INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich today spoke to local reporters via video conference. What's the latest on injuries to starters Braden Smith and Jack Doyle, how the team has been able to evaluate rookie quarterback Jacob Eason, getting ready for the physicality of the season and more?
You can watch Reich's entire session above, but here are some key takeaways:
» Reich had updates on injured starters Braden Smith and Jack Doyle: Smith (foot) is yet to participate in any training camp practices, while Doyle (neck) has been out the last three days.
When it comes to Smith, the Colts' starting right tackle, Reich thinks he's "close" to returning to the practice field; it's mostly been Le'Raven Clark getting the reps in Smith's place up front these last few days.
"I mean, he's feeling pretty good right now," Reich said of Smith. "We're being pretty, pretty cautious with him, but I think he's real close."
Doyle, meanwhile, is "fine," Reich said, and because he's "an incredibly valuable piece to our offense," the team is also taking a cautious approach.
"With a neck injury, you just don't want to mess with a neck injury," Reich said. "So we're gonna take it slow with Jack, and Jack's the kind of pro that even though it's vital to get reps, we know he can handle it. He's getting good mental reps, studying the film, being out there taking everything in. It's a good chance for the other guys to get reps as well.
"So Jack will be fine," Reich continued. "We just need him to physically recover, and we want to give him a little cushion in that time to make sure he's completely healthy."
The Colts were down to three tight ends during Saturday's practice: Trey Burton, Farrod Green and Mo Alie-Cox, who is still working his way back to more of a full load after returning from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Friday. Also joining Doyle on the injury list Saturday were fellow tight ends Xavier Grimble and Ian Bunting.
Tight end Andrew Vollert, claimed off waivers by the Colts on Friday, is on the exempt list until Monday.
» Walkthroughs have been key in Jacob Eason's evaluation: The Colts used a fourth-round pick this year on quarterback Jacob Eason, knowing he'd immediately be placed into a competition with Chad Kelly for the No. 3 job.
Both Eason and Kelly have been seen alternating snaps guiding the third offense throughout the first week or so of camp, but, as is the norm, most of the practice reps are being given to starter Philip Rivers and No. 2 quarterback Jacoby Brissett, with Eason and Kelly sprinkled in here and there.
Without consistent practice reps, it might be hard for some to understand how a team can fully evaluate a rookie quarterback. But, as Reich explained today, there are several other ways to learn and develop at the position if you aren't the starter or the backup.
"We're trying to get a lot of other work with the walkthroughs," Reich said. "In the walkthroughs, even though they're not full speed, you still can evaluate mentally. Where his eyes are going, is he making the right protection call? Are we making the right run checks? Are we able to identify what the defense is doing? Talk him through that stuff, and that's where these days in the NFL with limited roster size, you have to be able to maximize everything you can get out of a walkthrough. We've created opportunities to get extra walkthrough time with those guys, in particular so that the quarterbacks can get those reps."
Reich also said the coaches break down the quarterbacks' individual drill work.
"(Eason's) doing a good job," Reich said. "He's done a good job in the meetings. I feel like he's picking it up mentally."
» The Colts plan on picking up the physicality in Monday's first practice at Lucas Oil Stadium: One of the unique challenges facing head coaches this training camp is striking that balance between trying to get your team ready from a physicality standpoint, but also making sure you're not overdoing it.
With no preseason games this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Reich headed into camp hoping to have at least a couple "live" periods — with actual tackling — over the team's 11 scheduled fully-padded practice days.
While that's still a possibility, there are other teams taking the "better safe than sorry" approach by completely eliminating live hitting periods altogether.
With the Colts holding their first of two training camp practice sessions at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday, Reich said he wants to see his team take it up a notch physically, but not quite get to full-on tackling.
"Right now, the plan is to have a couple of the periods down at Lucas Oil (Stadium) on Monday not be live, but to be even more aggressive – an aggressive thud," Reich said. "Right now, we're more or less just tagging off on the ball carrier a little bit. There's a step in between being live and what you're seeing out here now, and that's just to have more of an aggressive thud. We've talked about this as a staff and rather than taking that final step and making it live, just having a few periods where we focus a little more on, 'Hey, we're going to finish these plays with an aggressive thud on the ball carrier.' We'll selectively continue to pick out those periods."