WESTFIELD, Ind. — It's tough to decide which highlight to lead off with from the Colts' Thursday joint practices with the Carolina Panthers.
Should it be Mike Strachan's physical snag of a Sam Ehlinger pass for a touchdown? How about Jacob Eason ripping a strike to Kylen Granson for a score? Or Michael Pittman Jr. flashing some toe drag swag for a leaping touchdown and spiking the ball 20 feet in the air and into general manager Chris Ballard's hands?
Or the Colts' defensive line annihilating the Panthers' offensive line in one-on-one drills?
"I think we won the day," linebacker Bobby Okereke said. "We won the physical battle, which was the most important thing for us."
Strong Day For QBs
Eason and Ehlinger, as expected, had an even split in reps between the first- and second-team offense. Both had crisp, clean practices punctuated by some excellent throws in 11-on-11 red zone drills.
"I thought the red zone period at the end was a particularly good period," coach Frank Reich said. "Both quarterbacks had a nice touchdown pass. Both Sam and Jacob I thought today were really solid. I thought they were solid days by both of them. We'll look at the film more closely but I felt good about the day."
Notably, Thursday was the first time either Eason or Ehlinger had played against another NFL team — be it in practice or a game. And both handled the challenge well against a talented Panthers defense. Another highlight: Ehlinger dropped a perfect pass in a bucket for running back Benny LeMay.
Strachan Does It Again
Strachan had a few impressive reps in one-on-one, seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 work, but the ball he caught from Ehlinger for a touchdown in a full-team red zone drill was a tremendous showcase of his size and strength. And it was yet another training camp highlight for the seventh round pick from Division II Charleston, who's seemingly made a splash play or two every day since the Colts kicked off at Grand Park.
"You want to see him make some plays, which he did," Reich said. "He had one bust that I saw on a route but really optimistic about Mike. We want to see him make those big plays. He made a couple of those today. Excited about his development, he's still heading in the right direction."
Big Wins For D-Line
The Colts' defensive line put on a clinic in one-on-one pass rushing drills against the Panthers' offensive line:
- Andrew Brown was a menace with his hands and power, and it didn't seem like he lost a single rep.
- Ben Banogu flashed an excellent counter move off his speed rushes.
- Kemoko Turay had wins both with an impressive get-off at the line and a powerful bull rush.
- Antwaun Woods and Grover Stewart consistently won reps.
- Isaac Rochell had a couple of stars next to his name.
Carolina's offensive line is a bit banged up — center Matt Paradis wasn't participating — but they still have a roster of NFL players. And the Colts' defensive line absolutely dominated those drills, looking every bit as good against an opponent as they've looked throughout training camp so far.
- Defensive end Kwity Paye (ankle) was present but did not practice. Reich said the Colts are optimistic about Paye and don't believe his injury was serious, adding "it was pretty mild, but we want to be safe."
- There was one skirmish early in practice, but it quickly dissipated. Reich thought that little scuffle elevated the energy at practice without getting out of control. "I think that helped put it in the right atmosphere," Reich said, "but the guys handled it the right way."
- Safety George Odum notched an interception in 11-on-11 work, while cornerback Kenny Moore II had a few pass break-ups but said after practice he was frustrated he didn't turn any into interceptions.
- Tight end Jack Doyle and wide receiver Zach Pascal added touchdowns in red zone work, both on passes thrown by Ehlinger.
- The Colts and Panthers will get back at it on Friday at 4 p.m. for one more joint practice ahead of Sunday's 1 p.m. preseason opener at Lucas Oil Stadium.
They said it
"Coach Frank (Reich) always talks about our three F's – focus, fight and finish. I think we approach every day like that. I don't want to speak for other teams across the league, but I definitely think we do it different here." - Wide receiver Parris Campbell