INDIANAPOLIS – After 9 full-padded practices for the Colts in 2020, the media’s viewing period will now shrink significantly, with the team shifting into regular season mode.
These practices were the only looks we will get at the Colts in 2020, until their regular season opener that awaits in Jacksonville on September 13th.
Here are 10 takeaways from camp:
1. Philip Rivers Is Philip Rivers
Some observations on the new Colts quarterback:
-The ball comes out quick with decisive decision-making and processing
-Check downs, check downs, check downs, instead of just throwing the ball away or attempting to scramble
-Minimal deep balls attempted this camp (something Rivers admitted), leaving a bit of an unknown to that aspect of the offense entering the season
-The occasional ‘YOLO’ ball that leaves you scratching your head
-Notice more command and confidence in the starting quarterback this year
It’s been a lot of what we expected from Rivers with the consensus being a pretty accurate, quick rhythm QB that loves his tight ends and running backs.
2. Big Play Run Game?
Honestly, it’s hard to truly evaluate the run game in camp, when the ‘live’ periods are all but non-existent.
Still, one takeaway from the Colts run game is they are going to have the ability this season to create more big plays via the ground.
This was an offseason goal (along with more consistency in the run game) and it’s why they traded up to select Jonathan Taylor.
I’m expecting several 30-plus yard runs from Taylor and Marlon Mack this season. That’s what this offensive line can help produce, particularly when you get into the second halves of games.
3. Up And Down Michael Pittman
It’s not the most shocking thing to see Michael Pittman have a quieter camp, after the rookies missed the entire spring.
It was surprising to see Pittman drop around a handful of passes, to go along with a few mental errors that Frank Reich pointed out.
When you watch Pittman, he looks like a natural catcher of the football and the Colts have liked that aspect to his game. Frank Reich did point out that once the mental strain of being an NFL wideout lessens for Pittman, that catching strength should appear again.
At 6-4, Pittman is going to still play a good amount early on, but he did have a few bumpy moments in camp.
4. Day 3 Picks Shows A Little More
We wrote back in the spring that the Colts shouldn’t need (or expect) a ton from their Day 3 picks in 2020.
And while the ‘need’ part still holds true, several Day 3 picks produced some nice moments during camp.
Even though Jacob Eason threw around 40 passes total in the 10 full-padded practices, he flashed that big arm and the raw potential that must be tapped into more (it was head scratching Eason didn’t take more 11-on-11 reps with the third team).
Offensive lineman Danny Pinter could be this team’s 6th OL, with Chris Ballard pointing out his ability to help in jumbo packages, while being a reserve guard or center.
Defensive tackle Rob Windsor has a nice first step and his motor is hard not to notice. Windsor really stood out this camp.
Cornerback Isaiah Rodgers was a bit banged up in camp, but he’s probably one injury away from seeing a necessary role in sub packages, and might be this team’s kick returner.
Wide receiver Dezmon Patmon has been available and appears to be in the mix for that final wideout spot (or two).
5. Trey Burton Shines (Before Injury)
It took the Colts a month into free agency before they found their new ‘receiving’ focused tight end.
Chicago had seen enough from Burton after two years, with an injury-riddled 2019 campaign leading to his April release.
Frank Reich’s history with Burton in Philly has had the Colts high on him all offseason long.
We saw why in camp, with the 6-2, 238-pound Burton shining at various levels of the field in finding space and becoming a consistent target of Philip Rivers. The body type of Burton is different than Eric Ebron, but expect No. 80 to be a target on third down and in the red zone for the Colts.
Unfortunately, Burton’s calf injury over the weekend could sideline him for some time.
6. Worried About Kemoko Turay
Less than two weeks away from the regular season opener and Kemoko Turay has still not practiced in 10 months.
The fractured and dislocated ankle Turay suffered in early October 2019 has him on the physically unable to perform list.
At this point, it’s fair to ask if Turay will be ready for Week 1, or what his early-season role could look like?
Now, the Colts don’t need Turay to play outside of third down, but his speed trait is a vitally important aspect to the pass rush. Like Parris Campbell on offense, a healthy Turay in 2020 can really push the ceiling of this season much higher.
7. Rock Ya-Sin’s Growth
When Marvell Tell announced his opt out at the start of camp, it raised the pressure on Rock Ya-Sin and Xavier Rhodes.
They are the long, outside corners on the roster.
Well, Ya-Sin had a really nice camp, with that strength of his in breaking up passes at the point of attack on display.
If Ya-Sin can translate this to the regular season it would give the Colts such a necessary piece (and another must-have building block moving forward).
8. Like The Defensive Line Depth
Chris Ballard is adamant that the Colts won’t be pushed around up front this year.
Ballard has invested so much into both lines, with the defensive front having gobs of resources in it.
Watching the D-line work in camp, you notice great depth (something that can’t be said for the offensive line), both in the interior and off the edge as well.
This has always been a goal of Ballard’s and it looks to be in the cards for 2020.
9. Incumbent At Kicker
If I’m making the call at kicker, I’m going with Chase McLaughlin.
Now, to be fair, I only saw McLaughlin and Rodrigo Blankenship kick in full pads three times. On the two days inside of Lucas Oil Stadium, McLaughlin went 12-of-15 and Blankenship went 11-of-15. That difference is small, but you have to factor in McLaughlin having the advantage in the fact that he’s kicked (and done it fairly well) in the NFL before.
The ball comes off Blankenship’s leg just fine, and I agree with Frank Reich that both of these guys are NFL caliber kickers, but I just can’t give the rookie the job.
Yes, he was hurt by not being able to kick in any actual game settings during the preseason. That’s tough luck in 2020 for the Lou Groza Award winner.
In my eyes, McLaughlin was always the favorite and a few long distance misses this past Saturday at LOS shouldn’t cost him the job.
10. More Creativity
We are now in Year Three of Frank Reich leading the offense and Matt Eberflus leading the defense.
In natural evolvement of each system those guys lead, there should be an expectation that we see some different things in 2020.
Defensively, I’m looking for more pre-snap disguising.
Offensively, the Colts have arguably the deepest running back group in the NFL, so expect some 2-back package groupings from Reich.
These are intriguing steps as the Colts try to diversify things, while maintaining their continuity systematically.