INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts got back to team drills in Sunday's practice at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, with both the offense and the defense logging some notable plays prior to Monday's start of padded practices. What were some top takeaways from the day?
» Sunday's practice on a partly-cloudy, windy day in Indy was a lot like Friday's; there was extensive 11-on-11 work between the offense and defense, some 7-on-7s and special teams work in there, too.
» There was a clear theme throughout the first-team work on Sunday: Philip Rivers to T.Y. Hilton. The two veterans connected on several pass plays throughout the session all around the field. This work is critical for the Colts' top wide receiver, who missed the first few days of on-field drills and practices as he worked his way back from a minor hamstring issue that put him on the Non-Football Injury list at the start of camp. Hilton's rapport with his new QB certainly seems to be growing.
» Clear evidence of Hilton and Rivers' growth came early in the 11-on-11 period, as Hilton broke wide open on one of his vintage corner routes, and Rivers delivered the ball right on the money for what would've likely been a gain of 25 or 30 yards. This is the exact play that Hilton and Andrew Luck had gotten so good at to get yards in large chunks; if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
» Rivers got really fired up on the very next play, as the offense perfectly executed a screen pass to running back Nyheim Hines, who got one final block from wide receiver Parris Campbell down the field to break free for what would've been a huge gain.
» This just bears repeating, pretty much every training camp: Hilton is so good at finding and exploiting the soft zones of the defense for easy gains of 20 yards or more. He's a very instinctual route runner, and has his own unique ways of beating man or zone coverage. While he still has that elite speed to break things open over the top, perhaps this is the area of Hilton's game that has evolved the most over the years, and explains why he's seemingly gotten better and better in the red zone, for example; last year, before he got hurt, he was leading the NFL with five red zone touchdown receptions.
» DeForest Buckner Alert: the star Colts defensive tackle made his first major impact play of camp practice so far when he bullied his way through up front and knocked a Rivers pass attempt up in the air; the ball landed right in the waiting hands of newly-acquired safety Tavon Wilson, who likely would've had a clear path to the end zone for a pick-six.
» Sticking with the defense, Al-Quadin Muhammad showed his quick burst off the edge on one play in particular, "sacking" quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who barely had time to get through his drop before the defender was in his face. Tyquan Lewis also was in the immediate area after breaking through from the interior.
» Muhammad continued his strong day a few plays later, as he logged a heads-up fumble recovery on a botched pitch play from quarterback Chad Kelly to running back Bruce Anderson III.
» We’ve heard the story about Isaiah Rodgers and how he clocked his 4.28-second 40-yard dash against all odds this offseason, but it's something else to see that speed up close and personal in a practice setting. Rodgers took one kickoff return down the right sideline and seemingly out of nowhere turned on the jets and was gone; it's hard to get an accurate gauge how big of a return it would've been in a real game, but this kid's speed is for real.
» Stewart has a motor that just doesn't quit. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Albany State product has made major improvements through his first three years in the league as a defensive tackle, but sometimes pure hustle can get you far, as well. He is constantly down the field around the ball with the linebackers and secondary at the end of plays, and then he jogs back to the defensive line and does it again and again. Eberflus probably isn't handing out many "loafs" to big No. 90.
» It's time for some real football now. The Colts on Monday are scheduled to have their first fully-padded practice of camp; all teams can have as many as 14 fully-padded practices before the start of the regular season, which will serve as viable alternate opportunities for the four canceled preseason games.