INDIANAPOLIS – It was a steamy first training camp practice for the 2021 Indianapolis Colts.
With the spring on-field time being so scaled back this year, Wednesday’s work with the Colts in helmets and shorts was the first time they had gone offense vs. defense this year.
What were some of my takeaways from the first practice of camp?
- In your daily quarterback numbers, I had Carson Wentz going 6-of-13 throwing in 11-on-11 sessions, with completions to Parris Campbell, Kylen Granson, Jack Doyle, Zach Pascal, Marlon Mack and Michael Pittman. How would I sum up Wentz’s first day? A bit rusty. Expected Day 1 from a new quarterback getting his first taste of offense vs. defense since being benched last December. Offensive coordinator Marcus Brady had this to say about Wentz’s first day: “Overall, I thought he did well. He made some great checks in the run game, with passes. I thought he handled that very well. He threw the ball well today. He had a few missed throws but it is his first time getting out here with defenders in receivers face.” Mo Alie-Cox did have 2 drops in balls thrown by Wentz. In general, the passing game just looked rusty. Some errant/off target throws, pass catches unable to secure catchable balls seemed to dominate the day. The passing offense did find more of a rhythm as practice progressed. It should be noted that Brady said the Colts had some plays installed late on Tuesday night for Wednesday’s practice, which could have contributed to the ups and downs with timing.
- Jim Irsay spoke to the Colts on Tuesday night and made it clear the expectations of this franchise. “I love that,” Wentz says. “I’ve always been a guy wired to have high expectations. I could feel it in the spring right after the trade, feeling that it was different. It feels like a family. Football is always tight in the locker room. ‘It’s a family. It’s a family. It’s a family.’ But something feels different here. And even in the community. Even with you guys. It just feels like a big family and everyone is supporting and encouraging each other. And then having Mr. Irsay talk last night got me even more fired up. He still has a lot of passion and energy.”
- Wentz was a busy man this offseason having around 7 separate throwing sessions with his pass catches. Those took place in California, Indiana and Texas. One thing you notice with Wentz is just his ability to extend plays, tucking the ball and running, and being a threat when making zone reads or executing run/pass options. The Colts, and Wentz, will have a QB making plays much more from the perimeter this season. This is such an important part to today’s quarterback position. One final note on Wentz, he elected not to comment on whether not he’s been vaccinated for COVID-19.
- I had Jacob Eason down for 6-of-10 throwing 11-on-11 sessions, with one interception (by CB-Nick Nelson). Eason had several off-target throws in 7-on-7, too. As expected, the Colts are giving Wentz and Eason the vast, vast majority of team reps and that’s likely to be the case throughout camp.
- I mentioned this in my 53 camp storylines on Monday, but I’m curious to see if the lack of proven pass rushers will lead to more blitzing/disguising from Matt Eberflus’ unit. Early on Wednesday, we saw that from the Colts. I’ll be keeping my eye on this a lot through camp.
- The likes of Rock Ya-Sin, Marvell Tell and Isaiah Rodgers are getting a golden opportunity to start camp, with Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie on the COVID-19 list. Ya-Sin took advantage on Wednesday with a couple of nice plays in deflecting 50/50 balls.
- Rookie DE-Kwity Paye took a ton of starting reps on Wednesday, opposite Tyquan Lewis. Paye said the first thing he noticed during his first real NFL practice was the speed once the ball is snapped. He said he needs to work on getting off the ball quicker. Through some intense focus on nutrition, Paye said he’s dropped about 5 pounds since being drafted (he said he weighs 265 and wouldn’t mind getting a bit leaner).
- A surprise on Wednesday was Will Holden getting all the starting reps at left tackle, across four different 11-on-11 sessions. Sam Tevi drilled with the second unit. Offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said after practice that it remains an open competition for the starting left tackle job needed until Eric Fisher returns. Brady also mentioned Julie’n Davenport as a possibility. Davenport did not appear to be practicing on Wednesday. Holden seemed to hold his own on Wednesday. He also had a strong 1-on-1 rep against Kwity Paye.
- One thing you quickly notice watching the Colts QBs during individual drills is the size and live arm of those guys. Of course, reigning in those arms is the battle with some errant throws there from all the quarterbacks on Wednesday.
- It’s still weird to see WR-Michael Pittman, the potential No. 1 wide receiver for the Colts, covering kicks in practice. Will that really happen during the season?
- Parris Campbell (knee) looks healthy and back to his normal explosive self.
- Watching DeForest Buckner, listed at 6-7 and 295 pounds, move laterally is a bit jaw dropping. Guys that size shouldn’t be able to move like that so easily.
- As the Colts began their stretching on Wednesday, players and coaches made sure to make it known that Braden Smith was an even richer human. Just before Wednesday’s first practice of camp, Smith inked a deal reportedly in the 4 years, $72 million range, with $42.4 million guaranteed. Smith wanted his extension to get done before camp started. “They paid me, so I’m going to pay them back and play the best football of my career,” Smith said following Wednesday’s practice. Look for the Darius Leonard to be the next extension to come.
- With Darius Leonard (ankle) sidelined on Wednesday, it was the inexperienced E.J. Speed getting a tatse of starting defense action alongside Bobby Okereke (MIKE) and Zaire Franklin (SAM).
- The early kick returners on Wednesday: CB-Isaiah Rodgers, WR-DeMichael Harris, WR-Tyler Vaughns.
- Couple of names that stood out to me on Wednesday for various reasons: CB-Rock Ya-Sin, TE-Kylen Granson, DT-DeForest Buckner, RB-Jordan Wilkins, CB-Anthony Chesley, WR-Gary Jennings, WR-J.J. Nelson.
- Just before Wednesday’s practice, the Colts placed 3 defenders on the COVID-19 list: CB-T.J. Carrie, DE-Al-Quadin Muhammad and CB-Xavier Rhodes. Those are 3 notable defenders that will be missing some time to start camp. Frank Reich remains away from the team with his positive COVID-19 test. With those defenders sidelined, it’s a great opportunity for Kwity Paye, Tyquan Lewis and potentially Rock Ya-Sin securing starting jobs.
- The Colts will have three more practices this week before an off day on Sunday. See the schedule below.
Injury Report: The following players did not appear to be participating at Wednesday’s practice: RB-Nyheim Hines (hip, expected to miss a couple of days), S-Shawn Davis (hamstring), S-George Odum (knee), LB-Darius Leonard (ankle) and OT-Julie’n Davenport. Leonard was not wearing a boot while watching Wednesday’s practice. Just a reminder that OT-Eric Fisher (physically unable to perform list) and DE-Dayo Odeyingbo (non-football injury list) remain sidelined.
Weekly Camp Schedule
-Thursday: 10:00-11:30 Practice
-Friday: 10:00-11:45 Practice
-Saturday: 1:00-2:30 Practice
-Sunday: Off day
-Monday: 10:00-11:30 Practice
-Tuesday: 10:00-11:45 Practice
-Thursday: Off day