INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers today spoke to the media via video conference. What's the latest on the offense's preparations for Sunday's 2020 opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, how comfortable he is with his new offensive line, limiting mistakes early on and more?
You can catch that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» It'll be a "challenge" preparing for the Jaguars' defense without any 2020 film to study: While most teams aren't showing much beyond their basic packages and schemes during preseason play, Rivers said there's still some value in being able to watch how a defense is looking in general heading into the season.
That's not an option this season, of course, due to the cancellation of all preseason games. So Rivers likened the preparation for this Sunday's opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars to the first college football game of the season.
"There is definitely a challenge," Rivers said. "Obviously even in the preseason, nobody shows anything, but you get to see players moving around and you get to see, 'Oh, this guy's playing strong safety. This guy's playing the three technique. There's the young corner.' You get to see them move around a little bit, so that's definitely different. First time you set eyes on them will be, I guess, warmups, will be that first series, first play."
Even though the Jaguars do have some notable changes from their defensive personnel from last season — the team traded defensive ends Calais Campbell (Baltimore Ravens) and Yannick Ngakoue (Minnesota Vikings) and cornerback A.J. Bouye (Denver Broncos) this offseason — there is still enough continuity on that side of the ball to go back to last year's game film and try to get a beat on what they're trying to do.
"Obviously there has been some personnel changes, but especially in this year where you had no offseason, I wouldn't expect teams around the league to be drastically different than they were," Rivers said. "Certainly there are going to be some tweaks and some changes that we just have to be pros and adjust — series to series, play to play, there definitely will be some things I'm sure that we have not seen or prepared for, but that's why you have all training camp and you have the right guys to be able to adjust on the fly."
» It didn't take long at all for Rivers to get comfortable playing behind the Colts' offensive line: Lots is made — and understandably so — about a new quarterback getting on the same page as his receivers, but Rivers said in some situations it can take even longer for a quarterback to really be clicking with his offensive line.
But Rivers had said one of the main reasons he wanted to sign with the Colts was because of their talented offensive line, which is considered to be one of the best units in the NFL.
What Rivers has learned since signing that one-year free agent deal in March is that this offensive line is not only talented, but it's also a cohesive, flexible unit.
"They are so flexible as far as communicating in this, 'Hey, what if we make this call or this? Will that be good?'" Rivers said. "They are just a very flexible, smart group, not only obviously physically really good and talented, but a really smart group that works super well together."
It can take some time for a quarterback to develop that rapport with the big guys in front of him when it comes to blitz pickups and run fits, but Rivers said he already feels comfortable making those calls with left tackle Anthony Castonzo, left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Mark Glowinski and right tackle Braden Smith.
"The cohesion with the offensive line to me is the biggest area of guys that you want to be on the same page with whether it be double teams and fits and ways you're working off combo block," Rivers said. "The fact that these guys played every game last year together and certainly have been together now for a handful of years, I think that's huge. It didn't take long, and they all take great pride in it — obviously, the run game and protecting. It makes you feel good as a quarterback."
» There are two areas specifically Rivers wants his offense to keep in mind in Sunday's season opener: Oftentimes early in the season the teams that are the most disciplined are the ones that have a huge advantage over those that are still working out the kinks.
For Rivers, ball security and penalties will be a huge emphasis Sunday when the team travels to take on the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field.
Like every other team, the Colts have emphasized both areas throughout training camp and heading into this week, and if Indy can win the turnover battle and limit the flags, Rivers likes their chances against their divisional foes.
A few off-target throws or stuffed runs — that's OK. But the Colts know they need to be mentally sharp from the opening kickoff.
"There's going to be some incompletions. Hopefully there are not any negative runs, but there may be a run for one yard or there may be a negative run. Obviously you don't want to have that, but I think it's those other things early on that you can be a little sloppy with," Rivers said. "But certainly, penalties and ball security also correlate to winning games so that will always be an emphasis not only in Week 1, but those are the things you could see stand out and needs to be a focus from an offensive standpoint"