INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich today spoke to local reporters via conference call. What did he have to say about his evaluation of quarterback Philip Rivers to this point of training camp, why it's so important to create game-like conditions in practice and how much added emphasis these practices have in the kicking competition?
You can catch that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Philip Rivers looks better and better as practice scenarios become more realistic: Reich and others have raved about how Rivers has had a seamless transition taking hold of the Colts' offense from the start of training camp. Without the benefit of the on-field portion of the offseason workout program, Rivers' veteran experience and leadership abilities, as well as his prior knowledge of Reich's playbook coming in, have allowed him to hit the ground running once the team finally was able to get together in Indy.
But more than anything, Rivers is a gamer, and perhaps nobody on the Colts team knows that better than Reich, who served as Rivers' quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers a few years back.
To this point of camp, Reich said, Rivers is "totally where we need him to be," but the eight-time Pro Bowler only seems to be getting better as the pace of practice keeps building and building.
"When we got in that live period when we went ones versus ones and it's live, just the more live it gets and the more real it gets, the better the best players look and we are going to see that with Philip," Reich said, referencing Monday's practice at Lucas Oil Stadium. "The faster it goes and the more real it gets, the better he's going to look. So I think he is making good progress, feels really comfortable with the offense and very comfortable with his teammates.
"I think he is really building a good chemistry with the receivers, the running backs and the tight ends – to get a feel for them," Reich continued. "We still have got some time and we will work out a couple kinks, but I like the trajectory that we're on."
» Monday's game-like conditions could pay off come Week 1: If you can look beyond the fact there were no fans in the stands, as well as the scripted nature of the plays for the offensive and defensive units, Monday's scrimmage at Lucas Oil Stadium — the first of two being held by the Colts at their home stadium this week — was about as game-like as it gets.
With no preseason games this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was important to Reich and his staff to give their players some sort of gameday experience prior to the team's season opener Sept. 13 on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
So the Colts on Monday took team buses from the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center to Lucas Oil Stadium; they got ready in their locker room; they went through a typical pregame warmup routine; they ran onto the field for "introductions;" they went into the locker room for a "halftime" break; and they even wore their game uniforms, with the offense in the white jerseys and pants and the defense/special teamers in the blue jerseys and white pants.
There were even a couple periods that featured live hitting on Monday — a first in camp this year for the Colts.
"I had a couple of the coaches say to me even while we were in warmups – my guess is the players felt it as well, this was a necessary step to be in this stadium and getting ready for the season," Reich said. "No one wants to go to Jacksonville that first game and not have been through as much of a game-like scenario as we got today and that we'll get on Saturday. I think everyone felt that out there. I think everyone felt this was a good step, a necessary step, and we'll keep building from here."
» The performances in the scrimmages at Lucas Oil Stadium weigh a little heavier in the kicking competition: Through the first week-plus of training camp practices, Chase McLaughlin and Rodrigo Blankenship have virtually been neck-and-neck in their quest to win the Colts' kicking job.
Blankenship seemingly got out to an early lead, and then McLaughlin pulled back even with a solid performance in the team's only indoor practice so far. The rookie Blankenship seemed to win the day again over the weekend, but McLaughlin showed how to get it done on Monday.
McLaughlin hit all eight of his kicks on the day from 33, 38, 39, 44, 45, 47, 53 and 55 yards, besting Blankenship, who hit 5-of-8 kicks, missing from 39, 44 and 53 yards out.
Reich takes two approaches to Monday's kicking performances: first, he doesn't want to let one day skew the results too much; but, saying that, he's also placing a little more emphasis on the performances of his kickers during the more realistic game-like situations at the Colts' stadium.
"No, I think it is important not to over weight any one day," Reich said. "This day does get weighted a little bit heavier, but it's not dramatically heavier. It definitely gets weighted a little bit heavier. Chase had a good day today. These guys have been great. They are embracing the competition and embracing the pressure of the competition. It's been a back-and-forth battle."