INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich spoke to local reporters today via video conference. What did he have to say about his early observations of the Philip Rivers-T.Y. Hilton connection, how to balance quality and quantity during padded practices, how the team is handling the kicking competition and more?
You can catch that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Reich can feel the rapport growing between Philip Rivers and T.Y. Hilton: We told you on Sunday about the Rivers/Hilton connection starting to heat up, as the two connected several times throughout the day's practice. It happened again on Monday, this time in the Colts' first fully-padded practice of the year, giving Reich plenty of optimism about QB1/WR1 bond heading into the start of the regular season.
While much work is yet to be done, Reich said "it's not going to take them long to connect, and youc an see that already."
"You've got two guys who are instinctive and smart football players," he added.
Reich referenced one play in Sunday's practice in particular, in which Hilton "got held up a little bit on his release," but he still figured out the exact spot to get to, at the right time, to mesh with Rivers for a "nice long completion."
"T.Y.'s body language is so easy to read," Reich said. "He's so smart and understanding — understanding leverage, understanding spacing and also understanding timing."
» Quality and quantity is important when it comes to the next few weeks of padded practices: Today was the first of 11 scheduled fully-padded practices for the Colts before they begin regular season Week 1 preparations for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Without any preseason games this year, these padded sessions are even more critical in terms of getting the team ready to go, and not just from an X's and O's standpoint.
"This is a very physical game," Reich said. "So you have to condition yourself physically. You have to get used to taking that pounding and delivering a pounding. And so, you don't want to go into the season having to work through that kind of soreness. So let's get accustomed to it right now. Let's be physical out there."
On that same token, Reich has emphasized to his players the importance of practicing smart; while he's planning on some "live" sessions over the next few weeks — scenarios in which ballcarriers are actually being brought to the ground — in all other times, the Colts players need to be cognizant of remaining physical, but also not overdoing it.
"The emphasis is on not just the physicality, but just on competing against each other, competing with the level of physicality and execution that will push us to get better," Reich said. "I just think everyone in this building intuitively and instinctively knows that and believes that if we want to be good on Sundays, if we want to be physical on Sundays, then we can't just turn a switch on Sunday morning, down in Jacksonville. We've got to do it out here and establish the kind of team we're going to be on the practice field, and then let that travel with us wherever we go."
» Lots is going into the team's kicking competition: While neither Rodrigo Blankenship nor Chase McLaughlin attempted any field goals during Monday's practice, Reich said he's already sensed a quality, healthy competition brewing as the on-field action has ramped up in recent days.
But without preseason games this year, which obviously help provide true game-like situations, it's been on Reich and his staff to figure out other ways to cultivate pressure-filled situations to see how his two kickers react.
While the general accuracy of each kick matters like any other year — as in, simply, who's made more kicks — there is lots more Reich is putting into this competition specifically.
"The accuracy of those kicks, not just the ones that are good and not good, but even the accuracy of a good one — how good was it?" Reich said. "It's kind of like at quarterback, you can have two completions and they look completely different. One is you've got a quarterback who hits a guy right in stride as opposed to throwing it behind him. When a guy keeps hitting (kicks) straight down the middle, straight down the middle, that kind of stuff gets noticed if it happens."
Reich is also mixing up when Blankenship and McLaughlin are attempting kicks in practice; normally all the field goal kicking is done in one period, but now it's being spread out over the entire session.
"So we'll kick some early and then we'll kick some at the end of a couple team periods and try to create some game-like situations," Reich said.
"Without the preseason games, we've tried to put a little bit more emphasis really on the competition between the two of them, to try to put as much pressure as we can," Reich continued. "Like, these two guys, they love the pressure. So how can we amp that up in a practice setting to get those game-like reps? And that's what we're trying to do."