INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts held their first fully-padded practice of this year's training camp today at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. What were some of the top takeaways from the day?
» As mentioned, today was the much anticipated first camp practice of the year with the players in full pads. This is a big deal for a number of reasons, but mostly because with no preseason games this year, these 11 fully-padded practices the next few weeks are the closest the team is going to get to simulating actual football before their regular season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. While there weren't any "live" sessions today, in which players are actually brought to the ground, head coach Frank Reich has said he anticipates having some live periods soon.
» The Colts were without a few guys to start Monday's practice, including defensive end Justin Houston, guard Chaz Green, tackle Braden Smith, wide receiver Marcus Johnson and defensive tackle Sheldon Day. According to Reich, Houston has a bit of a neck strain after accidentally colliding with a teammate in Sunday's practice, and is being held out as a precaution. Smith, meanwhile, is working through a foot injury that the team doesn't believe is major, Reich said.
» Cornerback Kenny Moore II suffered a groin strain during Monday's practice. Reich, who talked to reporters immediately after the session, said he wasn't yet sure of the severity of the injury. "We'll have to see how it settles out over the next day or two," Reich said.
» On Sunday we told you about how T.Y. Hilton and Philip Rivers took a clear step forward as they continue building that critical QB1/WR1 rapport with each other. That theme certainly continued today. Rivers and Hilton had several other connections all over the field; in fact, on the very first play pitting the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense, Rivers hit Hilton on a quick comeback route to the left. Xavier Rhodes was in coverage against Hilton on the perimeter, but there's really no defense for a perfect route and throw.
» Rivers also found Hilton on a nifty little out route for a gain of about 15 yards; Hilton, as the video shows below, had a nice effort to haul the pass in and keep his feet in-bounds. Pretty ho-hum stuff by now for the now nine-year NFL veteran.
» The Colts haven't utilized a full-time fullback on their roster since 2013, but you can certainly understand why Frank Reich wanted to go out and add the likes of fullback Roosevelt Nix in free agency this offseason. While Nix isn't expected to be on the field for a ton of offensive snaps from week to week, the Pro Bowler has a clear knack for springing his running backs free, which is exactly what he did one on Marlon Mack rushing attempt midway through today's practice. Defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad came crashing in hard from the left, and Nix met him head-on and crunched him, opening up a huge hole off the edge for Mack to run free for a gain of about 10 yards. The Colts already had a solid run game heading into the offseason, but the addition of Nix could give it even more oomph this year.
» Before he left the field with a groin injury, Moore II had a terrific instinctual play, as he bolted out of his spot at nickel corner to dive all-out and bat down an attempted screen pass from Rivers to running back Nyheim Hines. It might've even been considered a backwards pass in a real game, which would've created a live ball situation for the defense to pick up. Heady play by Moore II.
» It was Hines making a notable play a little later when he made a diving, bobbling catch along the sideline in coverage against linebacker Matthew Adams. The N.C. State product had 63 receptions as a rookie and 44 catches last year, and there's no reason to believe he won't be line for the same kind of production, if not more, in Year 3 with a new quarterback throwing him the ball in Rivers.
» Tyquan Lewis has had a solid last few days of practice, and that continued today. He came in from the interior to stuff a Jonathan Taylor run play, wrapping his big arms around the rookie running back in the backfield for a significant loss.
» Jack Doyle's reputation as a dependable pass-catching tight end precedes him, and he likely hasn't needed to do much to earn Rivers' trust up to this point. But Doyle went ahead and reminded his new quarterback today; Rivers tossed him a little loft pass over the defensive linemen and Doyle went all-out to make a diving fingertip catch. Solid play from the two-time Pro Bowler.
» There were two notable passing plays during 7-on-7 action, and both were actually pretty similar — just with different quarterbacks and receivers. First, Jacoby Brissett delivered a real pretty over-the-shoulder pass to tight end Ian Bunting, who made a nice catch while being covered by safety George Odum. A few plays later, quarterback Chad Kelly made almost the exact same throw on the same route to rookie wide receiver Dezmon Patmon, who was able to get by cornerback Travis Reed to make the play.
» We had our first one-on-one drills pitting the pass catchers against the defensive backs today. If you'll recall from previous years' #ColtsCamp Notebooks, we make this pretty simple: either the receiver catches the ball and it's a win for him, or he doesn't and it's a win for the defensive back. The pass catchers had a 19-9 advantage over the defensive backs today.
» Here's how those 1-on-1 matchups played out: Rock Ya-Sin def. Zach Pascal, Jack Doyle def. Malik Hooker; T.J. Carrie def. Parris Campbell; Xavier Rhodes def. Michael Pittman Jr.; Daurice Fountain def. Lafayette Pitts; Trey Burton def. Khari Willis; Artavis Scott def. Isaiah Rodgers; Chad Williams def. Jackson Porter; Travis Reed def. Ashton Dulin; Ian Bunting def. Tavon Wilson; DeMichael Harris def. Carrie; Dezmon Patmon def. Tremon Smith; Pascal def. Ya-Sin; Farrod Green def. George Odum; Campbell def. Rodgers; Rhodes def. Pittman Jr.; Fountain def. Pitts; Donald Rutledge def. Xavier Grimble; Scott def. Porter; Williams def. Porter; Dulin def. Reed; Doyle def. Willis; Rodgers def. Harris; Carrie def. Patmon; Pascal def. Ya-Sin; Burton def. Hooker; Scott def. Porter; Rhodes def. Pittman Jr.
» Rhodes was seemingly chirping louder and louder with each passing rep against the rookie Pittman Jr., who went 0-for-3 in his 1-on-1 opportunities against the veteran cornerback. Pittman Jr. told me after today's practice that he's already built a fun little competitive back-and-forth with Rhodes to this point of camp; it'll be entertaining to see how this evolves over the next few weeks.
» Today's practice did not include any field goal attempts for Rodrigo Blankenship or Chase McLaughlin. Reich said afterwards they've already had some competitive scenarios for both kickers in this battle, and looks forward to continuing to integrate some pressure-filled situations for both guys throughout future practices to find their guy at kicker heading into the regular season.
» The Colts are scheduled to hold another fully-padded practice tomorrow and Wednesday before giving the players the day off on Thursday.
The Indianapolis Colts are in full gear as they took the field for their first padded practice of training camp.