers got the ball in Campbell's hands on a little end-around play, and nine yards later he was greeted quite forcefully by Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack along the sideline.
Campbell got up quickly and flexed in Jack's face for about three seconds. But it was enough to warrant an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from the officials, which cost his team 15 precious yards.
The Colts would end up pulling ahead 20-17 on a Rodrigo Blankenship 25-yard field goal a few plays later, but Campbell said he definitely understands why he's got to keep his cool moving forward.
"In that moment, emotions were running high," Campbell said. "That was not a smart thing on my end. I think we all know that, but I'm going to continue to learn as I go. Obviously, you know that is not the type of person I am. My emotions were just running high. So obviously I know that I made a mistake and I have learned from it. I have moved on from it so it's in the past."
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes
» Rhodes is excited to face his former team on Sunday: Rhodes was the Vikings' first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, and he would end up playing the first seven years of his career in Minnesota, earning three Pro Bowl selections, as well as a First-Team All-Pro nod back in 2017.
But back in March, the Vikings unceremoniously cut the veteran cornerback, despite the fact he had signed a reported five-year extension worth $70 million with the team back in 2017.
With a couple of his former Vikings defensive coaches now on their staff in cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon and safeties coach Alan Williams, the Colts were more than happy to sign Rhodes to a reported one-year deal a couple weeks after his release from Minnesota, to give him a chance to get back to that Pro Bowl-level play.
Rhodes hasn't had to wait long to try to exact a little revenge on his former team, however, as the Vikings come to town this Sunday for Indy's 2020 home opener at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"It's all love," Rhodes said. "I was there for seven years. It was a brotherhood when I was there, and it's still a brotherhood to this day. So it's going to be good going against those guys. When I was practicing against those guys when I was there, we were competing each and every play so it's going to be the same right there on the field. But I'm going to be able to tackle them this time."
» Rhodes has learned from a couple mistakes against the Jaguars: Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus told the media today that Rhodes had a nice start to his first game with the Colts last Sunday against the Jaguars, but he was sure there were a couple key plays he wished he could have back.
In the third quarter, Minshew II launched a pass deep down the left sideline to his Pro Bowl receiver, DJ Chark Jr., who was locked into one-on-one coverage with Rhodes, who admittedly got a little grabby to try to force the incompletion. Rhodes was called for pass interference, which moved the Jacksonville offense up 30 yards to the Indianapolis 34-yard line, and the Jaguars would tie the game at 17 a few plays later with a Josh Lambo 50-yard field goal.
"They had a good play," Rhodes said. "The PI (pass interference) was more I was thinking back shoulder. I didn't see it so I looked the other way. It was a 50-50 call with those calls. The ref is going to call that on the defensive player almost always."
Then, in the fourth quarter and the Colts back on top, 20-17, the Jaguars faced 1st and 10 from the Indianapolis 22. Minshew II found a wide-open Keelan Cole down the right side of the field for a 22-yard touchdown; it was Rhodes that was supposed to be providing the man-to-man coverage on this particular play.
"(It) was just a good scheme, good play by them – by the Jaguars," Rhodes said. "They just capitalized on a mistake that was made."