INDIANAPOLIS – The final week of the Colts spring offseason program is underway.
As we outlined last week, Colts players and staff came to an agreement on a two-week on-field schedule for this time of year, foregoing the normal 10 OTA and 3 days of minicamp. The work last week and this week will not involve offense vs. defense sessions or 1 vs. 1 drills.
What did we learn from the Colts as they returned to work on Monday?
- Last year at this time, Julian Blackmon was in the thick of ACL rehab. After Blackmon blew realistic rookie expectations out of the water, he is now taking part in spring work for the first time in his NFL career. Chris Ballard has mentioned that Blackmon, understandably, tapered off a bit in 2020. With the NFL season being several games longer than college, Blackmon has focused specifically on building up his leg strength to last through a 17-game schedule. “It was definitely difficult. Coming off the injury, you feel your legs kind of going at the end. This year I’m making sure that my legs are stronger this year.” Ballard believes Blackmon has All-Pro potential at safety.
- While the Colts are replacing (arguably) the most important piece of their offensive line this season, they still have the other 4 pieces in-tact up front. Since Week 5 of the 2018 season, the Colts have had a quartet of LG-Quenton Nelson, C-Ryan Kelly, RG-Mark Glowinski and RT-Braden Smith together. Those 4 have started 37 of the past 44 games. “It’s unreal to have the same guys together,” Glowinski said on Monday. “Just to be able to keep working and trust in one another as a group. We still find ways to learn from one another and make it interesting…” Glowinski, 29, is the only member of these four heading for a contract year in 2021. With the financials of the O-line starting to tighten, it’ll be interesting to see how long the Colts can maintain this rare continuity.
- In losing Denico Autry in free agency, the Colts are banking on another step forward from Tyquan Lewis. Injuries have hindered Lewis in his 3 NFL seasons, but he stepped up last season with 4 sacks and 8 tackles for loss as a reserve. With Autry gone, Lewis has a good chance to start at defensive end and then slide inside on pass downs. Autry had 7.5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss last season, but he also played 216 snaps more than Lewis. “He’s a tenacious player,” Lewis says of Autry. “He plays fierce and with a chip on his shoulder. I feel like I play the same way. We both have similarities. I feel like I can play inside and out. He’s a great player. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. I look up to him a lot.” A second-round pick in 2018, Lewis is in a contract year looking to establish himself as another defensive moving forward.
- All 3 opt outs from the Colts in 2020 are back and playing this season. “That was just a personal decision with so much uncertainty in the world, Tell said on Monday. “I just tried to take that opportunity as a voluntary opt out and take care of myself and my family,” Marvell Tell is the most heralded of that group. Tell, a 5th round pick in 2019, had some nice moments in his rookie season as he made the transition to playing cornerback. Even though Tell wasn’t present with the Colts in 2020, he still stayed in contact with the organization and continued to train as if it was ‘an extended offseason.’ Tell said he had no regrets about opting out and is locked in on competing for some playing time behind Xavier Rhodes and Kenny Moore.
- Ben Banogu was not a fan of talking about the past on Monday. Banogu, who was inactive for 8 games last season and didn’t record a tackle in the final two months of the season, enters a third NFL season in which Chris Ballard has called ‘big’ for the former 2nd round pick. The 2021 draft was certainly another wake-up call for Banogu in seeing defensive ends drafted in each of the first two rounds. Banogu has spent part of his offseason training with DeForest Buckner out west. Banogu is going to remain in Indianapolis a bit here after the spring program ends to train with Robert Mathis.
- The media will have one more practice viewing this Thursday, which will be the last look at the Colts until their 2021 camp, which is likely to take place at Grand Park in Westfield.