Wow, was it great to be back at Grand Park for Indianapolis Colts Training Camp or what. I had the pleasure of getting a quick baseball break on Sunday and Monday to swing by and see what was happening. And the two practices left me quite impressed.
Can’t wait to be back in town with you guys this Fall. We’re going to have a great time (hopefully after another South Bend Cubs Midwest League Championship).
By the way, big thanks to the likes of Matt Conti, Hayden Clark, and Matt Jesus for having out at camp again. It was great to see folks like Matt Taylor, Casey Vallier, Jeffrey Gorman, KB, and others all around the tent and on the field. The first thing that I noticed being at practice on Sunday was not initially anything team related.
Sunday’s practice had over 7000 fans at Grand Park. And after last year, which was my first camp experience, not having fans down near the field, autographs available, all kinds of restrictions and more, it was simply refreshing to feel even more normalcy.
After the gazing of the stands, sole focus went to one man. The new #2. Matt Ryan.
Of course, after watching another #2 at camp last year, there are some major differences. Then again, we didn’t even see a whole lot of the prior #2 at camp a year ago. When we did, it was okay. But Ryan just brings an entirely different vibe.
Matty Ice can win football games in Indianapolis, and a whole lot of them.
It’s just a matter of what he can do to continue broken plays. I never was around the team when Philip Rivers was the Colts QB, but this has to be a similar-ish situation. One X-factor Carson Wentz gave you was the ability to make something out of nothing away from the pocket. Sometimes it ended as a left handed shovel pass interception, but he kept it interesting.
There will be one of that from Ryan. But he’s going to need to fend for himself sometimes. That leads us into my three biggest takeaways from the last couple days at the steamy and sunny complex in Westfield.
1) Defensive Ruthless Aggression
It took no more than five plays in 11 vs 11 sessions on Sunday for me to realize that the guys on the defensive side of the ball are taking no prisoners at camp this year.
When the whistle is blown signifying a new play, you might as well put an Atlanta Falcons helmet on Mr. Ryan. He has a clear target on him on any practice passing play. What is different from 2021? One key addition.
The newest Colt. Acquired from the Las Vegas Raiders for Rock Ya-Sin. Honestly, nothing against Rock. Because he’s a nice guy. But that trade to the Raiders may end up being an absolute laugher by the end of this year. Ngakoue is only 27-years-old, but he is wise beyond those years. Everything that was mentioned today on his work in the community helping teachers in the classroom was wonderful.
As a son of a former teacher, my mom, Mrs. King, I know the challenges that teachers have. And the fact that he is going out of his way to help, means a lot. Gracious and charitable off the field, but ferocious and nasty on the field. This guy is explosive. That’s what was missed on the right side of the D-Line last year.
Guys like Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis, and Isaac Rochell were not providing the same type of energy on that side of the line. Now, having Ngakoue on the opposite side of Kwity Paye, along with the threat of Dayo Odeyingbo is going to give quarterbacks nightmares. Plus, sandwich them beside DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart, and that’s going to be pure insanity after any QB
By the way, it’s good to have Lewis back, as hopefully he can settle in nicely with a more defined role.
It’s not only the D-Line either. Julian Blackmon stuck out times a million in his return from the achilles surgery. Bobby Okereke aka Mr. Consistent continues to be a workhorse in the Linebacker room, especially since Shaq Leonard is out, Okereke could be the difference maker until he gets back.
Throw Stephon Gilmore in there too. This defense is seriously solid. I sure didn’t feel as good last year as I do now.
2) The Offensive Line: Could Be Better, Could Be Worse
Before I left for the baseball season in the Spring, you guys definitely heard and read that I was extremely skeptical on the offensive line heading into 2022-23.
As we should be. There was no reason to feel good about the big guys after last year ended. Braden Smith and Quenton Nelson couldn’t stay healthy, left tackle was a turnstile with Eric Fisher, and Mark Glowinski had a one-way ticket out of this city.
Danny Pinter is doing a really nice job in for Glowinski at Right Guard. Just as anticipated. Pinter is rock solid. There should be zero concern there. You hope the back injuries don’t flare up for Nelson as we go along here in the dog days of summer.
But most of all, Matt Pryor is holding his own at Left Tackle. There were only a few plays that I could think of over the last couple days were Pryor completely dropped the bag; Which is pretty impressive. It’s been a 1-on-1 match-up all camp against Mr. Ngakoue.
Remember the average pass rush from 2021 that I mentioned earlier? Those guys were giving the likes of Sam Tevi, Will Holden, and whoever else was filling in for Fisher complete problems. Pryor is holding his own against a pretty damn good player in Ngakoue. I need to see more, but so far, so good.
3) Wanted: Wide Receiver Depth
I will preach this to the choir until it gets fixed.
Chris Ballard and the Colts did not do enough to positively impact their Wide Receiver room in free agency or the NFL Draft. They left David Bell sitting there, and even traded up, but didn’t select him. They passed on plenty of veteran options. And now they’re left in the same spot as 2021.
There is no legitimate number-two wide receiver on this roster.
Now you may say, BK, what about Nyheim Hines? Isn’t he supposed to be getting more reps as a WR this season?
The answer to that question is yes. But as I usually do with this team in those types of decisions, I’ll believe it when I see it. There is no reason to believe right now that Nyheim is going to be the number-two Wide Receiver for this team to start the year.
Matt Ryan to Michael Pittman Jr. has been fantastic to watch. The immediate connection between a Boston College Eagle and a USC Trojan is mesmerizing to watch. They have legitimate chemistry.
I just have no idea where the other big yards and game changing plays are supposed to come from. Remember how every smart defensive coordinator in the league last year ended up double-teaming Pittman late in games because that’s all Carson Wentz really had to work with?
Yeah, that’s going to happen again until somebody steps up. By the way, when the Raiders beat the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in January, CURRENT Colts DC Gus Bradley did the same thing. Now he’s on the good side, but he even knows this too.
The Colts need help. T.Y. Hilton is gone, and to quote Rick Pitino, he’s not walking through that door.
Rookie Alec Pierce is fun to watch, no denying that. But JMV had Stephen Holder on his show today. JMV asked him what realistic expectations for Pierce are in year number one. They agreed that 2021 Zach Pascal numbers would be a solid reality. Good conversation.
That means Pierce would go for about 400 total yards, 40 catches, and three touchdowns. For a rookie, that’s fine. But the Colts need Pierce to be so much more than that. They can’t have him wither away like Pascal did late in the season. Remember two of Pascal’s three TD’s came in game one against Seattle. The third was a week later in the LA Rams game.
Simply put, that can’t happen with Pierce. So who’s next? Parris Campbell did not practice on Monday.
Campbell deserves to have a healthy season with all that he has been through. But if he cannot, the Blue and White are in even more trouble. Can Ashton Dulin perform as a top-tier receiver? We’ve seen flashes, but the higher on the depth chart, the more difficult match-ups you’ll find.
Both KB and I agreed on the point that Keke Coutee looked great, especially on Monday. That’s great and all for Coutee. However, he legitimately is a threat to not make the team. If he jumps on, he’ll be the sixth receiver, and he’ll get some special teams looks.
With all of that put together, it comes back to one point. The Colts didn’t do enough to build around Pittman in the receiving room. Reggie Wayne is terrific to have for these young guys, but Reggie isn’t putting on a helmet. There has got to be more help on the way.
Looking at you, OBJ.
Oh, last thing. I know I didn’t mention Jonathan Taylor in this story yet. But that’s about the easiest gimme 1-foot putt you’re ever going to find.
JT is good. Really really good. Absolute beast.
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