INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts will have their first 11-on-11 work of the 2022 offseason begin on Tuesday.
For the next three weeks, the Colts are scheduled for 9 OTA/minicamp sessions, meaning they will line up offense vs. defense on the practice field.
This is Phase Three of the offseason program, which allows teams to hold 11-on-11 drills for the first time this offseason. No ‘live contact’ is permitted, and the physicality is expected to be pretty limited in the spring.
OTAs (voluntary): May 24-26, June 1-3
Minicamp (mandatory): June 7-9
What should fans be watching for in the Colts first offense vs. defense work of the offseason?
1. Matt Ryan Takes Classroom To Field
For the first time in Matt Ryan’s 14-year career he’s working with a new team.
There’s some playbook learning that is/was needed, and there’s a ton of personnel unfamiliarity that Ryan will continue to sift through this offseason.
Learning your pass catchers in the classroom, or during routes versus air is one thing, but doing it against an opposing defense is the next level of building chemistry.
Even though the full contact period isn’t coming for months, you can get pretty close to replicating passing game speed in the spring.
2. Wide Receivers Emerging
While Matt Ryan getting to know his wideouts is an obvious storyline, how this group shakes out depth chart wise is anyone’s guess.
Is Alec Pierce the opening day No. 2 wideout behind Michael Pittman?
Will Parris Campbell be healthy to start the season?
How do the flashes of Mike Strachan and Dezmon Patmon evolve?
Does this unproven group impress enough to keep the Colts away from bringing in a veteran wideout (with T.Y. Hilton more of a possibility there compared to Julio Jones)?
No Colts position group comes close to the uncertainty of the wideouts this offseason.
3. Early Starting Job Watches
The annual playing time question deserves more attention to the Colts offense vs. their defense.
Offensively, you have open playing time at wide receiver behind Michael Pittman and at tight end behind Mo Alie-Cox. You have open starting battles at left tackle (Matt Pryor and Bernhard Raimann) and right guard (Danny Pinter vs. the ‘loser’ of Pryor/Raimann?). Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith are also working next to some new guys, which is a difference from the normal line continuity under Frank Reich.
On defense, the main depth chart questions revolves around the cornerback playing time (see more below) and how the safety position is handled until Julian Blackmon returns from his torn Achilles.
4. Implementing Gus Bradley’s System
As Frank Reich mentioned last month, the arrival of Gus Bradley means the Colts have about a 30 percent different looking defense in 2022.
So that’s the first time Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke, Khari Willis, Julian Blackmon have ever learned a new defense at the NFL level.
The defensive line is really changing their approach, focusing much more on immediate up field penetration, versus reacting to blocks.
Is the springtime where we see the Colts cornerback group play around with more pressing and disruption of timing in their primarily Cover 3 scheme?
The expectation is the scheme change under Bradley isn’t overwhelming, but it is a difference from where the Colts were the past few springs.
‘Simpler’ has been a common word defenders have used in describing Bradley’s installment.
5. The Usage of Stephon Gilmore
Under Matt Eberflus, the Colts were not really rotating corners throughout a game.
The starters usually logged a huge chunk of the defensive snaps. Perhaps some corner issues in depth played a role in that.
Do not expect Stephon Gilmore to walk in the door and start all 17 games, playing 100 percent of the snaps, at the age of 32.
Outside of Kenny Moore, there’s some definite open playing time for the Colts other corner spot in the base defense (with Gilmore the obvious candidate to start there), and especially in the nickel personnel grouping with two more corners coming onto the field.
That’s good news for the likes of Isaiah Rodgers and newcomer Brandon Facyson competing for the third corner spot, and the role of spelling Gilmore, when necessary.