INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus today spoke to reporters via video conference. What is the latest on returning rookie safety Julian Blackmon's potential role, how difficult roster cutdown day will be this week, defensive end Kemoko Turay's rehab process and more?
You can check out that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Now that he's practicing with the team, the Colts will work on finding a role for Julian Blackmon: The Colts on Monday removed rookie safety Julian Blackmon from the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list, allowing him to practice with the team for the first time after working his way back from December knee surgery.
Blackmon, of course, is on a pitch count for now when it comes to his practice reps, but Eberflus knows eventually the third-round pick, who played both safety and cornerback at Utah, could become an extremely versatile piece within his defense.
For now, however, the task is simple: get Blackmon used to playing one spot — he is primarily expected to be more of a free safety early on — and see how he progresses before exploring other roles moving forward.
"Typically what we'll do is we'll get him solidified in a spot so he feels comfortable and then, as we do, we'll look at his abilities — one-on-one, his range, blitzing ability," Eberflus said. "We'll kind of get a feel for that as we go."
Eberflus said this much is clear already about Blackmon, however: "He's a talented player who has functional intelligence and is picking up the schemes well."
"His movement skills are exactly what we thought, functional intelligence is super high, has character through the roof, as well," Eberflus said. "He has everything we look for here with the Colts."
» Roster cuts on the defensive side of the ball will be especially difficult this year: Ask any NFL coach and they'll tell you the toughest part of the year is roster cutdown day. After working all offseason with expanded rosters and having 80 to 90 guys at a time competing their tails off for jobs, all of a sudden it's the end of the road for almost 40 percent of those players, some — but not all — of whom could remain in the mix down the road.
But the fact is that some roster cutdown days are harder than others, and Eberflus said that's definitely the case this year, just due to the pure amount of talent and depth at every defensive position heading into Saturday's cuts.
"This is always a tough week for us because we have to make some tough decisions, and we know that with the guys we have, we have a more experienced roster now," Eberflus said. "It's a little bit more difficult this year because we have guys with more playing time and more experience, and guys we also brought in are good prospects, as well."
While final roster decisions are made by general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich, Eberflus definitely feels his voice is heard throughout the process.
"That's set up from the top with Mr. Irsay all the way down — that communication, and everybody's voice is heard," Eberflus said. "That's made known from the beginning. … There should be no filter on your input; you should be able to speak your voice and you should be able to know that your opinion does matter."
» Eberflus is "excited" about where Kemoko Turay is at in his rehab work: Turay suffered an unfortunate season-ending ankle injury in the Colts' Week 5 victory last year over the Kansas City Chiefs, putting him just less than 11 months post-surgery.
At the time, Turay was ascending in his role as a situational pass rusher; he had five tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, five quarterback hits and eight hurries, and after Week 5 he was tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers' T.J. Watt as Pro Football Focus' highest-graded edge defender, while his 91.0 pass-rush grade trailed only Watt and the Cleveland Browns' Myles Garrett.
Turay was placed on the Colts' Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to begin training camp, and is yet to make his 2020 practice debut. If he were to remain on the PUP list at the start of the regular season, he'd have to sit out at least the first six games.
But whenever Turay is cleared to return, Eberflus is excited about what he can bring to an improved Colts defensive line unit. Turay, like any other player, will have to earn his spot, but his pass-rush skills and upside are hard to ignore.
"We're excited about where he is in his rehab and to get him back and what he's capable of doing," Eberflus said. "We're certainly excited to see that again."