WESTFIELD, Ind. — The Indianapolis Colts' top two quarterbacks have grabbed headlines throughout training camp, but there's been another player that has been making plenty of plays at the position, as well.
Just like Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett, Phillip Walker has been hanging in the pocket, scanning the field, spreading the ball around and making plays downfield for the Colts' new-look offense.
So what's been the difference for Walker now in his second professional season, in a brand new playbook led by head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni?
"We've got a lot of weapons," Walker said. "So the mindset is to get the ball in our weapons' hands and let them go make plays for us."
That element is crucial for a player like Walker, who is depended upon to run the offense smoothly and deliver timely, accurate passes to the players the coaches are closely evaluating for final spots on the Week 1 roster.
But make no mistake: Walker is fighting to prove he belongs on the 53-man roster, too.
A four-year starter at Temple, Walker was signed by the Colts last year as an undrafted free agent, and saw plenty of action in practice right out of the gate. With Luck on the mend and the Colts yet to acquire Jacoby Brissett, it was Scott Tolzien, Stephen Morris and Walker handling quarterback duties during the offseason.
Through training camp, Walker saw quite a few reps as the backup behind Tolzien. However, the preseason appeared to be a roller coaster at times.
Walker played in all four preseason games and completed 17-of-39 passes (43.6 percent) for 147 yards (3.8 yards per attempt), had one touchdown and one interception, and was sacked five times for a final passer rating of 52.0. He also had three fumbles.
Preseason stats are almost completely arbitrary, however, as the film is all that matters. The Colts liked Walker's game enough to sign him to the practice squad before the season.
There Walker remained throughout the rest of the year, developing as a player and participating with the scout team.
By season's end, the Colts had placed Luck on the season-ending Injured Reserve list, signed Brad Kaaya to back up Brissett and Tolzien, and Walker was re-signed to a reserve/future deal.
The makeup of the Colts' quarterback room going into 2018 is much different than a year ago, however.
For starters, Luck is back and firmly in place as the team's starter, Brissett is now his upper-echelon backup, and Tolzien and Morris are no longer with the team. Walker — listed as the No. 3 quarterback on the team's unofficial depth chart — and Kaaya now back up Luck and Brissett.
The performance of the group has been one pleasant surprise throughout training camp. Not only have all four quarterbacks proven to be capable performers in camp, but the group has shown tremendous growth. That includes Walker.
Just through one preseason game so far, Walker has been much more effective this time around. He finished 5-of-8 passing (62.5 percent) for 88 yards, took no sacks and led the team to its only touchdown of the game. He had a passer rating of 139.6 — almost 88 points higher than last year — and held off a late Seattle Seahawks rally to lead the Colts to a 19-17 victory.
With Reich, Sirianni and assistant quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady leading the charge, Walker certainly appears to be on the right track in his development. But there's also the simple fact that a player is naturally going to see growth from Year 1 to Year 2.
On the practice field, in the meeting room and even around the city, Walker knows what to expect this time around.
"Just to have the experience to be there last year and just to get my feet wet and just realize the speed of everything that's going on helps me transition into this year," Walker said. "(It's helped) just to go out there and play faster, play smarter and just see the defense better as well."