INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts play indoors on Sunday.
But Jeff Saturday still had the Colts outdoors for Wednesday’s practice, despite temperatures barely above freezing and snow flurries falling in the Indy area.
Here are some takeaways from the Colts first practice of the week:
- Yes, Matt Ryan is the Colts starting quarterback this week, Jeff Saturday confirmed on Wednesday. Ryan faces the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, which is his hometown team, having played high school football about 20 minutes from Lincoln Financial Field. As far as Ryan facing this Eagles defense/staff, he did see them in last year’s season opener. FWIW, Ryan was 21-of-35 for 164 yards in a 32-6 loss. The Eagles didn’t blitz Ryan much, but stifled Atlanta’s offense, with Ryan having one of his more erratic games of the year.
- On the Jeff Saturday agenda last week was to have a stern conversation with an underperforming offensive line. The results, with Bernhard Raimann at left tackle and Will Fries at right guard, worked. “It’s just accountability,” Saturday said about the message to the offensive line. “On all fronts. And obviously, I know that position specifically. And I have a lot of respect for what those guys have done and the way they carry themselves at that position on the team. And I believe that needed to be addressed and emphasized. Those guys responded tremendously. And again, I know how hard it is. I know how hard these guys work. This was not an effort issue. This was, this is accountability. This is what it’s going to look like, play after play after play. And those guys have responded, and I think they appreciate. I’ll be accountable, but I’ll also be a big cheerleader, you know, and that’s what I was on Sunday and really excited to out how they responded.”
- This AFC/NFC matchup has plenty of staff familiarity. The Eagles have 4 staff members from Frank Reich’s tenure in Indy, including head coach Nick Sirianni (offensive coordinator in Indy), defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon (cornerbacks coach in Indy), passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo (passing game specialist in Indy). This chess match against Parks Frazier and Gus Bradley will be something to watch as the Eagles know the Indy personnel and offensive system probably better than any opponent seen this year.
- On that system knowledge front, a couple of other interesting tidbits to note for this week. The Colts have former Eagles safety Rodney McLeod starting. McLeod is known for his football IQ and was with Nick Sirianni and Jonathan Gannon last year in Philly. Conversely, part of the advantage the Colts had last week in facing a depleted Raiders defense came from their quarterback decision evolving over the week. The Raiders prepared for Sam Ehlinger, who is more of a runner than Matt Ryan, all week long. Instead, the Colts went with Ryan. While new play caller Parks Frazier said the late-week change impacted the actual offensive game plan by only around 10 percent, it was much different for the Raiders finding out just minutes before kickoff. Obviously, the Eagles will be prepping for just one quarterback this week.
- No one should be surprised to see Jeff Saturday grinning ear-to-ear about Grover Stewart. “Oh, man, first of all, I see one of the happiest human beings I’ve ever been around,” Saturday begins about Stewart. “This dude actually reminds me of Tarik (Glenn), his presence puts people at ease and he’s a magnet everybody always wants to be around him and laugh with them. When he gets in between them stripes, man…he is a dude and plays so well. I love his heart. I love his effort. He gives it all every play and he demands the guys around him do that.” Saturday said he found himself teasing Stewart the other day that he would have controlled the defensive tackle back in his playing days. “No way, coach,” was Stewart’s response. With Pro Bowl voting underway (one-third player vote, one-third coach vote, one-third fan vote), Stewart really should garner attention. No NFL defensive tackle has more tackles than him this season.
- It should be a pretty good atmosphere inside of Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday. Jeff Saturday’s home debut as interim head coach certainly plays into that. “You just bringing it up brings a smile on my face because I haven’t thought about it,” Saturday said when asked about running out of the home tunnel this Sunday. “Every time I come back here whether it was two weeks ago with (Tarik Glenn’s Ring of Honor Ceremony) it’s different man.”
- Yes, Nick Sirianni has thought about what Washington did to his football team on Monday night and his mind going back to what the Colts did to the Chiefs in 2019, in pulling off that upset at Arrowhead. Sirianni knows it’s a copycat league and the Colts have some on-paper personnel to try and carryout what the Washington blueprint was—ball control on the ground, finish off drives and play keep away. Sirianni is very conscious of this, so how the Colts go about attacking them offensively will be interesting to watch.
- On Tuesday, Shaquille Leonard had another back surgery, ending his 2022 season after just 74 defensive snaps. You’ll find much more on the Leonard situation, and the ramifications of that going forward in here. In the short term, the Colts have received pretty solid linebacker player, even though they are still craving those Leonard turnover-type plays. Major credit to Zaire Franklin and Bobby Okereke for being consistent starters, and E.J. Speed rounding out a solid linebacker trio.
- A roster (and baby!) note for this week: The Colts worked out some long snappers on Tuesday with Luke Rhodes and his wife welcoming a new baby into the world, along with the Colts long snapper dealing with a calf injury.
- Kwity Paye was not practicing during the open media availability on Wednesday. Jeff Saturday said Paye had boot on his injured ankle and was getting treatment, but did not know if this was the same ankle the second-year defensive end has been dealing with for over a month.
- The Colts will maintain their normal practice routine this week under Jeff Saturday, going Wednesday-Friday. They’ll welcome to the Eagles to Lucas Oil Stadium for a 1:00 PM kickoff on Sunday.