INDIANAPOLIS – Summer break is here for Shane Steichen and the Colts.
After a 9-week offseason program, including more than a dozen 11-on-11 sessions, Colts players will head their separate ways until training camp starts in late July.
Here are 10 takeaways from the Colts offseason program:
1. Small Step Forward For Anthony RichardsonSource:Getty
What the spring offseason program can’t offer is a concrete tell on a rookie quarterback’s playing ability. That’s going to come after training camp observations, preseason games, and regular season experience. But from an off the field standpoint, Richardson appears to check some necessary traits. Richardson brings a confidence, and not too boisterous, with a definite crave of wanting/knowing he needs to learn. When you play quarterback, the off the field trait can’t be ignored in projecting a young QB’s ability to thrive in this league. On the field, Richardson had his expected up and down moments in the half dozen 11-on-11 sessions we saw this spring. And the passing game, in general, is something the Colts struggled with late in the spring.
2. Cornerback Questions RiseSource:Getty
As we await a punishment for Isaiah Rodgers Sr, no position on the depth chart exits the spring with less experience and more playing time questions than cornerback. All of a sudden, Dallis Flowers looks like a definite starter. Flowers hadn’t played a defensive snap in an NFL game until last December. Assuming Rodgers is unlikely to play in 2023, the Colts still will need someone else to join Kenny Moore in the slot, and Flowers outside, in that frequently used nickel package. Is that a rookie battle between JuJu Brents (who missed the entire spring program due to a wrist injury) and Darius Rush (who missed the final three weeks of the offseason program due to a hamstring injury). Where do veterans Tony Brown and Darrel Baker Jr. fit into all of this? The cornerback position has some chaos with it entering camp.
3. QB Reps Divided UpSource:Getty
Gardner Minshew will probably begin training camp as the Colts starting QB, but Anthony Richardson and him split first-unit reps during the team’s minicamp. How these reps get divided up as camp moves along with be a huge tell as to how the Colts are leaning for their 2023 starter. One bummer for the quarterbacks this spring has been a lack of on-field work with the team’s top pass catchers. For the handful of 11-on-11 sessions in front of the media, Minshew and Richardson didn’t have the likes of Michael Pittman (hip), Josh Downs (knee), Jelani Woods (hamstring), Drew Ogletree (knee) and Will Mallory (foot) available. Even Alec Pierce (foot) missed some time. That’s a hinderance in the new quarterbacks trying to build spring chemistry in 11-on-11 settings.
4. Quiet Spring For RookiesSource:Getty
Outside of Richardson, it was a pretty quiet spring for the rookies. You had CB-JuJu Brents (wrist) and WR-Josh Downs (knee) mostly watching. Certainly, Brents and Downs are expected to have large Day 1 roles, so their integrations at training camp will be important to watch. Even Day 3 picks in CB-Darius Rush (hamstring), TE-Will Mallory (foot), S-Daniel Scott missed some time. One of the healthy ones who got some first-team run was OT-Blake Freeland, with OT-Braden Smith sidelined early in OTAs. Day 3 picks CB-Jaylon Jones and RB-Evan Hull stood out at times.
5. No Shaquille LeonardSource:Getty
Sure, in an ideal world, Shaquille Leonard (back) would have been participating in some capacity with his teammates this spring. This means when training camp arrives it’ll have been nearly 9 months since he last participated in a practice. When camp rolls around, the ‘Is Leonard back on the practice field?’ storyline will probably be just behind Anthony Richardson on the Colts camp storyline list. If Leonard misses anytime at Grand Park, then we have to start questioning his availability to start the regular season.
6. Looming Contract Extensions?Source:Getty
Given the Colts remaining cap space, and how Chris Ballard has previously operated, we could be looking at a contract extension or two in the next couple of months. Those would be for Jonathan Taylor and/or Michael Pittman. It’s no guarantee when these will occur—both have one year left on their rookie contracts—but Ballard has strongly backed both players in what they mean to the organization. And Taylor was pretty vocal, for him, earlier this week in talking about where things stands with his contract talks. For different reasons, these will be very interesting contract negotiations to see play out, as the Colts look to lock-in some important building pieces alongside Anthony Richardson. Is this part of the reason why the Colts have been very patient in using their remaining cap space this offseason?
7. Nice Spring For Kylen GransonSource:Getty
It’s hard to really point to a ton of history of guys standing out in the spring and that meaning something definite for the season. But you couldn’t ignore the consistency shown by Kylen Granson in the various open OTA sessions. He took advantage of ample work with the starters, and even the second unit, with tight ends Jelani Woods, Drew Ogletree and Will Mallory all missing time. It’s a big year for Granson as he enters third NFL season.
8. Julian Blackmon Switching PositionsSource:Getty
Guys switching positions in a contract year aren’t the most common. But that’s the case for Julian Blackmon in his fourth season in the NFL. With veteran Rodney McLeod gone, the starting strong safety this spring was Blackmon, as Rodney Thomas II was next to him at free safety, and Nick Cross is currently the 3rd man for that starting duo. Blackmon will look to prove himself in a contract year while playing a little bit closer to the line of scrimmage. And he will try to hold off the athletic, and younger, Cross, who has three years left on his rookie contract. Although how much of a competition that is remains to be seen.
9. Other Injuries To WatchSource:Getty
In the spring, any sort of nick or bruise is treated with extreme caution, and you are probably watching multiple practices. The Colts had a quite a few of those this spring, including some notable names. Here’s a list of players who missed multiple sessions in front of the media: P-Rigoberto Sanchez (Achilles), WR-Josh Downs (knee), WR-Michael Pittman (hip), WR-Alec Pierce (foot), RB-Jonathan Taylor (ankle), CB-Isaiah Rodgers Sr., LB-Shaquille Leonard (back), TE-Jelani Woods (hamstring), TE-Drew Ogletree (knee), TE-Will Mallory (foot), CB-JuJu Brents (wrist), CB-Darius Rush (hamstring), S-Daniel Scott (knee). Yes, it’s likely many of these guys will be ready to go Day 1 of training camp, but it’s worth noting these names just in case things linger, or some ailments arise when the physicality ramps up in camp.
10. Training Camp AlterationSource:Getty
As we await a training camp schedule from the Colts (should come in the next 2 weeks), we do know they will be doing something different this August than they’ve done in years. That’s holding a pair of joint practices. The first one is with the Bears, likely to be in the August 16-17 range at Grand Park, leading into their preseason contest on August 19th at Lucas Oil Stadium. The next week, the Colts will head to Philadelphia for a joint session on August 22nd, before those two teams meet for the preseason finale on August 24th. Typically, in these practice settings is when you get more starter on starter action, and more willingness from coaching staffs to try actual things they’ll use in the regular season, making the preseason game (which is available to all eyes around the NFL). Will this mean scaled back playing time from starters in those two preseason games?