INDIANAPOLIS – We are four days into training camp and the full pads have yet to be put on.
But with the first off day of the Colts 2021 training camp, it’s time to update the position battles up for grabs.
What has been observed from watching 4 days of Colts practice?
Running Back Reps:
This is going to be really difficult to gauge by watching training camp.
Running backs are being rotated at a very high rate, with no semblance of a game plan needed at Grand Park.
No Nyheim Hines (hip) for the start of camp complicates things, too. Hines has yet to practice.
Jonathan Taylor is the starter and looks great. Marlon Mack has rotated in at times and appears healthy. And Jordan Wilkins has reminded me that he is such a reliable option, when called upon.
Filling Out The Wide Receiver Group:
Chris Ballard went out of his way to mention this position group on report day.
When he first said it though, I wasn’t sure who or how the Colts would have guys further down on the depth chart truly challenge the top four.
So far, the top 4 has been set in stone. That’s some rotation of T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal.
Next up would probably be DeMichael Harris, Ashton Duiln and Dezmon Patmon. Rookie Mike Strachan has made a couple of nice catches, especially in 1-on-1 drills.
But this depth chart should almost be divided into two tiers with no one seriously challenging the top 4.
Offensive Line Depth
Let’s start with left tackle.
Will Holden got the starting reps at LT the first two days, and Sam Tevi followed with the starting reps on Friday and Saturday.
The Colts are calling this an open competition.
Still, we have yet to see full pads donned, so things could definitely change.
In general, the tackles have struggled, although Holden had a nice start to camp.
As far as the depth spots, the second unit has mostly seen a group of Chris Reed (left guard), Danny Pinter (center), Joey Hunt (right guard), Carter O’Donnell (right tackle). But Pinter has been needed in place of Ryan Kelly the last few days, with the team’s starting center out for some time due to an elbow injury.
Starting Defensive Ends
This one is somewhat complicated because we’ve yet to see Al-Quadin Muhammad (COVID-19 list).
Entering camp, I thought this was a ‘3 for 2’ battle between Muhammad, Kwity Paye and Tyquan Lewis, with the slight edge to the latter two.
It’s been Paye and Lewis at those starting spots throughout the first four days of camp.
The likes of Kemoko Turay, Isaac Rochell and Ben Banogu have all been with the second unit.
As with all these defensive battles, there’s caveats to each.
For linebacker, no Darius Leonard (ankle) has meant that E.J. Speed is receiving ample reps at that starting WILL spots.
Bobby Okereke has been the MIKE, as expected. And then Zaire Franklin has been the SAM.
But Matt Eberflus cautioned a few days back that whenever Leonard does return, Speed will get a chance to compete with Franklin for that SAM job. Those are two very different body types competing. Speed is the rangier and longer. Franklin is more in the thumper mold.
Lastly, the absences of Xavier Rhodes (COVID-19 list) and T.J. Carrie (COVID-19 list) have given some incredible opportunities to cornerbacks needing such.
Rock Ya-Sin has been atop that list, impressing the coaching staff early on.
The return of Tell, who opted out last season, should not be overlooked either. He’s a long corner, who is still fairly new to the position, but showed some flashes in his 2019 rookie season. Tell did miss Saturday’s practice due to a back injury.
Both Ya-Sin and Tell have taken advantage of these chances and that’s important for the Colts trying to build some reliable depth at corner. Ya-Sin did struggle a bit at Saturday’s practice.
Through 4 practices, the placekickers have kicked on just one day.
That was Friday, with Rodrigo Blankenship and Eddy Pinerio hitting on all 3 of their field goals (from 33, 42 and 50 yards).
Hot Rod has the slight edge on this competition due to what he did last year for the Colts.
It’ll be interesting to see if this battle ramps up in activity as camp moves along.