INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich today spoke to reporters via video conference call about a variety of topics. What were the top takeaways from the session about defensive end Kemoko Turay, offensive line depth, wide receiver Parris Campbell's role and more?
You catch that entire session above, but here are the top takeaways:
» Reich and the Colts are excited about the return of Kemoko Turay: Turay was off to a tremendous start to his second NFL season last year when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs. At the time, Turay had collected five tackles with 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and five quarterback hits, but below the surface he was winning a large percentage of his pass-rush reps and seemingly was on the brink of a potentially huge year.
In fact, at the time Turay went down, he was tied with T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the best Pro Football Focus grade among any edge defender in the NFL (91.3), and his pass-rush grade of 91.0 trailed only Watt and the Cleveland Browns' Myles Garrett.
Turay has recovered well from his ankle surgery and has continued working off to the side with Colts great pass rusher Robert Mathis, hoping to pick up where he left off last season heading into 2020.
Reich said Turay has the traits of all the great pass rushers — quickness, get-off and instincts — but what Turay does that could help make him elite is his bend coming off the edge.
"All of these guys can bend, right? All of these pass-rushers at this level can bend, but there is that extra 10 percent of bend, and Kemoko has that," Reich said. "It is just a God-given ability that you can go fast, bend and not lose speed."
That bend, coupled with Turay's length, is a "dangerous combination," Reich said.
"Now, he's had a couple bad breaks on injuries, but that was a big loss last year," Reich continued. "We are really excited. He's been working really hard to get ready physically and mentally. With the addition of DeForest (Buckner) and of course Justin (Houston) coming of a great year, we feel really good about our up-front unit on defense."
» The Colts will continue to develop, as well as "keep our eyes open," when it comes to offensive line depth: The Colts last season had the same five offensive linemen start all 16 games, a rare feat in the league nowadays. So while depth up front was never really an issue in 2019 in Indy, the team still knows how important it is to have capable backups ready to go at a moment's notice.
This offseason, the Colts saw top backup tackle Joe Haeg — who can also play guard and center — as well as backup center/guard Josh Andrew sign free agent deals with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets, respectively. Indy did re-sign tackle Le'Raven Clark and took Ball State guard Danny Pinter in the fifth round of this year's NFL Draft, so while the Colts did make some moves to address its offensive line depth this offseason, Reich acknowledged today he'll continue keeping an eye on those spots.
"I really am hopeful that we can go again with our same five starters playing every snap. I don't know how realistic that is," Reich said. "I don't want to say (offensive line depth is) a concern; it's always a priority."
Beyond Clark and Pinter, Reich mentioned guard Jake Eldrenkamp — who spent a majority of the 2019 season on the team's practice squad — as someone who "adds good depth for us inside." Others battling for backup spots on the team's 90-man roster include center Javon Patterson, guard Chaz Green and tackles Andrew Donnal, Brandon Hitner, Cedrick Lang, Carter O'Donnell and Travis Vornkahl.
Of that group, Donnal (six years), Green (four years) and and Lang (two years) provide the most NFL experience.
"We'll always have our eyes open, always continuing to build," Reich said.
» Reich is "super pumped" about Parris Campbell entering Year 2 in 2020: The speedy Campbell, a second-round pick in last year's NFL Draft, was supposed to bring that "take-the-top-off-the-defense" element to the Colts' offense as a rookie last season, but would battle through several injuries before finally landing on injured reserve on Dec. 9.
In all, Campbell played in seven games his first NFL season, hauling in 18 receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown, while also logging four rushing attempts for 34 yards and seven kickoff returns for 175 yards (25.0 avg.).
But Reich has remained in constant contact with Campbell over the last few months, knowing that, yes, the Ohio State product had a frustrating rookie year, but that he's still being counted on to bounce back in a big way in Year 2 in 2020.
"I'll just say at the outset I'm super pumped about Parris — where the upside is," Reich said. "I'm proud of the way Parris has been handling the offseason. He's been doing everything possible. I mean he's working out hard. I'm staying very much in touch with him, with the trainers, what he's doing and just watching that whole process unfold. He's really determined."
Reich said he envisions Campbell primarily playing the role of slot receiver in this Colts offense, but, like the rest of the wide receivers, he'll be expected to be able to move around in various formations.
The key, of course, is to stay healthy and available for practices and games. But Reich is confident that Campbell will be making big plays soon.
"It wasn't just that he missed games, he missed the offseason. He missed most of the offseason. We didn't get to see him a ton in the offseason (last year)," Reich said. " But of course, we've all been around enough that I see things in Parris. I see really good wide receivers skills. Obviously, we all see the speed, but I think he has deceptive power and I really think he has the footwork where he can play inside or out.
"Super excited about Parris and just need to get him on the field so he can develop more as a route runner," Reich continued.
» The Colts' staff is focused on keeping things fresh as the virtual offseason workout program continues on: The Colts have been conducting their "virtual offseason workout program" now for more than a month, and Reich, as well as his coordinators and players, have all talked about how smoothly things have gone considering the circumstances.
For the first three weeks of the program, the veterans spent four days a week in team sessions — half of which were spent in virtual meetings, the other half spent conducting workouts of some sort. Now that the rookies and vets are officially all together, the team has entered a new phase of three days a week of virtual sessions.
Reich said he challenges his coordinators weekly to stay on top of creative ways to keep the virtual sessions engaging for the players. The Colts have had various speakers — from Doc Rivers, to Ray Allen, to Peyton Manning — talk to the team over the last few weeks, but it's also been as simple as incorporating games into the meetings.
"One day we were on there with the rookies playing Tic-Tac-Toe just for fun. Putting two guys against each other and doing it where you have to play fast — take five minutes or seven minutes and just play a game," Reich said. "Last week I think Nick (Sirianni) with the offense picked a couple teams and was fooling around and was playing Pictionary. They're playing Pictionary just for five minutes, just did a little ice breaker (to) just keep it fun, keep it light."
But the Colts are also getting a ton of solid work in to prepare for the 2020 season the best way they can.
"We know when it's time to work, we get after it," Reich said.
» And, yes, Reich was sure to catch "The Match" on Sunday: Peyton Manning pairing up with Tiger Woods against Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson in a round of golf? That's right down just about any sports fan's alley, so you bet Reich was sure to catch "The Match: Champions for Charity" on Sunday.
Manning/Woods, of course, defeated Brady/Mickelson, 1-up, in an event that raised a whopping $20 million for coronavirus relief efforts.
As a former NFL quarterback who golfs on occasion, Reich was happy to see Manning and Brady show off their skills on the course.
"That was fun, I've got to say. We watched pretty much "The Match" from start to finish. I found myself captivated by it," Reich said. "I had a lot of fun watching it with my family and rooting Peyton on. I was impressed with his game.
"I mean those are tough conditions, right? I mean the rain was brutal and I thought Peyton did great. His iron play was great – that shot on 16 and on 18, those were clutch shots when "The Match" was on the line," Reich continued. "I was equally impressed with Tom Brady. His swing – I know it got off to a little bit of a rough start, but it was just fun watching those guys play. (It's) always fun watching Tiger and Phil play. But I thought quarterbacks represented themselves well and glad that Peyton and Tiger won."