INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts held their second and final "Phase 2" training camp practice session Thursday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. What were some top takeaways from the day?
Here's today's #ColtsCamp Practice Notebook:
» So when you see a "Phase 2" practice, what does that mean, exactly? Well, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a change in the way NFL teams are holding their respective training camps this year. The NFL and the NFLPA agreed to make the first couple weeks of camp more of an abbreviated offseason workout program, in which strength and conditioning work is mainly the focus in Week 1, and then the action picks up a little bit more in Week 2, where it more closely resembles an actual practice with guys in helmets, but there's no contact and no team drills (anything with offense vs. defense, like 11-on-11s, 7-on-7s, 1-on-1s, etc.). So the last two days have mostly featured the offense on one field and the defense on the other working through individual and positional drills and techniques, with some special teams work thrown in there, too.
» Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton made his return to the practice field on Thursday, a day removed from being taken off the Active/Non-Football Injury (NFI) list. Hilton, who was originally placed on the NFI list for a minor hamstring issue, had told reporters earlier in the week he expected to return to the field soon, and on Thursday, sure enough, No. 13 was out there leading all the wide receiver drills and catching plenty of passes from new quarterback Philip Rivers.
» Among those snapping to the Colts' four quarterbacks to begin practice on Thursday: Ryan Kelly, Jake Eldrenkamp, Javon Patterson and rookie Danny Pinter.
» One of the more entertaining early portions of practice the last couple years has been the coaches' gauntlet drill, in which members of the coaching staff form two lines and use various pads and sticks to try to poke the ball out of a wide receiver or running back's hands as they run through them. The Colts have added a couple wrinkles to the gauntlet drill this year, however: now after the player clears the gauntlet, they're faced with a fast-approaching (and huge) exercise ball to work on their stiff arm, and then they face their final boss, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who his holding his "American Gladiators" pad and tries one more swipe for the ball as the player dives onto a mat. The QBs got a pass on the whole diving part, however.
» First-year Colts wide receivers coach Mike Groh has his players doing a new drill this year: the receivers form two single-file lines, get in their stance, and then have to break out of their stance as quickly as possible off the snap. This is pretty common with defensive linemen, for example, but it's the first time I've seen it with wide receivers.
» Anybody who's watched the NFL the past 15 or so years knows Rivers has one of the more unique throwing motions around. But it's especially noticeable up close now that we finally get a chance to see him in action with the Colts. On one quarterback drill, we'll call it the shotgun grab 'n' go, Rivers has to take the snap and immediately fire off a screen pass to the outside. Watching Rivers do this drill on Thursday, it's almost as if saying he's throwing sidearm is being conservative; it's not underhanded, of course, but it's just an angle I can't say I've ever seen before — or at least not since former Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Kim Byung-hyun. Hey, whatever works, right?
» Rivers delivered a couple particularly pretty throws on consecutive pass attempts to Hilton and Pittman Jr., who were working on double moves and then going deep down the sideline. Rivers put the throws right on the money over the shoulder to the two receivers; although they're uncovered, these drills are critical to the new QB getting on the same page with his new receivers.
» Going to the defensive side of the ball, let's get this out of the way: DeForest Buckner is huge. As in, noticeably bigger than anyone else, even without pads on. Yes, the guy is listed at 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds, and yes that size shows up on film, but it's just completely different seeing him operate closer up in a practice setting.
» The defense spent most of its time Thursday in positional drills, and not so much as an actual unit. But that trademark Matt Eberflus pace is still completely evident out there; no loafing allowed.
» One trend I've noticed in the two days of Phase 2 practices this week is the one-on-one time Chris Strausser is spending with 2020 fifth-round pick Danny Pinter. It's not uncommon to see Strausser and Pinter off to the side working through various techniques and fundamentals at various points of the session, which is not surprising considering how the team will need Pinter — who converted from tight end to right tackle for the final two years of his college career at Ball State — to quickly pick up playing guard and center at the NFL level.
» While the pads can't come on yet, tomorrow's practice could be the first to feature some team drills. The Colts' players are then off on Saturday, back at it for another similar practice on Sunday, and then the heat turns up with the first fully-padded practice on Monday.
The Indianapolis Colts are ramping up practice as they enter the second phase of training camp.