WESTFIELD, Ind. — The Colts' defensive line impressed during practices last week, although defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus took those results with a grain of salt.
"Once we get the pads on, we're going to have to reassess," Eberflus said. "It's almost like a restart."
The pads came on for the first time Tuesday. And the Colts' defensive line looked every bit as disruptive as it did in shells.
Defensive tackle Grover Stewart — "I love the pads," Stewart said, grinning, on Monday — got things started off by staying disciplined on a screen, reading the throw, getting off his block and picking it off.
Some maniacal pressure from DeForest Buckner contributed on the play, too, and the 2020 All-Pro was a force all throughout practice.
Defensive end Isaac Rochell had a strong day, including when he flushed quarterback Sam Ehlinger out of the pocket and kept chasing after him to force a throw away.
Stewart had a handful of pressures and run stops throughout the morning. Kemoko Turay and Kwity Paye had productive days; defensive tackle Joey Ivie had some good reps in 11 on 11, too.
And Ben Banogu flashed once again with his speed, motor and energy.
So the pads came on and nothing changed for the Colts' defensive line. Brian Baker's group continued to have the kind of physical presence he wants to see them play with all season long.
"I want people, when they see us on the film, to say holy cow these guys play fast, they run sideline to sideline, they're up the field, they're knocking guys back, they're pursuing to the ball, they're getting the ball out and it's energy every snap," Baker said. "And I want that frickin' offensive line, when they see us on film, understand they gotta strap the chinstrap up and they gotta do it for 60 minutes. Alright. And that still ain't going to be enough. That's the tempo, that's how we want to play up front. That's the personality that we're trying to get these guys to go to."
Two encouraging Eason observations
Tuesday was our first chance to hear from quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich during training camp, and he offered his perspective on where second-year quarterback Jacob Eason stands after four practices running the first-team offense in place of Carson Wentz.
"Jacob's doing a good job," Milanovich said. "You have to take into consideration with Jacob, he's essentially a rookie. He played not a single snap last year because there weren't any preseason games and got very little reps in the preseason because he was the three, he wasn't the backup. So he's doing well.
"He's working extra. His grasp on the offense I've seen change over the last month, even with the limited offseason we have. Obviously big, strong guy, throws it great.
"Probably the two things that are the most impressive about Jacob is, No. 1, guy that hans't had any reps, now he's with the ones. Some guys, you'll see that look in their eye where it feels too big for them — it doesn't. He's been in big spots before, as a freshman he was at Georgia. I think all those things served him well. And the other thing he's doing is he's making mistakes, but generally he's not making the same mistake twice. So with more reps he's just going to continue to improve."
A highlight for Eason on Tuesday: An athletic throw to wide receiver Zach Pascal for a touchdown in 11-on-11 red zone work. He later fired another strike to Pascal for a score in the same period.
"Just to get this amount of reps and this experience is going to accelerate his development so much faster than just getting a few reps," Milanovich said. "Obviously we want Carson here. But we're early in camp. It's great for Jacob to get the reps, it's great for us to see him and the other quarterbacks get the reps and get them ready for the season if we need them."
The Colts finished Tuesday's practice with some two-minute 11-on-11 work, which produced an impressive sequence of plays engineered by rookie quarterback Sam Ehlinger. The drive concluded with Ehlinger finding tight end Farrod Green for a touchdown.
"Sam is coming along quickly," 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."
- Running back Jonathan Taylor's vision, patience and burst are all still just as good as they looked in the second half of the 2021 season.
- Running back Nyheim Hines made his 2021 training camp practice debut after dealing with a hip issue.
- Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle both had rest days and did not practice. Guard Danny Pinter (illness) and linebacker Jordan Glasgow (back) also did not practice.
- Tight end Mo Alie-Cox made a tremendous contested catch in seven-on-seven red zone work for a touchdown.
- Linebacker Bobby Okereke continued to flash his coverage skills with another play against the pass, this time with a PBU during two-minute 11 on 11 work.
- Cornerback T.J. Carrie forced a fumble early in the first 11 on 11 period of the day.
- Cornerback Marvell Tell had an impressive pass break-up in the end zone during a red zone period.
They said it
"Where Carson's was an old injury that cropped up, Q's was not an old injury. Q's was a developmental anomaly, something that he was kind of born with, something that is always there, you never know. Then all of a sudden, here it is. So, they got there different ways, but essentially the same thing. You can't make that up, right?" - Colts coach Frank Reich on the similarities between Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson's injuries