INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts on Monday held their first of two training camp scrimmages of the week at Lucas Oil Stadium, as head coach Frank Reich tried to simulate a typical gameday in a year with no preseason games. What were some of the top takeaways from the day?
» The Colts treated today's practice/scrimmage as if it were a real game; the team rode the bus together from the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center to Lucas Oil Stadium, it got ready in the locker room, went through typical pregame warmups, ran back out on the field as a team just before the practice got underway, headed back into the locker room for a "halftime" break and even wore its gameday uniforms, with the offense in the all white jerseys and pants and the defense/special teamers in the blue jerseys and white pants. The four quarterbacks, meanwhile, where wearing maroon "non-contact" tops over their jerseys.
» As promised, the team piped in some league-approved crowd noise into the Lucas Oil Stadium speakers throughout the session. Head coach Frank Reich said the approved level leaguewide was 80 decibels, which, according to Purdue University, is similar in noise level to a typical kitchen garbage disposal. The Colts and every other NFL team are preparing to utilize piped-in crowd noise as a way to make up for the lack of actual fans at games this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
» Long snapper Luke Rhodes was back in action today after missing the last two days of practice. Among those who did not participate: running back Jordan Wilkins (unknown), cornerback Kenny Moore II (groin), safety George Odum (unknown), fullback Roosevelt Nix (unknown), cornerback Isaish Rodgers (unknown), tight end Xavier Grimble (unknown), defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth (unknown), guard Chaz Green (unknown), wide receiver Marcus Johnson (unknown), tight end Jack Doyle (neck) and defensive tackle Sheldon Day (knee).
» Second-year defensive end Ben Banogu went down with an ankle injury during Monday's practice, but Reich said he didn't initially believe it was too serious. "So hopefully he won't be out too long," Reich added. Prior to going down with his injury, Banogu was putting together a very solid day off the edge.
» Right tackle Braden Smith made his 2020 training camp debut on Sunday after working his way back from a foot injury, and played a limited role once again on Monday; Reich said Smith had a pitch count of 20 plays for the day.
» While Reich certainly wanted to get his players used to the look and the feel of a game, the scrimmage itself had more of a practice vibe. There were a couple "live" periods with actual tackling, as well as some move-the-ball/two-minute drills, but most of the action followed the coaches' scripts so that all three phases could continue practicing a wide array of scenarios.
» In general, with the first-unit offense against the first-unit defense, it felt as if the defense mostly had the upper hand in the first "half," but the offense definitely came out on fire in the second "half." The linebackers and safeties — particularly Darius Leonard and Malik Hooker — were flying around blowing plays up early on, which is also a credit to the defensive line up front. But the run game really eventually picked up steam, with a patient Marlon Mack letting the blocks develop in front of him and hitting another gear by the time he got to the second level.
» Mack had two highlight plays in particular: on a 1st-and-10 play from the offense's own 47-yard line, he had one of those aforementioned huge holes thanks especially to the pulling Quenton Nelson and right tackle Le'Raven Clark, and outraced safety Khari Willis down the sideline for a would-be 53-yard rushing touchdown. A couple plays later, Mack once again got to the second level and juked Hooker for a gain of at least 20. Fresh off his first-career 1,000-yard rushing season, Mack looks to be in midseason form already.
» We've noticed a couple trends with these padded practices: quarterback Philip Rivers likes to find T.Y. Hilton on his very first pass play of 11-on-11 action, and defensive tackle/end Tyquan Lewis likes to make his presence known early and often. Not even a change of scenery on Monday could change those themes. Rivers, like clockwork, hit Hilton on a comeback route on the very first play against the defense, while Lewis just continues to put in solid work day in and day out up front; he first had a nice rush inside against Jake Eldrenkamp to knock down a Jacoby Brissett pass on a 2nd-and-10 play, and then later on Lewis invaded the backfield again, this time knocking the ball out of running back Nyheim Hines' hands, which was picked up by defensive end Gerri Green to complete the takeaway. Training camp is over soon, and Lewis is making a serious case for TCMVP.
» All offseason long we've talked about how the running backs were expected to be more involved in the passing game with Rivers at quarterback, and that was a huge theme throughout Monday's scrimmage. Mack, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines and Bruce Anderson III were targeted early and often throughout the session. One of the highlights: Taylor caught a 12-yard touchdown pass on a lofted throw from Rivers.
» The kicking competition was in full swing on Monday, and Chase McLaughlin took full advantage of his opportunities, hitting all eight of his kicks on the day from 33, 38, 39, 44, 45, 47, 53 and 55 yards. Rookie Rodrigo Blankenship hit 5-of-8 kicks, meanwhile, with his misses coming from 39, 44 and 53 yards out. Reich said after Monday's practice that he weighs the scrimmage-like practice at the stadium a little bit more than usual when it comes to the kicking competition, but also said it's remained a back-and-forth battle. Another kicking-related note: both McLaughlin and Blankenship had an opportunity to try one kickoff each on Monday; while punter Rigoberto Sanchez has held down that spot now for a while, it's always good to have other options if you need them.
» While Rivers didn't attempt a ton of throws down the field, the first-team offense's highlight of the day can be seen below: a perfectly-placed, perfectly-caught touchdown pass to Hilton, whose #ToeDragSwag should be featured on the NFL Network's Good Morning Football.
» In a near carbon copy of the final play of Sunday's practice, Brissett was able to connect with rookie wide receiver Dezmon Patmon down the sideline for a big passing play on Monday. This time, Brissett initially mishandled the snap, but was able to recover to fire a well-placed ball over cornerback Tremon Smith to find Patmon on the go route.
» A couple other defensive plays that caught my eye: wide receiver Artavis Scott appeared to find a soft spot in the zone, and Brissett fired a pass his way, but cornerback Travis Reed showed off some impressive quickness to break on the ball and bat it down to force fourth down; and Zaire Franklin continues to flash and make plays, as this time he stuffed Anderson II on 4th and 1 around midfield to force the would-be turnover on downs.
» Just signed on Sunday, veteran center Joey Hunt was already seen getting significant snaps throughout the day on Monday. While Danny Pinter, Jake Eldrenkamp and Javon Patterson have all gotten center reps behind starter Ryan Kelly, Hunt brings with him 34 games, and 11 starts, of regular season NFL experience should the Colts ever need it.