INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts' training camp practice today was their first to feature team drills, with the offense taking on the defense at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. What were some top takeaways from the day?
» Friday's practice, in which the players wore helmets and shells, was the first of the year to feature some actual team drills. There were a couple lengthy 11-on-11 sessions between the offense and the defense, 7-on-7s and a few special teams portions of practice.
» When it finally came time for the first 11-on-11 session of the year, pitting the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense, new Colts quarterback Philip Rivers, as has been the norm throughout his previous 16 years with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, wasn't shy to sling the ball all over the place. On the very first play of the day, Rivers found trusty tight end Jack Doyle for a short completion to the right side.
» Later in practice, Doyle had a sweet sliding catch in heavy traffic on a dart from Rivers. Second-year safety Khari Willis did everything he could do in coverage, but the veteran tight end showed off some terrific focus to earn about 10 yards the hard way.
» Perhaps the biggest offensive play of the day came about midway through practice. Rivers launched a pass deep down the middle of the field to speedy wide receiver Parris Campbell, who was able to get by the covering safety Willis and haul in what would've been a long touchdown reception. Campbell gave so many flashes of being a big-play threat in his injury-plagued rookie season last year, and with full health, watch out going into Year 2.
» Willis got his revenge a short time later; Rivers tried to thread the needle off his back foot to wide receiver Zach Pascal down the sideline, but with cornerback Rock Ya-Sin step for step with Pascal in coverage, Willis was able to sprint over and snag a nifty interception and keep both feet in-bounds to complete the takeaway.
» As expected, Chad Kelly and Jacob Eason split the No. 3 quarterback reps on Friday. Without the benefit of preseason games this year, these opportunities during training camp practices, combined with the mastery of the offense they show in positional meetings, will be huge, especially considering the fact head coach Frank Reich has said he's yet to rule out the possibility of keeping three quarterbacks on the regular season roster this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
» Denico Autry at one point had a nice "sack" of Rivers coming off the edge; Autry probably would've had a sack in a real game, but the coverage down the field was also so stifling that Rivers, who slid up into the pocket to avoid the initial pressure, had absolutely nowhere to go.
» A couple plays later, Tyquan Lewis made a solid play coming from the three-tech spot to notch a big tackle for loss on a Jonathan Taylor rushing attempt. This is a huge camp for Lewis, who has battled through injuries his first couple years in the league but has the position flexibility up front to be a valuable contributor.
» Kenny Moore II has been one of the best blitzing cornerbacks in the NFL the last couple seasons — a fact not lost on Rivers. When Moore II snuck up to the line of scrimmage on one particular play, Rivers was sure to point him out. It didn't matter; Moore II still notched what would've been a quick sack on the play. Since 2018, Moore II has four regular season sacks, which is second to Logan Ryan for the most among all NFL cornerbacks; factor postseason play into the mix, however, and Moore II's sack total since 2018 is up to seven.
» Jonathan Taylor logged a 4.39-second 40-yard dash earlier this year at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, which was the fastest time among all running backs. He showed off that speed on one particular play on Friday, hauling in a pass from Rivers on a crossing route and taking it all the way for what would've been a long touchdown. Oh, and who was leading the way down the field for Taylor? Quenton Nelson, who hustled from his left guard position and cleared out any defenders to ensure his running back broke free down the sideline.
» Rookie defensive tackle Rob Windsor had a solid blitz effort on one play, breaking through the line and earning a "sack" of backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The sixth-round pick out of Penn State earned a fist bump from defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus for his efforts.
» Linebacker E.J. Speed picked off Kelly in 7-on-7 work, but a major tip of the cap goes to fellow linebacker Zaire Franklin on the play, who was able to stretch and get his big hand on the ball and knock it Speed's way.
» Most of the players ran a quick sprint from one sideline to the other and back at the very end of practice. Linebacker Darius Leonard and rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. jumped out to huge leads on everybody else, and when they looked across the line at each other, their efforts intensified, turning into an all-out race by the end. It was too close to call to determine a winner, although Leonard, as one might expect, certainly made his case well known.
» First-year wide receivers coach Mike Groh really seems to place a major emphasis on his players being exactly where they need to be at all times. He's introduced a series of sticks and flags he puts in the ground to force the receivers to remain on the proper path. This may seem simple, but it's huge for a quarterback to be able to trust his receivers to be in the right spots at the right time, and even being a foot or two off can make a major difference in some instances.
» The quarterbacks, running backs and offensive line were conducting a handoff drill early, just setting up various run plays. New fullback Roosevelt Nix got into the mix, of course, but for at least one snap running backs coach Tom Rathman lined up at fullback and went through the drill. There are probably worse people to have in that scenario than Rathman, who is considered one of the better fullbacks in league history from his playing days with the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Raiders.