INDIANAPOLIS — What's the latest on #ColtsCamp from the players' perspective? Hear from quarterback Jacob Eason, center Ryan Kelly, guard Quenton Nelson, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor in today's edition of "Camp Chatter."
Quarterback Jacob Eason
» There's a lot of experience and wisdom in the Colts' quarterback room, and Eason is soaking up every minute of it: When he was selected in the fourth round of this year's NFL Draft back in April, Eason talked about getting the opportunity to learn from a quarterback-rich organization like the Colts. The team has two former professional QBs on the coaching staff in head coach Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady, as well a potential future Hall of Famer starter in Philip Rivers and another veteran in Jacoby Brissett as his backup.
And now, after months of virtual preparations, Eason finds himself in the same meeting room and on the same field as those guys.
It's quite the quality education for a rookie quarterback.
"It's been pretty awesome to be in a room and go out on the field and practice with those guys," Eason said. "There is a lot of experience and a lot of wisdom in that room. Hearing their ideas with Coach Nick (Sirianni) and Coach (Marcus) Brady, just kind of seeing it and taking it all in really. It's been pretty unique and I'm very fortunate to be in this spot with a group of guys like that."
» Firmly entrenched in a competition for the No. 3 QB job, Eason is trying to make the most of the reps he does get: While Rivers and Brissett are going to be the Colts' starting quarterback and backup, respectively, heading into the season, Eason's selection back in April set up a competition with Chad Kelly for the No. 3 job at the position.
Perhaps one of the more difficult areas for a rookie quarterback to navigate early on is showing improvement even when you're not necessarily getting the same number of reps you're used to getting at the college level. That's been a "new and unique challenge" with camp practices now in full swing, Eason said.
"I'm taking it a day at a time trying to learn everything I can, trying to compete every day and stay consistent," Eason said. "Really, we are going out here to practice, meeting and doing these things so often that for me it is taking it all in and trying to learn as much as possible to make myself a better player. The competition part of it is great because it brings out the best in all of us and I'm really looking forward to these next couple days of practice and just continuing to get better."
Center Ryan Kelly
» Kelly's agent remains in contact with the Colts about a possible contract extension: Kelly in 2020 is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He's taking a "when" not "if" approach to signing a new deal with the team, but as of now, his focus is on training camp and getting ready for the season.
When and if the deal happens, it'll happen.
"I've talked to my agent a few times. I know he has been in contact with the Colts," Kelly said. "I'm just trying to focus my mind on doing training camp. I'm hopeful that it will happen soon, but I'm here for 14 hours a day so I pretty much have enough on my plate. I'm leaving my agent, Jimmy Sexton, up to that one. I know he is incredible at what he does so I hope he gets it worked out."
Kelly, 27, is coming off his first Pro Bowl selection in 2019 as he continues climbing the ladder among the top players at his position across the league.
» Being more consistent up front in the run game will lead to even more success in 2020: The Colts had a tremendous overall year in 2019 running the ball, finishing seventh in the league in rushing — eclipsing 2,000 rushing yards as a team in the process — and seeing running back Marlon Mack earn his first-career 1,000-yard rushing performance.
But Kelly admitted today there were a few lapses up front throughout certain ballgames that he feels held the team back from having an even more potent run attack. And, of course, once you get a defense creeping up to stop the run, that's when your passing game can be even more effective.
The goal in 2020, Kelly said, is to be more consistent with those fundamentals.
"We're going to get everybody's best defensive game every week we play them because they know if they don't bring it and we have a great day of running, that it could be bad for them," Kelly said. "So I think that is one of the areas of consistency that we need to improve on is our fundamentals. That's all it comes down to. They get paid, they make a lot of money too. So, we know they are going to be good players but I think if we trust our fundamentals and do what we have to do up front, it just makes the pass game a lot easier too. It makes our lives a lot easier."
Guard Quenton Nelson
» Despite dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Nelson was still able to train with no issues this offseason: One of the biggest challenges for NFL players this offseason was figuring out how exactly to work out when so many gyms and fitness centers across the country were closing their doors to help curtail the virus.
While some guys had to get creative — linebacker Darius Leonard said he was pushing farm equipment around at one point in his South Carolina hometown, for example — Nelson said he was lucky enough to find a consistent place to get his workouts done.
"Third offseason went well," Nelson said. "I didn't have any troubles with Coronavirus going on. Still had a place to train, so no complaints here."
» Nelson fondly remembers his time spent with Howard Mudd: Mudd was brought on the Colts' coaching staff as a senior offensive assistant from February through September last year, as he was tasked with helping his good friend and new offensive line coach Chris Strausser get his program off the ground.
Mudd, of course, is a historic figure when it comes to coaching the offensive line; he's best remembered for his time with the Colts from 1998 through 2009, when his lines routinely led the league in fewest sacks allowed on quarterback Peyton Manning.
Mudd passed away last week from injuries suffered in a late-July motorcycle accident, and Nelson said he appreciated the chance to get to learn from a legendary figure who was so passionate about offensive line play.
"I just remember his love of the game and his passion of the game, and going out there as old as he was, and not being able to walk completely, but always had a great attitude out there," Nelson said of Mudd. "I really appreciated him."
Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.
» Pittman Jr. appreciates T.Y. Hilton's "straight business" attitude: The 2020 second-round pick out of USC has been getting his introduction to real NFL practices these last few days, and said he's quickly picked up on Hilton's professional attitude — on and off the field.
"I've seen a guy that is just straight business – gets in, gets his reps, wins, and that's pretty much what he does," Pittman Jr. said of Hilton. "He wins, whether it's on the football field or whether it's shooting basketball shots. He just wins at everything. I'm basically learning from that."
Pittman Jr., whose locker is located right next to Hilton's, is appreciating every chance he can get to learn from the veteran Hilton, much in the same way Hilton learned from legendary Colts receiver Reggie Wayne his first couple years in the league.
» Pittman Jr. loves Philip Rivers' ability to be a coach on the field: Different quarterbacks take different approaches when it comes to practice; some are more laid back and lead by example, while others aren't afraid to bark a few orders here and there to make sure everything is going smoothly.
Rivers definitely fits in the latter category, and it's an approach Pittman Jr., the son of a former NFL running back, can appreciate.
"Phil is almost like a coach. It's like having a coach out there, like he knows everything," Pittman Jr. said. "So, he just means a lot.
"I'm learning more than I ever thought that I could ever learn," Pittman Jr. continued. "It's a lot so I'm working at it day-by-day, but I think that we are on a good pace here."
And what about Rivers' unique throwing motion? Is that throwing the rookie off at all?
"I mean it doesn't look weird to me," Pittman Jr. said. "I've played with so many different quarterbacks – as long as you get the ball there."
Running back Jonathan Taylor
» Taylor has the speed, but he also embraces the physical side of playing running back: Taylor was clocked in at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash at this year's NFL Scouting Combine, the fastest time of any running back at the event. With speed like that, some might assume he's primarily a break-it-outside type of runner.
But then you see Taylor's build: 5-foot-10 and 226 pounds of pure muscle. Yeah, he'll break it outside when he has to, but he also loves being physical and setting the tone inside the tackles.
"I embrace it a lot. I mean, coaches have always told me that the best player on (offense) is the guy who is moving the chains. He is laying down across the first-down marker," Taylor said. "I am always a guy who embraces keeping the chains moving and in order to do that, you have to be physical.
"You have to be willing to grind out some yards," Taylor continued. "Sometimes you have to be able to just hit a big one. But I think being able to play in between the tackles is a huge deal and I take pride in that."
» Taylor is making sure to constantly pick Marlon Mack's brain: Selected in the second round of this year's NFL Draft, Taylor has been added to an already-talented Colts backfield that includes the likes of Mack, who had his first 1,000-yard rushing performance last season, the versatile and lightning quick Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins, who has performed extremely well filling in at various points the last couple seasons.
But the expectation is for Mack and Taylor to be the Colts' "one-one punch" at the running back position by the time the regular season hits, and with so much to learn — whether it's how to set up various runs, blitz pickups or how to approach his role as a pass catcher — Taylor is being sure to lean on his veteran teammate to get caught up to speed.
"(I've been) able to connect with Marlon – asking him questions, picking his brain … being able to get as much knowledge and information from him as far as what to expect is something I have been doing a ton of," Taylor said.