After reporting to Grand Park Sports Campus in style earlier this week for training camp, the Indianapolis Colts took to the field for their first day of practice on Wednesday.
I roamed the sidelines for the duration of practice and now give you the contents of my daily journal.
— The most notable absence on Wednesday was head coach Frank Reich, who tested positive for COVID-19 upon his arrival at camp and must now miss this week of practice.
— Running back Nyheim Hines (hip) and rookie safety Shawn Davis (hamstring) missed the first practice and watched from the sideline. Linebacker Darius Leonard (ankle) missed practice as expected after undergoing a minor procedure in June but was seen jogging during special teams drills. Colts general manager Chris Ballard said this week that Leonard would be out for a little while at the start of camp but they did not feel it necessary to put him on any injury lists.
— Wednesday morning, the Colts placed cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie, and defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. When the team reported for camp, they also placed injury designations on offensive tackle Eric Fisher (Achilles, Active-Physically Unable to Perform) and defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo (Achilles, Active/Non-Football Injury), who can return at any time. Defensive tackle Rob Windsor (hip, Injured Reserve), however, is out for the season.
— The Colts wasted no time pitting pass-catchers against defenders in 1-on-1s. The following are the results of each matchup between wide receivers/tight ends and cornerbacks/safeties, and any incompletion is rewarded as a win to the defender: Parris Campbell def. Marvell Tell III; Khari Willis def. Jack Doyle; Kenny Moore II def. Michael Pittman Jr.; Anthony Chesley def. Mike Strachan; Andre Chachere def. DeMichael Harris; Mo Alie-Cox def. Julian Blackmon; Ashton Dulin def. Isaiah Rodgers; Rock Ya-Sin def. Quartney Davis; J.J. Nelson def. Sean Davis; Noah Togiai def. Ibraheim Campbell; Nick Nelson def. Dezmon Patmon; Tell def. Zach Pascal; Tyler Vaughns def. Davis; Farrod Green def. Rolan Milligan; Moore def. Pittman; Strachan def. Chesley; Harris def. Chachere; Davis def. Ya-Sin; Milligan def. Vaughns; Blackmon def. Andrew Vollert.
— A few impressive additional matchups featured Willis def. Jordan Thomas. Thomas leaped up and grabbed the pass from around Willis' head but he could not complete the catch as he hit the ground. On the next rep, rookie undrafted receiver Tarik Black def. Rodgers as he put a nifty double-move on Rodgers down the right sideline, making a solid all-around play. Gary Jennings finished the drills off by def. Nelson as he high-pointed a deep pass over Nelson down near the goal line.
— Both offensively and defensively, there was a ton of substituting happening with the lineups, so you don't want to take too much stock in it yet. After the first few practices, the depth chart really starts to take shape. The lineups mentioned below were the initial ones, but there were numerous combinations used.
— Wednesday was new quarterback Carson Wentz's debut in front of fans. Although it was a ho-hum day offensively, he was noticeably the best quarterback, finishing 12-of-20 (60.0%) during live 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 sessions. He completed passes to eight different receivers, including a team-leading three completions to rookie tight end Kylen Granson (H/T to George Bremer for the stat keeping). The arm strength, escapability, and ability to make throws out of awkward situations were all present.
— The Colts had Philip Rivers at quarterback in 2020, and mobility was the furthest thing from his best attribute. However, quarterback mobility was already quite evident on Wednesday. The Colts mixed in a lot more bootlegs and roll-outs for Wentz, Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger, and Jalen Morton. Wentz even took off a couple of times on what initially appeared to be at least one RPO (obviously don't have replay to confirm).
— Outside of Wentz, people have been eager to see Eason perform as well after the 2020 fourth-round pick didn't have much of a camp or preseason in which to impress as a rookie. On Wednesday, he was a bit erratic. Eason's signature arm strength is for real but the accuracy was spotty at best. On multiple occasions, his timing with receivers was out of sync, throwing behind them. He threw the only notable interception of the day as he overthrew his man on a dig route, and Nelson was there to come down with the ball behind the target. On the flip side, Ehlinger, who is viewed as Eason's main competition for the Colts' backup quarterback role, was more accurate and efficient as a passer but his throws lacked the zip that Eason, Morton, and Wentz had.
— Ehlinger was part of one of the more exciting offensive plays of the day. He threw a ball deep down the right sideline, which was tipped up by Milligan, and as it hung in the air, Vollert came through to make the catch along the sideline.
— Wednesday marked the return of running back Marlon Mack and wide receiver Parris Campbell, two important offensive players who missed the majority of 2020 with injuries. Mack suffered an Achilles injury in Week 1, and Campbell a knee injury in Week 2. Both players saw action with the team on Wednesday and looked fresh.
— Granson may be more involved than I initially thought. He was very much in the mix throughout practice and is the clearest choice for the Colts' athletic "Y" tight end. We'll keep an eye out to see if his role appears to grow beyond what Trey Burton had in 2020.
— Getting the first shake on offense was Will Holden (LT), Quenton Nelson (LG), Ryan Kelly (C), Mark Glowinski (RG), the newly-rich Braden Smith (RT), Wentz (QB), Jonathan Taylor (RB), T.Y. Hilton (WR), Michael Pittman Jr. (WR), Zach Pascal (WR), Jack Doyle (TE), and Mo Alie-Cox (TE). They opened with a two-tight end set before coming out with three receivers on the next play.
— When 11-on-11 drills began, the first group on defense came out in base and was as follows: Tyquan Lewis (LDE), Kwity Paye (RDE), DeForest Buckner (DT), Grover Stewart (NT), E.J. Speed (WILL), Bobby Okereke (MIKE), Zaire Franklin (SAM), Ya-Sin (RCB), Moore (LCB), Blackmon (FS), and Willis (SS). When they went to the nickel package, Tell took over for Moore as an outside corner, and Moore went into the slot.
— One of the more impressive defensive plays came late in practice when Eason threw a quick bubble screen to Harris on the right side, and Franklin blew through Carter O'Donnell to get to Harris at the line of scrimmage, creating the loud pad thump that lets you know football is back.
— Ya-Sin vs. Tell will be an interesting battle for the third cornerback spot. Both players had a quality day. Ya-Sin was his usual aggressive self at playing the ball, and Tell stayed hip-to-hip with his man throughout the day. For Tell, you can hardly remember he didn't play in 2020.
— There wasn't much going on in terms of special teams and the kicking game on Wednesday, but Rodgers, Harris, and Vaughns were the order of kickoff returners.
What did you think of the opening day action? Drop your thoughts below in the comment section!