INDIANAPOLIS – Mother Nature sent the Colts inside on Tuesday morning for their second practice in full pads.
Tuesday brought a few more starters sitting out, but we did see our first look at the kicking competition here in 2020.
What were some of my takeaways from the second practice in full pads?
-Part of the Colts drafting Jonathan Taylor was to create more big plays in the run game. Well, the Wisconsin rookie popped a few of those on Tuesday, no matter if he was with the starters or with the third team. Taylor brought the loudest cheer of the day from his offensive mates when he knocked two defensive backs to the ground who were attempting to wrap him up. Now, let’s definitely mention Marlon Mack had a nice day, as well, including one big run, but seeing Taylor turn it up to another gear in the open field was noticeable.
-Philip Rivers finished the day going (roughly) 10-of-15 in full-team 11-on-11 sessions. Rivers did have a ‘hero ball’ lead to an interception for his final toss of the day. He tried to loft one over the middle to Jack Doyle. The throw sailed and into the arms of diving safety Tavon Wilson. Tuesday was much more of a check-down day from Rivers. Some see his unique throwing motion and think it’s Rivers being erratic and in panic mode. But, as Trey Burton pointed out after practice, Rivers is in tremendous control of the offense. He is dialed in pre-snap with where the ball needs/should go, even if his motion is a little funky.
-Rivers had 7 of his 10 completions go to the tight ends and running backs on Tuesday. But Michael Pittman did haul in 2 early grabs, with T.Y. Hilton out. Frank Reich said after Tuesday’s practice that Pittman has had a few mental errors early on (we saw a miscommunication between Pittman and Philip Rivers on Monday lead to an incompletion). Pittman hasn’t had a ton of success in 1-on-1 reps, but he did get involved with the starters with a couple of grabs in traffic on Day Two.
-Before veteran safety Tavon Wilson (who Anthony Walker compares to former Colt Mike Mitchell) concluded practice with a diving interception, the best defensive play we saw from the first team was a perfectly timed pass deflection by Malik Hooker. With Rivers trying to find Jack Doyle, it was Hooker diving to get his hand on the ball and force an incompletion. For me, there’s no more fascinating player to watch this season than Hooker, considering he’s now in a surprising contract year.
-Tuesday was the first time we’ve seen the kicking competition between Chase McLaughlin and Rodrigo Blankenship. Both guys were very solid, with McLaughlin a perfect 7-of-7 and Blankenship going 6-of-7 (knocking one off the right upright from 47 yards). In trying to increase a little pressure, Nos. 50-99 on the roster had to run sideline-to-sideline following the Blankenship miss (the smaller numbers were assigned to McLaughlin). Those two going 13-of-14, alternating kicks with distances from 47, 49 and 52 yards, was a pretty good first day.
-Speaking of the competition, Reich shared this earlier in the week of how the ‘winner’ of this battle will be decided. “Everything will weigh into it including Chase’s experience, every kick that’s charted, every aspect of that charting – the accuracy of those kicks. Not just the ones that are good and not good but even the accuracy of a good one. How good was it? It’s kind of like a quarterback – you can have two completions and they look completely different. One is a quarterback hits a guy right in stride as opposed to throwing it behind him. After enough kicks, it’s kind of the same thing. When a guy keeps hitting them straight down the middle, straight down the middle, that kind of stuff gets noticed if that happens. Then we’re trying to do some unique things, a little bit different than we’ve done in the past. Where typically we’d have all our kicking in one period, and we’re spreading out the kicking over a couple periods. We’ll kick some early and then we’ll kick some at the end of a couple team periods and try to create some game-like situations. Without the preseason games, we’ve tried to put a little bit more emphasis really on the competition between the two of them to try and put as much pressure as we can. The kickers I have been around that are good kickers like these two guys, they love the pressure. How can we amp that up in a practice setting to get those game-like reps, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
-Frank Reich is a fan of what Parris Campbell has shown so far. After Tuesday’s practice, Campbell mentioned that he’s so much more comfortable in his knowledge base of the offense here in Year Two. Simply, the Colts just don’t have a wideout like Campbell who can shift into an uncatchable gear in the open field.
-I thought Tuesday was another good day for Tyquan Lewis. The third-year defensive lineman (who is mostly playing inside) spoke after practice how this is by far the best he’s felt physically and mentally heading into a season. Lewis understands that the time is ticking on him to make an impact.
-No preseason games hurts many guys, but Reece Fountain might top that list. On Tuesday, Fountain put up a performance like we saw in last year’s camp (high-pointing the ball, making plays down the field, etc.). Still, for a guy who hasn’t carved out a role on special teams, Fountain really must make a strong impression for the Colts to give him a 53-man roster spot. A banged-up Marcus Johnson right now is aiding Fountain’s cause.
-We won’t get into details, but expect some 2-running back creativity from the Colts in 2020. This will be the next chapter in Frank Reich’s game of chess.
-The strained groin suffered by Kenny Moore on Monday will keep him out ‘at least a week,’ per Frank Reich. Losing Moore late last season wrecked an already shaky pass defense. That’s what led to the Colts going out and signing veteran CB-T.J. Carrie in the offseason. It’s Carrie getting that look in the slot with Moore now sidelined.
-It looked like Chad Kelly had a little more production than Jacob Eason in their time with the 3rd team offense on Tuesday. Like Fountain, no preseason action is such a bummer for these two.
-Couple of names that stood out to me on Tuesday, for various reasons: DT-Tyquan Lewis, CB-Lafayette Pitts, WR-Reece Fountain, WR-DeMichael Harris, CB-Travis Reed.
-The following were down 6 starters on Tuesday: WR-T.Y. Hilton (rest), TE-Trey Burton (rest), DE-Justin Houston (neck), OT-Braden Smith (foot), CB-Xavier Rhodes (illness), CB-Kenny Moore (groin). Denico Autry and Al-Quadin Muhammad again benefitted from no Houston practicing. And Le’Raven Clark, who mostly has experience at left tackle, replaced Smith. This is such an important camp/year for Clark. The Colts really need someone to emerge as a reliable 3rd tackle. At cornerback, Lafayette Pitts and T.J. Carrie benefitted from the open reps alongside Rock Ya-Sin.
Injury Report: Kemoko Turay and Mo Alie-Cox remain on the physically unable to perform list. Julian Blackmon is on the non-football injury list. Other guys who did not appear to be practicing on Tuesday included: WR-T.Y. Hilton (rest), TE-Trey Burton (rest), CB-Xavier Rhodes (illness), CB-Kenny Moore (groin) DE-Justin Houston (neck), OT-Chaz Green, OT-Braden Smith (foot), CB-Isaiah Rodgers (boot on left foot), OT-Brandon Hitner, TE-Xavier Grimble, WR-Marcus Johnson and DL-Sheldon Day. Moore will be out at least a week after straining his groin, Reich said. Moore was visibly frustrated on Monday when he suffered the injury, tossing his helmet on the ground as he headed towards the bench. The head coach did not have a definite update on when Turay would make his practice debut in 2020, other than to say he’s making good progress. Reich said Houston was hit in Sunday’s practice and suffered a strained neck. Smith is dealing with a foot injury that the head coach doesn’t think his major.
Weekly Camp Schedule
-Wednesday: 10:00-12:00 Practice
-Friday: 10:00-11:45 Practice
-Saturday: 10:00-12:00 Practice
-Sunday: 10:00-11:30 Practice
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