INDIANAPOLIS – Phew, game week is officially here.
In the NFL world, game weeks truly begin on Wednesday’s, as teams hit the practice field for the first time in preparation for Sunday.
The Colts did that on Wednesday—for their first regular season practice of 2020.
What were the takeaways from the Colts on Wednesday?
-The Colts aren’t going into much detail, but they have a plan to make sure at least one of their four quarterbacks (Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason and Chad Kelly-practice squad) is isolated and healthy throughout a game week. Frank Reich confirmed the plan on Wednesday, but was vague in sharing details about how the Colts will monitor things. “We’ll do some things each week to make sure we have a quarterback protected, just in case things get scary on us on the weekend,” Chris Ballard first said this past weekend.
-Frank Reich said before Wednesday’s practice that the Colts were in “pretty good shape” injury wise. Well, all 53 guys on the 53-man roster practiced in some capacity on Wednesday. It’s looking like the Colts might be down just two starters/key guys for Sunday’s opener. Those would be TE-Trey Burton (calf) and DE-Kemoko Turay (ankle). Compared to many teams around the NFL, it’s a pretty good injury report for the Colts after such a scaled back offseason. At Wednesday’s practice, OT-Anthony Castonzo (oblique) and LB-Matthew Adams (ankle) were participating, after both missed practice time last week.
-On Tuesday, we heard offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni talk about his expectations for Philip Rivers this season. Frank Reich had his turn on Wednesday. Reich said he wants Rivers to “use your experience and intelligence to make the checks into explosive days,” “don’t feel that you have to ‘win’ the game for us every week, take what they give you.” This gets into a point made below, but the Colts have such a firm belief in that what they have around their quarterback will take much more off the plate of Rivers late in games (not needing to rely on comeback after comeback like we saw with the Chargers way too much last season).
-One of the biggest reasons why the Colts are bullish on a ‘revival’ or sorts from Philip Rivers this season comes down to the group protecting him. Pointed out by ESPN’s Mike Wells on Wednesday, Rivers has been sacked at least 30 times in 9 of the last 10 seasons. For comparison’s sake, Peyton Manning was sacked more than 23 times only once in his entire 17-year playing career. Given how quickly Rivers gets the ball out, he shouldn’t be anywhere close to sniffing his average sack number behind this Indy O-line.
-The Colts have announced their captains (voted by players) for the 2020 season: Philip Rivers, T.Y. Hilton, Justin Houston, Darius Leonard and Zaire Franklin. Those first four shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. I thought maybe a Kenny Moore could have been another defensive option though. Franklin has frequently been lauded for his leadership and did play the most special teams snaps of any Colts player last year.
-Seeing established and accomplished quarterbacks move on to a second NFL team and maintain that level of success is something that we do not see a whole lot. Philip Rivers points to what the Colts already have around him team wise and familiarity in the offensive system as two main reasons why he thinks this marriage will work out better than other veteran QBs. Speaking of Rivers, you saw the giddiness from him on Wednesday. The 38-year-old quarterback said he felt that ‘nervous energy’ on Tuesday night, knowing the first regular season practice of the season was less than 24 hours away.
-We hear a lot about tackling as the biggest defensive issue for season openers (especially this season). Offensively, Philip Rivers points to ball security and penalties, specifically pre-snap penalties. The ball security aspect for the offense is probably the most closely related item to tackling. With hardly any fully live reps, offensive players still weren’t truly able to replicate the ability to protect the ball from defenders ripping at them. Come Sunday, keep a close eye on fumbles and tackling in space.
-New tight end Noah Togiai was not expecting to be claimed by the Colts on Sunday. He turned in his Eagles playbook on Sunday at 8:00 AM, with the team telling him that he would be back on their roster (once clearing waivers) at 4:00, with Philly re-signing him. But the Colts had put in a waiver claim for the 2020 undrafted free agent. And by 11:00 AM, Togiai found out he was heading to his second NFL home. Known as more of a receiver, Togiai did run a 4.69 40-yad dash at his Oregon State Pro Day, which is an impressive number for a tight end. He caught 102 balls for 1,048 yards in starting 37 games for the Beavers. It will be interesting to see if the Colts can get Togiai up to speed enough to have him involved at all in the offensive game plan this week, or if they will use other personnel groupings (more 3-WR or 2-RB sets)
-The Colts will practice again on Thursday and Friday this week before heading to Jacksonville on Saturday, with Sunday’s season opener kicking at 1:00.
Wednesday Injury Report
-Limited: LB-Matthew Adams (ankle), S-Julian Blackmon (knee), LT-Anthony Castonzo (oblique), C-Ryan Kelly (knee), WR-Dezmon Patmon (knee)
-Bowen Analysis: Kelly and Patmon are two new injuries that we didn’t previously know about. Blackmon has to be viewed as a bit of a longshot to play this weekend, as he’s still limited in practice coming back from the ACL.