INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich today spoke to the media via video conference. What's the latest on the depth at offensive tackle, why Mo Alie-Cox is a key piece to the offense, the plan for an intense practice Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium and more?
You can check out that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» The team is still weighing its options with its depth at offensive tackle: The Colts have one of the best offensive line units in the entire NFL, and, accordingly, are in terrific shape off the edge with left tackle Anthony Castonzo and right tackle Braden Smith, who made his training camp debut today after working his way back from a foot injury.
But one of the major storylines heading into the start of camp was which players would step up to form the depth up front, particularly at tackle? The team this offseason lost its top swing tackle, Joe Haeg, to free agency, so who is going to step into that role?
Those questions still remain to be answered, Reich said today. While veteran Le'Raven Clark was mostly utilized in Smith's place at right tackle during his absence, there remains several other players in the running for the backup tackle jobs, including veteran Chaz Green, who is yet to participate in practice as he deals with an injury, as well as Brandon Hitner and undrafted rookie Carter O'Donnell.
"Le'Raven (Clark) has gotten a lot of work. Carter O'Donnell has been slowly developing. Brandon Hitner is slowly developing. Chaz (Green) is getting better, and we think Chaz has some ability as well," Reich said. "Those are important questions that need to be answered. Those questions aren't answered at this point, but that is a real competitive battle there – just see who the next two tackles are going to be. So (it's) an ongoing battle to be updated later."
» Getting tight end Mo Alie-Cox back in the fold will be key: The Colts have been hit with an early injury bug at the tight end position to this point in camp; starter Jack Doyle (neck) and Xavier Grimble (unknown) have sat out the last few days with injuries, Ian Bunting was just waived with an injury designation and Trey Burton will get occasional rest/maintenance days as needed, as he did on Sunday.
The team is also awaiting the opportunity to bring Andrew Vollert, whom the Colts claimed off waivers on Friday, into the fold; he's expected to be brought off the exempt list on Monday.
So on Sunday the Colts had just two tight ends — Alie-Cox and undrafted rookie Farrod Green — available to them on the practice field. Alie-Cox, himself, is just a few days removed from returning to the practice field after beginning training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
Reich was especially happy to see big No. 81 back on the practice field, however. The 6-foot-5, 267-pound Alie-Cox, who will be entering his third season on the Colts' active roster after making the transition from exclusively playing college basketball at VCU, presents all kinds of options when he's on the field, his head coach said today.
"This guy is so instrumental on our team. I see Mo as a very important part of our roster whether he plays 10 plays in the game or 30 plays in the game," Reich said. "I think that Mo has always been that big, physical guy so his blocking has always been good, but it's just gotten better. He's a dominating, physical presence on the football field and there's something to be said for that. You feel Mo when he's on the field and he makes a big impact for us."
Reich said that Alie-Cox has drastically improved his route-running abilities the last couple of years, and feels "there is a lot of upside for Mo."
"I think he's just getting started," Reich added.
» Monday's practice at Lucas Oil Stadium will be intense — and quite loud at times: After five straight practice sessions in full pads, the Colts on Sunday held a lighter, quicker practice session, with the players in helmets and shells. Reich said that was done by design to help the guys get their bodies ready for what he's anticipating is an extremely physical practice Monday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With no preseason games this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colts this week are holding two closed-to-the-public practices at their home stadium; it was important to Reich to try to hammer home that gameday feeling before the regular season begins.
While there won't be any "live" periods at Monday's practice with actual tackling, Reich has said he anticipates a few "aggressive thud" scenarios playing out, which is designed to be a little bit more physical than the team's other previous fully-padded practices.
"We're really going to treat that like it's a game," Reich said. "We'll get good work. It will be our longest – I would anticipate our most intense and hardest practice. So, looking forward to that."
Another theme for these camp practices at Lucas Oil Stadium this week will be the team piping in league-approved crowd noise, which could be in use at stadiums with empty and/or small-capacity crowds across the NFL (the Colts currently are anticipating having no more than 25-percent capacity at home games in 2020).
"The league rule I think is 80 decibels. So we will be piping 80 decibels into the stadium, and we'll play there," Reich said. "There is the factor though as well, what is it going to feel like? That's the other reason why I think it's important to go down to the stadium. We'll be down there tomorrow and there will be no fans in the stands. That will be a good experience just to feel that. Then when we get there later in the week, there will be a few bodies up there but we have to be able to focus in and adapt to those changing circumstances."