WESTFIELD, Ind. — This coming week will be important for the Colts' evaluation of their quarterbacks, with two joint practices with the Panthers and a preseason game against Carolina on the horizon in the next seven days.
The Panthers will arrive at Grand Park for practices Thursday and Friday (both begin at 4 p.m.) before next Sunday's 1 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium. Head coach Frank Reich referred to those practices as being "game-like," and then the actual game will provide Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger and Brett Hundley with a critical opportunity to continue to develop within the Colts' offense with Carson Wentz (foot) out.
And Eason, who's worked with the Colts' first-team offense since Wentz's injury, will get more snaps in that preseason game than Reich would normally have his top quarterback play.
"I don't know exactly how much yet, but he'll definitely play a lot more," Reich said. "We've talked about what rotation we want because I gotta consider all the guys. But he'll definitely, we'll get some of our starters out of there but he'll still be in there just because he's going to need those reps. I'm looking forward to seeing him."
Eason in Sunday's practice overcame an early interception — a throw to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton sailed into the waiting arms of cornerback T.J. Carrie in 11 on 11 work — to put together some solid periods as the morning went on.
Ehlinger owned the highlight of the day, though, when he escaped pressure to his left, kept his eyes downfield and was able to re-orient his body to rifle an accurate deep strike to an open Dezmon Patmon for a big gain. Ehlinger also had a few scrambling plays that impressed Reich.
"He can make plays with his feet, and he's got good functional play strength," Reich said. "He gets inside there, he doesn't go down easy. He's a very sturdy guy. That's something he's gotta use to his advantage."
An Eric Fisher Update
Eric Fisher has been with his teammates every day of training camp at Grand Park, and while he's only been doing work off to the side, Reich said he thinks the left tackle "looks really good."
Fisher was placed on PUP prior to the start of training camp with an Achilles' injury he suffered with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship in January.
"I saw him doing something the other day and I yelled over 'put some pads on him.' I thought he looked that good," Reich said. "More importantly, just talking to him — this sounds corny, but I'm going to say it again anyway — he's got the eye of the tiger. This guy's locked in. That's what's most important to me is that the player has a mindset of, you have to fight to get back Week 1, Week 2, whatever it is.
"I just sense that the man is doing everything he can do to be back the very first day that he can be back, and not a second later."
- Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner did not practice on Sunday, with Reich saying the Colts are taking a precautionary "be certain, be smart" approach to getting the 2020 All-Pro back on the field after a foot issue cropped up Saturday.
- Linebacker Darius Leonard (ankle), who signed a contract extension Sunday, told Colts Media's Larra Overton he hopes to get back on the field in the next week or so.
- The Colts' defensive line had another monster day, which has been a common theme throughout the first half of training camp. Kwity Paye and Kemoko Turay were consistently disruptive, Isaac Rochell had a few flashes and Al-Quadin Muhammed swatted the ball out of Ehlinger's hands for a well-regulated strip-sack, among the day's D-line highlights.
- The Colts' defense was also active against the pass, with linebackers Bobby Okereke and Zaire Franklin and cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Rock Ya-Sin logging PBUs in team work, while linebacker E.J. Speed combined with Turay for a practice "sack" in 11 on 11.
- Monday is a players' day off before the Colts return for non-padded practices Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of the Panthers' arrival Thursday.
They said it
"Just holding my two girls and thinking about what I've been through in life — now, it's more so, they're good but I'm from down South. You still gotta work for everything. If you want something you gotta find a way to get the job done, you gotta go out, you gotta work. But you're not going to do it to make ends meet. You're doing it because I'm teaching you how to grind. I'm gonna teach you, don't ask for a handout. I could give them all the money in the world but that's not going to teach them nothing. I gotta make sure they understand that don't count on nobody to give you nothing, to go out and earn and take what's yours." — Linebacker Darius Leonard on what his contract extension means for his family