INDIANAPOLIS – With the NFL player opt out deadline for 2020 coming on Thursday, the Colts have now had 3 guys decided to sit out this season.
Frank Reich announced on Wednesday that young defensive backs CB-Marvell Tell and S-Rolan Milligan have joined LB-Skai Moore as Colts opt outs.
We’ll get into the losses of Tell and Milligan more below, but this is definitely a hurt to the secondary depth—a spot on the roster that already had a question entering the season.
What were the other main highlights from Reich and Philip Rivers meeting the media on Wednesday?
-Reich on the Colts having CB-Marvell Tell and S-Rolan Milligan opt out: “If I’m a player this year, more than any other year, if you are a guy who is on a roster and you are looking at the depth chart and wondering how many reps am I’m going to get this year, more than any other year, I just think more guys are going to get opportunities this year.”
Bowen’s Analysis: While Skai Moore opting out had no implications on the 53-man roster, that will be decided upon in a month, Wednesday’s news of Tell and Milligan opting out definitely does. Tell, a 5th round pick in 2019, is a guy the Colts were ‘encouraged’ by after his rookie season of making the permanent switch to cornerback. In 2020, Tell was likely the 4th corner, who has an advantage as a longer, outside corner, that would really be needed if there are struggles from a guy like Xavier Rhodes. The loss of Tell hurts the Colts depth at corner, particularly on the outside. His loss does help the likes of T.J. Carrie (thought to be more of a slot corner) and rookie Isaiah Rodgers (likely a nickel corner in the NFL) to make this team. With Milligan, he was probably safety No. 4 on the depth chart, until rookie Julian Blackmon gets fully healthy. The Colts needed both Tell and Milligan at various times last season, and that was without the COVID uncertainty that will inevitably impact this year. So while these losses on August 5th might get overlooked, the Colts could (will) need to rely on their secondary depth at some point this season. For Tell specifically, a missed season hurts important development for a guy playing a different position than he did in college, especially with Rhodes and Carrie here on 1-year deals. Reich did say he is optimistic that the Colts won’t have any more players opt out.
-Reich on Philip Rivers getting the chance to work with some pass catchers right now: “I talk to Philip every day after the session, try to get a blow-by-blow. It’s funny, you are so hungry to see the film, watch these guys do it. ‘How did so-and-so look? What throws did you throw? How did you throw? Describe it to me.’ I’m half kidding, but serious.”
Bowen’s Analysis: This part of camp allows for Rivers and his teammates to work on their own, but coaches cannot take part, or view, this work. So, Rivers is the eyes of Reich following these sessions. With strength and conditioning the main activity allowed (outside of meetings) right now, the Colts and the entire NFL will be getting on the practice field next week for some non-padded practices. Starting on August 17, full-padded practices can begin. With T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) on the non-football injury list, one has to wonder how much, if any, time Rivers has got to work with his No. 1 wideout this offseason.
-Reich on a contingency plan if he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to miss time: “I’ve had long conversations about that, in particular a long meeting with each of the coordinators and we’ve gone through and written down a plan for each position, whether it’s the quality control coach, a position coach, or a coordinator or myself, what’s the plan? We’ve mapped that out and written it down. We’ve talked it through with Chris, so all those areas are covered.”
Bowen’s Analysis: Welcome to life in the NFL in 2020. We’ve seen it already with Sean Payton (Saints) and Doug Pederson (Eagles). It’s a fair question to ask and one that Reich has clearly spent a lot of time on. Now, Reich wouldn’t reveal how the Colts would handle him being away for some time. There’s no clear answer. You’d assume Nick Sirianni would take over the play calling duties. What about head coach? Would that be too much for Matt Eberflus, who is already in charge of the entire defense, and that unit’s play caller on Sunday? There’s no coach on the roster with obvious head coaching experience (like a Joe Philbin from a few years back). Reich said the coordinators and Ballard know the plan, but no one else on the coaching staff, because he doesn’t want his assistants worrying about such plans that might never have to be implemented.
-Reich on what he saw from DeForest Buckner in the Super Bowl: “It was a dominant, monster performance on a big stage. And I think that’s one of the things that you look for. If you are going to invest what we’ve invested into DeForest, and expect him to be the kind of leader that we want him to be on this team, part of what you want to see is you want to have.”
Bowen’s Analysis: What Buckner did in the Super Bowl clearly was a big factor in the Colts making the monumental decision this offseason. Earlier this week, Chris Ballard mentioned that he thought if it wasn’t for Patrick Mahomes’ performance in the 4th quarter, Buckner was the Super Bowl MVP up to that point. With roster turnover for the Colts, you have to search a bit to find guys who have played in the Super Bowl (Sheldon Day did last year with the 49ers and Trey Burton did with the Eagles in 2017). The Colts will lean on these guys to try and get the Colts back to playing meaningful football in the month of January.
-Rivers on the diverse skillset of the wideout group: “I think it makes you more dangerous…It’s a deep and diverse group and I think when you have that it does make you harder to defend.”
Bowen’s Analysis: This is something we’ve seen the Colts try and get to under Ballard/Reich. You have the stud No. 1 (when healthy) in T.Y. Hilton, then you have the big body guy in Michael Pittman, the gadget speedster out of the slot in Parris Campbell and Mr. Reliable in Zach Pascal. Rivers really stressed how this variance in skillset is so important in a matchup-driven league. The question now becomes if the Colts can get these guys to prove it—Hilton health wise and without Andrew Luck, Pittman as a rookie, Campbell health wise and producing at a higher level in Year Two.
-Rivers on playing in front of small/no crowds in 2020: “I definitely got a feel for it the last couple of years (laughs). It will be different. You hear teams and players talk all the time, ‘We don’t care where we’ll play. We’ll play in the parking lot. We’ll play in the backyard. We are going to find out how true that is this year.’”
Bowen’s Analysis: Rivers pointed out that silent counts will likely not be needed in 2020, and the defense will miss out on truly feeding off the crowd come 3rd down. For now, the Colts are saying a 25 percent max capacity to the crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium. This quote by Rivers is so spot on. We are going to find out the guys who truly love the game of football. It goes back to the self-motivated, self-driven, high-character guys that the Colts look for in their roster building process. That’s real, and the Colts feel they have a real advantage in this area for such a unique season.