WESTFIELD, Ind. — Brian Baker took his first job as an NFL defensive line coach two years before Kwity Paye was born. He's coached an incredible number of defensive linemen over his lengthy coaching career.
And he described what Paye's done over his first week in training camp as "rare" among players at his position.
"He's been able to build because he's able to take the information that's happening out here, information we give him on film, information coaches are giving him, and he's able to really apply those things almost instantaneously," Baker said. "You can see him processing that information as it's going in. And he's able to give it back to you — Kwity, what are they doing, what are you doing, that kind of thing, what happened on that snap. Well, I did this, he did that.
"That is really unique. I've coached some experienced guys that could not — they don't have a clue what just happened. And this kid knows right away as a rookie."
Baker highlighted how intentional Paye is with his practice reps, specifically in working on just one thing every day in one-on-one drills against offensive linemen. That's how a player becomes a master of his craft — not by trying a bunch of different things just to win as many reps as possible.
Couple in Paye's athleticism, strength and off-the-field work ethic, and Baker sees the 2021 first-round pick having the right ingredients in place to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
"If a guy is intentional, intelligent and deliberate about what he's doing, then it doesn't take him very long," Baker said. "But that's the problem. Most guys, they get so concerned with winning the down, winning the rep — one-on-one, team, whatever it is — and they're doing whatever they feel like they gotta do to do that so they don't have discipline to work on what we're talking about.
"So that level of maturation is rare and that kid, knock on wood, he's showing me he has the ability to do that. I'm telling you, it's rare. Not just for a rookie, but for any level of defensive lineman. The great ones do that."
The early returns on fourth round pick Kylen Granson have been similarly encouraging, with the tight end being involved in the offense every day as coaches determine just how much they can put on his plate.
"(We're) just giving him the plays that we feel like are going to be comfortable with him," offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said last week. "But at the same time, he's a sharp kid. He's picked up the offense very well, you could see that he transitioned — even today made some plays, you could see he could be involved in the offense. And he's very mature. So we're going to try to get him involved with the many weapons we have."
Granson's size and speed make him a difficult matchup, similar to Trey Burton, who led all Colts tight ends with 47 targets in 2020.
"It's like a spitting image of Trey," tight end Mo Alie-Cox said. "… Once he trusts himself more and gets a lot more comfortable in the offense, he's going to take off."
Amid a generally sloppy Tuesday for the Colts' offense, quarterback Sam Ehlinger stood out as a bright spot, punctuated by an efficient, sharp touchdown drive in the final two-minute 11 on 11 period of the practice.
"I'm really impressed with where Sam is, not only mentally but whatever the 'it' factor is," coach Frank Reich said. "It's not too big for him, you can feel that. He's got a presence about him. And he has instincts, you can just feel he has good quarterback instincts, he understands — I told him yesterday it's very apparent that he understands how to keep the game simple, and that's a big deal."
Reich, specifically, said he's been pleased with Ehlinger's knack for finding answers within plays to simplify things. And Ehlinger talked last week about the importance of getting to the line of scrimmage with a plan on every play — an approach which has shown in his consistent operation of the offense during the early part of training camp.
"Sam is coming along quickly," quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich said. "The mental part of the game, grasping the offense has come faster than most rookies especially with not having a whole offseason. So he's doing good. He's progressing quickly … we're happy with his progression.
There have been a few constants over the first week of Colts training camp, like: Bobby Okereke getting an interception or pass break-up, the defensive line swarming, and Mike Strachan making a play or two each practice.
It's impossible to miss the 6-foot-5, 225 pound Strachan's size, and his long-striding speed has shown up, too. On Wednesday, Strachan caught a pass and carved out some additional YAC by stiff-arming defensive end Kameron Cline (who has 50 pounds on him) and accelerating upfield.
The seventh-round pick will need to continue to flash in practice and then preseason games, but so far, he's had an encouraging week at Grand Park.
"He's grown ever since we got him early in the spring," Brady said. "He's still picking up the offense but overall we like what we see, he's growing, he's getting better every day. (Wide receivers coach Mike) Groh's doing a great job with him, he's trying to get a grasp of the offense so he can play faster because obviously he's physical, he's got big size, that's something you want to have. He's just gotta continue to grow."