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INDIANAPOLIS – The full pads were back on the Colts on Wednesday, in what was their most physical practice of camp so far.
A more than 2-hour practice at Grand Park did have several key guys on the sidelines due to injury, with a new rookie emerging in the starting lineup.
Here are some tidbits from Wednesday’s sixth practice of Training Camp:
- The return of full pads on Wednesday had about 7-8 starters on the spectator list at practice (see the list below). The offense was down its starting quarterback, tight end, right tackle and two top receivers. It was the longest injury list we’ve seen from the Colts this camp.
- Wednesday brought the Colts first live tackling period of camp. A goal line session, mainly with reserves in the lineup, saw the defense dominate the line of scrimmage from the one-yard line. “It’s always an interesting period,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “It was good to get our pads on guys and actually tackle guys. I think that’s important because we don’t get a lot of opportunities to do that.” And his unit was very stout in shutting the offenses out of the end zone.
- One of the biggest personnel changes on Wednesday was 5th round pick E.J. Speed progressing to some first-team reps at the SAM linebacker position, even though ‘usual starter’ Matthew Adams was practicing. This was the first true ‘starting’ action we’ve seen from Speed. “What we saw in college was an athletic speed player who likes to hit and that’s exactly what we are getting,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus says of Speed. “He’s jumping off the tape right now in terms of hitting, speed and those things. He still has a long ways to go in what to do and how to do it. Once he learns those, he’ll be better.” One thing to remember at the SAM position though is that role is used only around 10-15 snaps per game, as Eberflus pointed out after practice. So Adams or Speed would be used just occasionally in that SAM role.
- Braden Smith was an observer at practice on Wednesday. This forced a change to the starting offensive line for just the second time in camp. It was Le’Raven Clark taking Smith’s place at right tackle. So far, it’s been Clark as the next man up at both tackle spots, when those normal starters have sat out practice.
- Two receivers, on opposite ends of the depth chart, who I thought had solid days on Wednesday were Devin Funchess and Krishawn Hogan. They had production in team sessions, which is something we hadn’t yet seen too much from Funchess. Second-year wideout Reece Fountain also recorded a few grabs in team drills.
- Speaking of Funchess, his day ended with rookie Rock Ya-Sin making a couple of nice plays against him. Ya-Sin, who had some struggling moments early on Wednesday, was twice on an island with Funchess, in man coverage, late in practice. The rookie made a tremendous interception on the first play, when he tipped the ball initially and then came down with the interception. On the next play, Ya-Sin had solid coverage on an overthrow to Funchess. The two traded a few friendly words in jogging back to their respective huddles. The interception for Ya-Sin was yet another for him off of a tipped ball: “Some of the interceptions he’s gotten so far, they are concentration plays,” Eberflus said of the rookie after practice. “He has really good concentration. The three balls are not immediate interceptions but a tipped ball. You have to really focus, pay attention, and have concentration. And he’s done a really good job with that.”
- Deon Cain struggled on Wednesday. He had ‘drops’ on probably 3 targets. Cain was clearly frustrated with himself following practice, as he stayed on the practice field to run routes by himself for about 20-30 minutes after practice ended.
- Through 6 practices at Grand Park, if I were to rank the amount of ‘starting’ reps for the rookies, it would probably look like this: Rock Ya-Sin, Khari Willis, E.J. Speed, Bobby Okereke, Ben Banogu. I don’t think anyone saw that order coming. Now, to be fair, here was what Matt Eberflus said after practice about the mixing and matching we are seeing on the defense right now, between the first, second and third teams: “We will hone in on that (starting 11) and groups so the chemistry is there (in the next few weeks),” the DC said. “Right now, we aren’t so concerned with that. We are more concerned with matchups and this guy covering that guy. That’s all been well thought out. We want certain players against certain players in coverages and blocking patterns and see if they can hold up.”
- It should be noted that Marlon Mack and Malik Hooker have participated in every practice this spring and camp. Those two 2017 draft picks have battled injuries before, and have often been watching practice in past years, but they’ve been in the lineup every day this offseason.
- In case you were wondering, Darius Leonard might have the most fun of any player at practice and he still looks like an All-Pro. Carry on.
- If there’s an undrafted free agent who has consistently shown up in my eyes, it’s tight end Hale Hentges (Alabama). With Ross Travis still trying to come back from his ACL injury, is there an open battle for the 4th tight end spot? Hentges, who is more known for his blocking, is a name to watch.
- Wednesday was the 5th straight missed practice for Jabaal Sheard (knee). On Wednesday, I wrote this piece on Sheard’s absence and how the defensive end position currently looks without their durable run stopper.
- Following Wednesday’s practice, Nick Sirianni said this is where current starter Jacoby Brissett has made the biggest stride: “Really, I think it’s the ability to process the play and see the defense and know where the ball is supposed to go. I’ve seen that so many times with him that instead of hitch, hitch, throw, he’s hitting his back foot, hitch, and throw. What that does is it makes our offensive line better because they don’t have to protect as long and it makes our receivers better because they can get initial separation and not let the guy catch up. Everything skyrockets from there when you can get the ball out on time.”
- Here were the Colts who did not practice on Wednesday: RB-Spencer Ware (muscle injury with a boot on his right foot/leg, on PUP list for 1-2 weeks), DE-Jabaal Sheard (sore knee, has missed 5 straight practices), DE-Kemoko Turay (shoulder, has missed 4 straight practices), WR-Parris Campbell (has missed 2 straight practices), WR-Penny Hart, QB-Andrew Luck (calf), S-Clayton Geathers (rest), TE-Ross Travis (hamstring), DE-Ben Banogu, TE-Jack Doyle (oblique), DT-Margus Hunt (rest), RB-Jordan Wilkins, WR-T.Y. Hilton (rest), OT-Braden Smith (groin).
- The Colts will have one more morning practice this week before another off day on Friday. They will return to work for four straight afternoon practices on Saturday before heading to Buffalo for their preseason opener.
REMAINING COLTS CAMP SCHEDULE
Thursday, August 1: Practice from 9:00-11:20 AM
Friday, August 2: Off day
Saturday, August 3: Practice from 2:00-4:00 PM
Sunday, August 4: Practice from 2:00-4:15 PM
Monday, August 5: Practice from 2:00-3:40 PM
Tuesday, August 6: Practice from 2:00-4:15 PM
Wednesday, August 7: Off day
Thursday, August 8: Preseason game at Buffalo
Friday, August 9: Off day
Saturday, August 10: Practice from 9:00-10:40 AM
Sunday, August 11: Practice from 9:00-11:15 AM
Monday, August 12: Practice from 9:00-11:15 AM
Tuesday, August 13: Off day
Wednesday, August 14: Joint practices with Browns from 4:00-6:10 PM
Thursday, August 15: Joint practices with Browns from 4:00-6:00 PM
Friday, August 16: Break camp
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