1. Matt Ryan found a groove on and off the field.
Back in March, I had an opportunity to sit down with Matt Ryan for an interview late in the afternoon of his first day in Indianapolis. He, his wife and his twin boys were wrapping up an all-day visit of the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center after flying in from Atlanta that morning.
Ryan sat down on our radio studio, and voice of the Colts Matt Taylor made a comment – something to the effect of "we'll get you out of here quickly, I know it's been a long day."
Ryan looked at us, grinning from ear to ear, and said: "Long day? It's been a great day."
Ryan kept that same energy over the last few months as he acclimated himself to a new team for the first time since 2008, when the Atlanta Falcons drafted him third overall out of Boston College. The 37-year-old quarterback put in countless hours of work on the field and in meetings as he began to build his knowledge of the Colts' scheme, his new teammates and how he could fit in all that.
And from the start of Phase 1 through last week's veteran minicamp, there's been a strong undercurrent of optimism around 56th Street for what Ryan and the Colts' offense can accomplish this fall.
"Matt was unbelievable," head coach Frank Reich said. "Did a great job, great command. Really A to Z, he did everything right. Great leadership, great play. The whole way he took command, great collaborating as an offensive staff with him to work in and nuance some of the things we do to kind of suit him in his style and get to learn a few things about him and pick his brain about things he did and what are the favorite things he did in Atlanta and see if we can incorporate a few of those things that fit with us."
2. Ryan's experience has been – and will be – key for the Colts' young pass-catchers.
There are two key quotes here about Ryan.
First, Frank Reich from the first week of the offseason program in April: "He just has a fresh perspective and when we talked about the parts of the offense, I'm excited for how he's going to help those young receivers. Every quarterback is an extended wide receiver coach. They have to be. They work with the receivers, their impact on the receivers is felt and I just think Matt has a particularly good perspective and a good way about him the way he's going to connect with those young receivers to help them take the next step."
Second, Alec Pierce from the last week of the offseason program in June: "He's a tremendous leader, he's a really good guy — he knows a lot about receivers just from playing quarterback so long. He knows what we have to do, whether it be spacing-wise, holding the line, where we gotta be. He helps us out and coaches us up on receiver stuff too."
Ryan has played in 222 games over his 14-year career; combined, the wide receivers and tight ends on the Colts' roster have played in 202 games. So as the Colts got their young, talented pass-catchers acclimated to Ryan over the last few months, he played a critical role in laying their foundation for training camp next month.
Check out highlights from the Colts 'Moving Mountains' team bonding exercise.
3. Nyheim Hines is in line for a key role in 2022.
You, the smart Colts fan reading this, probably though you could sneak Nyheim Hines on to your fantasy football roster with a late-round draft pick later this year.
Then Reich went and blew up your spot.
"If I was a fantasy owner, if I was going to be in a fantasy league, I think I'd pick Nyheim this year," Reich laughed. "I think I'd consider drafting Nyheim."
Reich went on to explain that his offense – especially with Ryan operating it – will not be predicated on forcing throws to a specific player. It's built on a quarterback going through his progressions and finding whoever's open. But with Hines getting a good amount of on-field work in the slot during OTAs and minicamp, and the after-the-catch playmaking he's shown in over his four-year career, Reich also added this:
"It's incumbent upon us to spread the ball around, number one, but also, hey, would we like to have Nyheim be up there as far as at the end of the season when you tally up who has the catches, do we want Nyheim to kind of be one of those top three guys? Probably, yeah."
4. Frank Reich and Marcus Brady will have plenty of options and versatility for how they'll scheme their 2022 offense.
Hines is not the only player the Colts will be able to use to change the math for an opposing defense.
For one: Reich and Brady have some intriguing things to figure out at tight end with Jelani Woods and Drew Ogletree joining that group via the draft. Can the Colts' still use a heavy version of 12 personnel (one RB, two TEs, two WRs) like they did last year with Mo Alie-Cox and Jack Doyle dominating as run blockers? Will Kylen Granson – a player in which the Colts have plenty of confidence – get more run as a pass-catching threat, leading the offense to be less run-oriented out of 12 personnel? Will Woods and/or Ogletree make immediate impacts as run blockers and/or pass-catchers?
Those are some of the questions the Colts started to answer during OTAs and minicamp. And it's why the last few weeks of work were so important – the Colts won't go into training camp needing to sort out which questions need to be answered.
"It's amazing that you can play a season without doing this," Reich said. "So many details are covered. You have a chance – we were talking about those apps and developing a program, you work out bugs and kinks before you get into camp. Especially a new defensive system, new quarterback – have a chance to get through different iterations of things was very helpful."
5. Parris Campbell is on a mission in 2022.
Back in March, before free agency and long before the draft, general manager Chris Ballard was rattling off his thoughts on the state of the Colts' wide receiver room while addressing a crowd at the NFL Combine.
"I'm not quitting on Parris Campbell," Ballard said. "Does it mean we're going to sit here and count on him to be our two or three right away? No, we will add competition to the position. But Parris Campbell is still a very talented guy. Unfortunate for the injury part of it, but the flashes have been really good with Parris. So hopefully we'll see it come to fruition. I mean the guy has worked and done everything he can do. He's just had some bad luck."
Campbell flashed during OTAs and minicamp, and hardly looked like a player held back by the brutal injury luck of his first three years in the NFL. That goes for the physical side of things – but also the mental side, too.
"From the outside looking in, people say, 'Oh, he can't stay healthy.' Excuse my language, but to hell with that," Campbell said. "I know who I am at the end of the day, I know what type of player I am. I know why I was drafted here, and the staff, they know. They know I've been through a lot, but they know the type of player I am as well.
"So, just when it all comes together, people on the outside stay on the outside."