WESTFIELD, Ind. — Veteran Panthers offensive tackle Cameron Erving told Panthers.com’s Darin Gantt on Thursday that his team "didn't match (the Colts') energy today overall," after the day's practice. That was apparent in the Colts popping highlight-reel plays all over the field and winning the physical battle on Thursday, as linebacker Bobby Okereke said.
But Erving also offered a promise — "We're going to come out with more intensity tomorrow."
The Panthers definitely brought more intensity to Friday's practice at Grand Park, which featured a handful of legitimate skirmishes and quite a bit more trash talking, especially from Carolina's defense.
Mostly, though, Friday's practice was physical with a capital P. After a particularly heated scuffle, running back Jonathan Taylor burst to the second level and cracked helmets with Panthers safety Sam Franklin, upping the ante on the energy and physicality of the day's work.
"JT being JT," smiled running back Nyheim Hines when asked about Taylor's powerful run.
The competitive, physical work we saw Friday is what Reich wanted to get out of these joint practices with the Panthers.
"It was almost like it was gameday," safety Julian Blackmon said. "Guys were ready mentally, physically. Everybody was ready to go and that's what we expect."
The QB Plan For Sunday
Jacob Eason will start Sunday's preseason curtain-lifter against the Panthers and will play about a quarter and a half depending on the flow of the game, Reich said. Ehlinger will take over in the second quarter; when the Colts play the Minnesota Vikings on Aug. 21, those roles will be reversed with Ehlinger starting.
Reich said he wants to see "more of the same" from Eason and Ehlinger, who've stacked some good practices over the last few weeks in Westfield.
"I feel like they've been getting better," Reich said. "It's not been perfect but move the sticks, make the play in situational football that we need to make to extend the drive, to finish the drive, and then make good decisions. Be a good decision maker. We think we have a good football team, right, so if one of those guys is our starting quarterback Week 1 they don't have to be a superstar. We want to see them go out and play good football, trust the teammates around them, trust the running game, make the plays in the play-action game and then on third down and red zone, where you gotta be right, be right."
Reich added a "fair amount" of starters on both sides of the ball will not play Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, although he didn't have specifics of who would and would not sit out yet.
A Philly Special Reunion
Reich hosted former Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson the last two days, with Pederson rocking a blue Colts shirt and taking in the joint practices with the Panthers.
Pederson hired Reich to be his offensive coordinator in 2016; the Eagles drafted Carson Wentz with the second overall pick a few months later.
Reich said he spent most of his time talking with Pederson about the future and picking his brain on things. But the pair, who won a Super Bowl with the Eagles in 2017, took a stroll on the Monon Trail here in Westfield Friday morning to reminisce about that title-winning season.
"Good for me to have a chance to thank him, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for coach Pederson," Reich said. "He's a phenomenal coach and even a better person."
- With guard/center Danny Pinter out, the Colts turned to a few players to cycle in at center: Joey Hunt, Chris Reed, Will Fries and Jake Eldrenkamp.
- Taylor's angry run was one of the offensive highlights of the day. But another: Wide receiver Mike Strachan hauling in a deep ball from Ehlinger on which he did an excellent job tracking the ball in the air and coming back to make a high-pointing catch.
- Kickers Rodrigo Blankenship and Eddy Pineiro hit field goals from 43 and 45 yards, respectively, in a two-minute hurry-up period.
- Wide receiver Parris Campbell made a tough, physical catch on a pass from Eason to convert a fourth down during a full team period.
- Both Eason and Ehlinger started off the final red zone period of the day with impressive touchdown strikes. Eason found wide receiver T.Y. Hilton for his; Ehlinger linked up with tight end Farrod Green on his.
They Said It
"It's a freaky thing. He gotta thank his momma and daddy for that." - Running back Nyheim Hines on Jonathan Taylor's combination of size and speed