INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts today officially began on-field preparations for Sunday's season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. What were some of the top takeaways on the day? Here's today's Colts Notebook.
Here is today's injury report, the first of the season for the Colts:
The Colts came out of training camp relatively healthy, but there were some eyebrows raised when starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who was signed to a two-year contract extension earlier this year, sat out practice on Friday with an oblique injury.
The Jaguars, after all, might officially be without Yannick Ngakoue, who was recently traded to the Minnesota Vikings, but they still have some very talented, young edge rushers — guys like Josh Allen, who had a team-best 10.5 sacks last year, including 1.5 against the Colts, and 2020 first round pick K'Lavon Chaisson out of LSU.
But trusty No. 74 was back out on the practice field for the Colts on Wednesday as they put in their initial on-field preparations for Sunday's season opener at TIAA Bank Field; he was officially listed as limited.
Castonzo, 32, is coming off the best season of his career. Selected as a Pro Bowl alternate for the first time, he played in all 16 games and was ranked by Pro Football Focus at the ninth highest-graded offensive lineman — and second highest-graded left tackle — in the NFL (81.3).
More specifically, Castonzo pulled in the sixth-best grade among tackles in pass blocking 84.4 after finishing as one of just 12 tackles to allow three or fewer sacks and one of 19 to allow 34 or fewer total pressures on the quarterback. He was also the least-penalized tackle in the NFL with just two flags.
In the run game, Castonzo finished as the No. 8 tackle with a run-blocking grade of 70.2.
The Colts on Tuesday announced their five team captains for the 2020 season: wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and quarterback Philip Rivers on offense; defensive end Justin Houston and linebacker Darius Leonard on defense; and linebacker Zaire Franklin on special teams.
Reich told reporters today those captains were selected via player vote. The fact that Rivers, in his first season with the Colts, was selected so quickly wasn't too surprising, Reich said, given the veteran quarterback's natural leadership abilities.
"It is, I think, hard to come in from another team and be elected captain, especially with no offseason to have OTAs and stuff like that," Reich said. "I think Philip has done a good job really embracing the leadership role and doing things that come natural to a leader. I think at the end of the day, the guys saw that and felt that."
Every team across the NFL has been bracing for the possibility of near-empty — or even completely empty — stadiums this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic for months.
As of now, the Colts are one of the few teams who are still scheduled to allow at least some fans at their home games to start the season; the team announced recently that as many as 2,500 fans will be admitted into Lucas Oil Stadium for their Week 2 home opener against the Vikings.
The Colts say they are continuing discussions with local health officials to determine capacity figures for future home games.
Nevertheless, that game experience is simply going to be different without tens of thousands of fans cheering the teams on (or perhaps voicing their displeasure at times).
"The fans are a huge part of this game. Coaches and players embrace that. I mean, that is going to be sorely missed," Reich said. "I can even think back to my playing days where the players — sometimes in between series you glance up there, look up at your family, or you just scored a big touchdown and you see the fans in the end zone going crazy. Those are great moments. They are a big part of this game."
Rivers, who has been known to stir up his share of cheers and jeers, depending on the stadium, throughout his 16-plus years in the NFL, says he'll also miss having that fan interaction this season — and is disappointed to know that, for now, he won't be able to play in front of more fans in Indy, where he has had his share of battles over the years.
"Being as candid as I can be, it hurt — it was disappointing, I guess, to say," Rivers said. "I said to you guys early on how much I enjoyed coming here and playing in both the old RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium. The fans were great. They were intelligent fans, passionate fans, knew when to cheer, knew when not to. So certainly that was disappointing."
Perhaps the silver lining to fewer fans, Rivers pointed out, will be the opportunity to have better communication on the road.
"There is an element to loving to quiet a stadium down of 70,000 on a long 12-play drive, or winning a tough game on the road in front of their fans," Rivers said. "But in some ways on the road it'll be a little easier now communicating-wise."
Meet the new TE
Noah Togiai was told by the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday morning that he'd be back to re-sign with the team later in the day.
Just a couple hours later, however, Togiai was informed those plans had changed.
Waived by the Eagles during final roster cuts on Saturday, the rookie tight end was claimed by the Colts, who needed a bit more depth at the position with Trey Burton dealing with a calf injury; Burton has since been placed on injured reserve, meaning he'll sit out at least the first three games of the season.
The 6-foot-4, 244-pound Togiai played in 44 games with 37 starts at Oregon State and finished with 102 receptions for 1,048 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was a Second-Team All-Pac-12 selection in 2017, and last year earned Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 honors.
Togiai has the athletic DNA of several players who have played the tight end position for the Colts; in fact, he played basketball at Oregon State his freshman year, which is similar to fellow tight end Mo Alie-Cox's background, as he exclusively played basketball in college at VCU before giving football a try.
"I like to say that I bring a very balanced skillset," Togiai told reporters on Wednesday. "I like to think that I can beat people athletically in the pass game, but I also have enough in me to put my hand in the ground and help out with the run game. I pride myself on being balanced — not too much better at one than the other."
Asked if he feels like he could be ready to go as soon as Sunday's opener against the Jaguars, Togiai said he feels he's getting the Colts' playbook down "pretty quick."
"There's a lot of similarities from what I just came from, obviously with Coach (Frank Reich), who used to be there," he said. "So with the playbook, I'm slowly getting it down. But it's one thing to know looking at a piece of paper and it's another to actually execute it and run it the right way. So I'll have to wait on that one and see how these next few days of practice go, and hopefully I can learn enough and then help us on offense and on special teams."