WESTFIELD, Ind. – The Colts held a non-padded practice Tuesday at Grand Park, the team's last practice before players get to square off against the Detroit Lions Wednesday and Thursday here in Westfield.
Those joint practices are usually some of the most intense and competitive of training camp – and are where some of the best work of the preseason can be accomplished.
"Joint practice is always my favorite part of training camp just because I feel like it's really the only time you get to hone your skills against somebody outside of the building," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "It's a little different when you're going against (Jonathan Taylor), Nyheim (Hines) — obviously we push each other all year but those are your guys, so you want to take care of them to an extent. These other guys, I don't care, so you really get better."
This'll be the ninth time the Colts have held joint practices, with previous opponents the Panthers (2021), Browns (2019), Ravens (2018), Lions (2017), Bears (2016), Titans (2000) and Rams (1997, 1999).
From one-on-one reps to 11-on-11 work, there will be plenty of opportunities for the Colts to get better over the next few days.
"You want to build your confidence in practice through – you're getting those one-on-one periods, you're getting team periods and you want to build off of the successes that you have," head coach Frank Reich said. "You also, we talk about this a lot – in those periods, you want to be able to experiment with things, use the techniques that we're teaching them but also try a few different change-up moves that are necessary over the course of a year. So, the more reps we can get the better. The more quality reps, and this week will provide a lot of quality reps."
The Colts will do some – but not a lot – of preparation for the Lions just to get their players an idea of their opponents in Honolulu blue. And while the Lions were a three-win team in 2021, their roster has quite a bit of talent – defensive end Aiden Hutchinson (the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft), wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (90 catches as a rookie), right tackle Penei Sewell (the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft), left guard Jonah Jackson (a 2022 Pro Bowler), tight end T.J. Hockenson (a 2021 Pro Bowler) and veteran safety Tracy Walker (105 tackles in 2021), just to name a few.
"They're going to create adverse situations," Franklin said. "And coach (Gus) Bradley talks a lot about how those types of times really help us jell and build confidence as a team, so the faster we get put to the fire the faster we can mold our defense into what we want it to be."
Other news, notes and observations from Tuesday's practice:
- Wide receiver Mike Strachan, who was activated from the PUP list Monday, participated in his first practice of training camp. The 2021 seventh-round pick had a procedure on his knee after suffering a meniscus tear during the Colts' offseason program. "No restrictions, it feels great," Strachan said. "Running routes, planting, coming out of routes felt great."
- Quarterback Matt Ryan found running back Nyheim Hines for a chunk gain down the sideline early in 11-on-11 work; later in practice, he hit Hines in stride on a deep ball for a touchdown.
- Ryan also connected with wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. on a deep ball down the sideline.
- The Colts' secondary had a couple of spectacular plays, too. Cornerback Kenny Moore II tipped a Ryan pass that safety Julian Blackmon intercepted; safety Nick Cross flashed his speed in making up plenty of ground to deflect a Ryan deep ball.
- Moore also had a physical pass break-up earlier in practice.
- Defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage for a pass break-up.
- Defensive tackle Grover Stewart crashed into the backfield and blew up a running play late in practice.
- Reminder: Following these joint practices, the Colts will not play their starters in Saturday's preseason game against the Lions.