INDIANAPOLIS – We got our first 11-on-11 look at the 2022 Colts on Wednesday afternoon.
Just a reminder that Wednesday was the 2nd of 9 OTA/minicamp sessions for the Colts, meaning they do line up offense vs. defense out on the practice field.
This is Phase Three of the offseason program, meaning teams can hold 11-on-11 drills for the first time this offseason. No ‘live contact’ is allowed, and the physicality is expected to be pretty limited in the spring. Full pads are not to be worn.
OTAs (voluntary): May 24-26, June 1-3
Minicamp (mandatory): June 7-9
On Wednesday, the Colts worked in their indoor facility, with some rain in the Indy area, holding a session of more than 90 minutes. The Colts were in helmets, going full speed in their 7-on-7 work, before toning it back to a walk-through pace in the 11-on-11 portions of practice.
What did we learn from the Colts first open OTA session of 2022?
- Before we get to the actual practice, let’s start with the newsiest item from Wednesday. Joel Erickson of the IndyStar reported on Wednesday that Kenny Moore is not participating due to issues with his contract. Moore, 26, has two years remaining on his second contract, making in the $6.5-$8.5 million range in the next two years. With Stephon Gilmore joining the Colts and making slightly more money than that, Moore does probably have a gripe in his value. Moore is durable and versatile and has been a key playmaking cog at a position the Colts hold in high regard. Yes, he struggled in the final two games last season, but he still is one of the team’s most consistent players, at a position(s) the Colts don’t have a lot of other reliable guys. Does he deserve a slight pay increase, compared to the rest of the NFL? Probably, but noting too substantial. This is very rare though to see a Colts player sit out, even during this voluntary period, due to a contract. Moore was present on Wednesday, so his ‘hold out’ does not have him away from the team. Here were Frank Reich’s comments on Wednesday about Moore’s situation: “Everything is voluntary at this point,” Reich said on Wednesday. “Obviously you know how we feel about Kenny. Every player has to make their own decision. We love Kenny. We are going to continue to work hard and get the guys ready who are here. I’m glad he’s here and know he didn’t get to work today, but thankful he’s here and seeing and hearing everything that is going on.” Reich is unsure of how long Moore will continue to take this stance. This will be something to monitor when the mandatory minicamp takes place in two weeks, and see if it lingers into training camp.
- It wasn’t the crispest passing game day, which is certainly to be expected with Matt Ryan getting used to some very unproven wideouts (Michael Pittman left Wednesday’s session early due to tightness). But I’ll give more credit to the Colts defense for making at least a handful of plays on the ball right at the moment of truth. New corner Brandon Facyson led the group in that, with S-Rodney McLeod, CB-Isaiah Rodgers, and LB-E.J. Speed getting in on that pass defense action, too. Linebacker Zaire Franklin did drop an interception on a ball thrown by Ryan. Facyson, in particular, was terrific on Wednesday.
- When you watch Ryan operate, you see a guy who is often throwing with anticipation, knowing where to go with the ball early in his progression. The offensive highlight from Ryan on Wednesday came from him finding Ashton Dulin in stride for a beautiful deep ball. You also saw a guy like Nyheim Hines really benefit from Ryan’s accuracy, hitting the speedy running back in stride for room after the catch on a couple of occasions. Early on Wednesday, Kylen Garnson and Parris Campbell didn’t help Ryan in holding onto well thrown balls.
- As you’d expect, Sam Ehlinger handled most of the second-team QB duties on Wednesday, with Nick Foles still in his first week with the Colts. The addition of Foles should give the Colts a really sound base for evaluating their unproven wideouts/tight ends. Matt Ryan and Foles should give the Colts a nice level of accuracy this time of year, which is not always the case. One thing you notice in Ryan and Foles is their physical stature (Ryan at 6-4, 217 and Foles at 6-6 and 243). Both also worked with a glove on their non-throwing hand (left) during Wednesday’s practice.
- We heard from new Colts backup QB-Nick Foles after Wednesday’s session. Foles has a complete understanding of the backup role he’s now in for the Colts. It’s a two-year contract for Foles, a length he wanted to move his family to Indianapolis and play with Frank Reich again. Foles was gushing over Reich on Wednesday. Simply, Foles appears to get it as a professional, which is important for a guy knowing that he’s the backup. Reich reiterated on several times Wednesday how “incredibly fortunate” the Colts are to have Ryan and Foles as their QBs, after several months of off-season uncertainty at the most important position in sports. “I’ve wanted Nick since I got here,” Reich said on Wednesday. “He’s the perfect backup quarterback.”
- Rookie Alec Pierce worked mostly with the second team on Wednesday. Pierce is getting some gunner looks on special teams, too. The Colts 2022 draft class looked to be healthy and participating on Wednesday.
- FANTASY OWNER ALERT from Frank Reich on Nyheim Hines: “If I was going to be in a fantasy league, I think it’s worth considering drafting him.” Yes, the Colts fully plan to use Hines much more in 2022.
- Again, this part of the offseason is still “voluntary” for players to attend and participate. The only mandatory part of the spring comes June 7-9 in a three-day minicamp. Having said that, these Colts did not appear to be participating (some, if not all, due to injury): S-Julian Blackmon, CB-Kenny Moore, S-Khari Willis, LB-Darius Leonard, DE-Yannick Ngakoue, DL-Tyquan Lewis, OL-Dennis Kelly. WR-Michael Pittman did leave early due to some tightness. CB-Stephon Gilmore didn’t participate much, mainly in the late walk-through like 11-on-11 session.
- Reich did have a Julian Blackmon (Achilles) update on Wednesday. Reich said Blackmon is “ahead of schedule” and the hope is he will be ready to go before too long. Blackmon tore his Achilles in late October.
- Given the absences listed above, here’s a rough look at the offensive and defensive ‘starters’ at Wednesday’s first media viewing of the 2022 offseason. On offense: QB-Matt Ryan, RB-Jonathan Taylor, WR-Parris Campbell, WR-Mike Strachan, TE-Mo Alie-Cox, TE-Jelani Woods, LT-Matt Pryor, LG-Quenton Nelson, C-Ryan Kelly, RG-Danny Pinter, RT-Braden Smith. On defense: DE-Kwity Paye, DT-Grover Stewart, DT-DeForest Buckner, DE-Ben Banogu, LB-Zaire Franklin, LB-Bobby Okereke, CB-Isaiah Rodgers, CB-Brandon Facyson, S-Will Redmond, S-Rodney McLeod, CB-Anthony Chesley.