INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts held their third straight fully-padded practice today at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center before the players get a day off on Thursday to recharge their batteries. What were some of the top takeaways from the day?
» Among those returning to practice Wednesday were: defensive end Justin Houston, who had missed a couple days with a strained neck; cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who stayed home Tuesday due to an illness; and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Trey Burton, who both had maintenance/rest days on Tuesday.
» Among those who did not participate in Wednesday's practice: cornerback Kenny Moore II (groin), cornerback Isaiah Rodgers (unknown), tight end Xavier Grimble (unknown), guard Chaz Green (unknown), tackle Braden Smith (foot), tackle Brandon Hitner (unknown), wide receiver Marcus Johnson (unknown), tight end Jack Doyle (unknown), defensive tackle Sheldon Day (knee) and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (unknown).
» Head coach Frank Reich said Day, who is yet to participate in camp practices, has been battling a knee injury. "It's going to take a little bit, but he's progressing nicely," Reich said.
» Buckner being out Wednesday created added opportunities for defensive tackle Tyquan Lewis, who put in another solid day of work. Lewis, a second-round pick out of Ohio State in the 2018 NFL Draft, has battled through a couple injuries his first two years in the league, but said he spent this offseason not only focusing on his physical health, but on his mental wellbeing, too. Early on it definitely seems to be making a difference.
» With Buckner out Wednesday, that created a little bit more moving and shaking beyond the likes of Lewis. Rookie Rob Windsor, for example, was seen getting reps at the three-tech spot after being more utilized in the one-tech position the first few days of camp practice.
» Al-Quadin Muhammad also had some increased reps off the edge with Houston being used in more of a limited role throughout the day. Muhammad, who has accumulated 56 tackles (13 for a loss) with three sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one pass defensed and 11 quarterback hits the past two seasons with the Colts, has been a key piece of depth behind former starter Jabaal Sheard, and now has a shot at competing for that starting spot opposite Houston.
» With Doyle out Wednesday, and with Mo Alie-Cox still on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, Ian Bunting was getting some added reps with the offense. The 6-foot-7, 255-pound Bunting, a Michigan and Cal product, was originally signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent back in May 2019, and was signed to the Colts' practice squad last October.
» More evidence of the growing rapport between quarterback Philip Rivers and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton: the two connected on a nice little back-shoulder play along the left sideline in which Rivers had to fire off the pass a decent amount of time before Hilton had the chance to turn around. The throw was right where it needed to be, however, and Hilton, who had a quick bobble, hauled it in and kept his feet in-bounds.
» Wide receiver Chad Williams got into the mix quite a bit on Wednesday, making several nice chunk plays. The third-year Grambling State product was a third-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2017 NFL Draft and has 20 receptions for 202 yards and a touchdown, as well as three rushing attempts for 42 yards, to his credit, and is in the mix at wide receiver.
» Safety George Odum had the highlight of the day for the defense late in practice, when he picked off a deep Rivers pass attempt intended for the speedy Parris Campbell. Odum was with Campbell the whole way and made a nice play to hop in the air and come down with the pick. The third-year safety saw his role grow considerably last year, and has a chance to continue to show off his versatility both in the secondary and in the box, as well as on special teams, heading into 2020.
» Sometimes you have to tell yourself not to take for granted the chance you're getting to watch excellence on a daily basis. The Colts' top two draft picks from 2018, left guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard, are both off to historic starts to their respective careers, but it's no surprise when you watch these guys work in practice. Leonard, for example, sniffed out a reverse play for a huge loss in the backfield late in Wednesday's practice, using his elite instincts and quickness to track down the ballcarrier. You can just add it to the long list of great plays Leonard has made in his first two-plus years in the NFL, but it's still a pleasure to watch these guys go to work.
» Here's our pass catchers/defensive backs 1-on-1s report, with a win for one side being a catch and a win for the other side producing any other result: the cornerbacks and safeties came out on top of this one, 13-9. One major difference in this year's camp practices compared to years prior: the lack of on-field officials. So it's up to cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon and safeties coach Alan Williams to make sure their guys aren't getting too grabby at times.
» Rivers got especially amped up for a one-on-one rep won by rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who was able to get the best of cornerback Travis Reed on a little jump ball-type route. "There you go! There you go!" Rivers shouted. The veteran quarterback talked today about how impressed he's been with the rookies, especially, because of the lack of on-field work they've had with the team to this point due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the case of Pittman Jr., while there's going to be "bumps in the road" with any rookie wide receiver, Rivers said he's noticed his game start to elevate especially the last couple of days.
» If you get out to practice early enough, you'll see some of the players getting in some extra work with their respective position coaches. E.J. Speed is constantly working with linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi, while some of the younger safeties are getting extra time with Williams. This time is critical not only because it reinforces certain teaching points and makes practices smoother, but with everybody's time — from the players to the coaches — so regimented and limited, especially during training camp, this is a rare opportunity for quality one-on-one time.
» After four straight days of practices, the last three of which in pads, the Colts players are getting a well-deserved day off on Thursday before getting back after it with four more days of practices Friday through Monday; that Monday practice, by the way, is the first of two team sessions that are being held at Lucas Oil Stadium (the other being Saturday, Aug. 29). Those practices are closed to the public.