INDIANAPOLIS — Let's be honest: sometimes when you see a team acquire a player you've never heard of during training camp, you assume that they are a "camp body" and likely have no shot at the 53-man roster.
Chances are you thought the same when the Colts signed journeyman defensive end Ryan Delaire on Aug. 11, already two weeks into camp.
The third-year pro out of Towson spent time with the Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers from 2015-16 and was out of football during the 2017 season. He also joined a position group on the Colts that already had some relative depth.
However, after evaluating the last two weeks for Delaire, he's been far from a "camp body."
When Delaire got the call from the Colts, he was actually on vacation in New York with his girlfriend, preparing to travel to a family reunion back in Connecticut. When he arrived in Indiana, he said it was about 30 minutes between his tryout and when he hit the practice field for the Colts for the first time.
When he joined the Colts Delaire was behind the eight ball since camp was already more than half over. The coaches gave him a fighting chance, however, getting him into the rotation with the second- and third-team defenses right away.
That was all part of the plan for a guy like Delaire, head coach Frank Reich told Colts.com during camp.
"The guys that we have in we like, but when you see someone that you think can make a team better, we're not opposed to kind of bringing him in here, give him a shot, see what he can do and give him a chance to make the team," Reich said.
Since then, Delaire has been consistently disruptive to the offense, and it's essentially bumped him up to getting second-team reps — and even some snaps from time to time with the first team. Every practice that the media was present for in camp, Delaire was either beating the offensive tackle and getting into the quarterback's face, batting passes or finding another way to make an impact. He actually intercepted a pass on his very first day.
"Really impressed. I mean, really impressed," Reich said after Delaire had been in camp just a couple of days. "As far as guys coming in at this point in camp — the two days he's been out there, he's certainly turned heads for sure."
It's spilled into game action as well. Delaire had at least three really solid plays in the Colts' second preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football.
Against a less mobile quarterback than Lamar Jackson, Delaire likely would have had two sacks in front of a national television audience. Unfortunately, the electric Heisman Trophy winner was able to make things happen with his feet to get away from Delaire's would-be takedowns.
Delaire's other good-looking play was something Colts fans have grown accustomed to over the years, and that was a lightning-quick inside spin move by Delaire — a la Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis — against Ravens left tackle Greg Senat.
On the play, Delaire juked to Senat's outside shoulder, then spun inside — going essentially untouched — right into Jackson's face, but Jackson was able to escape to his left just in time.
You could say the last month or so has been a whirlwind for Delaire, who was working out five days a week and training people to make ends meet while he was away from football.
"It's been pretty great," he said this week. "I have a lot of veteran teammates who have been able to teach me the different plays and everything. I was able to stay after practice. I was able to get some extra meeting time with my coaches just to get a better understanding of the playbook. I love it."
For a player who bounced around a bit in his first couple years in the NFL and joined a new team more than halfway through camp this summer, the goals almost have to be as simple as making a good impression. However, Delaire has already exceeded those goals, as he's been one of the Colts' most effective defensive linemen since he joined the team.
He has been impressive, but Delaire knows he can only focus on what he can control.
"Yeah, I mean, I feel comfortable, but at the end of the day it's the NFL; it's a business. So, I have to make the team first.
"I've gotta hold myself accountable. I've gotta be on time. I've gotta make sure I do everything assignment-sound on the field to make the team, to make this roster, to be in the rotation."