16 Thoughts From Colts 2019 Training Camp
16 Thoughts From Colts 2019 Training Camp
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INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are heading back home.
After more than three weeks of camping up at Grand Park in Westfield, the Colts broke camp on Thursday night and will return to their complex for the rest of the 2019 season.
Since the Colts practiced 16 times this Training Camp, here are 16 thoughts from Grand Park:
-The Andrew Luck situation is odd and worrisome. Coming into this offseason, the expectation was Luck would be healthy and working in the same offensive system for the first time in 4 years. But that wasn’t the case. Now, Luck is going into a regular season after participating in just 3 of 29 offseason practices. Outside of 2017, this is by far the least amount of practice time Luck has had entering a season. Why is this so worrisome? Luck first had an MRI done on his injured calf in March, and some 5 months later, the Colts still can’t say with confidence that they have the proper diagnosis figured out. That’s a major issue, and one that is exasperated given that this, beyond lingering injury situation, is impacting their franchise quarterback’s ability to be 100 percent to start the season.
-Rock Ya-Sin passed the playmaking test. It would be difficult to find another defensive player for the Colts who got his hand on more balls at Grand Park than Ya-Sin. You see the strong man coverage characteristics where Ya-Sin can be a physical corner on an island. While some of the other second-round rookies battled injuries at Grand Park, Ya-Sin has positioned himself for early playing time at a deep position group.
-The starting position battles look to be settled, but does one remain? Coming into camp, we were really monitoring three position battles on the defensive side of the ball: MIKE linebacker, SAM linebacker and the third corner in the nickel package. At the MIKE, it still looks like Anthony Walker will return with the starters. Perhaps Bobby Okereke sneaks into some passing down reps, but Walker is too reliable to totally take off the field. At SAM, rookie E.J. Speed has given incumbent Matthew Adams a pretty solid run. But it looks like Adams will be the guy in the base defense on run downs. And in the nickel package, Rock Ya-Sin has shown that his playmaking will be tough to keep on the sideline. It’s not that Quincy Wilson had a poor camp, it’s just that Ya-Sin has showed he belongs. This is the one battle that is still up in the air.
-Deon Cain looks very healthy. I was really impressed by the movement ability we saw from Cain at Training Camp. Chris Ballad didn’t hide his intrigue for Cain entering camp, and we saw why at Grand Park. Now, it’s time for Cain to carry that over into game settings, as he began to get a few more starting reps in the final couple of practices at Grand Park.
-Consistent team production was missing from Devin Funchess. I mentioned this in a few notebooks as camp neared a close, but it’s worth repeating: If you were giving Jacoby Brissett a passer rating when targeting Devin Funchess, it wouldn’t have been too high. The 6-4, 225-pound frame of Funchess struggled to be a consistent producer for the starting offense. There were definitely moments in 1-on-1 drills, and Funchess didn’t have an abundance of drops, but he just lacked the necessary rapport with Brissett.
-I still feel awful for Reece Fountain. His gruesome ankle injury on Thursday will end his 2019 season and chances at being a great ‘comeback’ story in making the roster. The 'comeback' is from Fountain admittedly not being ready for professional football last year. He came into this offseason ready, and was doing everything he could to try and make the roster at a very deep position group. Honestly, Fountain probably improved his chances of making the team more than any player at Grand Park, until the final day injury. Besides Fountain, some other guys that helped themselves this camp: RB-Jonathan Williams, WR-Krishawn Hogan, C/G-Josh Andrews, LB-E.J. Speed, CB-Nate Hairston, S-Khari Willis.
-The Colts offensive line was nowhere near a dominant unit this camp and Jacoby Brissett didn’t look like a top-20 quarterback in the NFL. Frank Reich is bullish on Brissett, but the ‘backup’ QB did not look like a top-20 QB for the majority of camp. Brissett had better moments late in camp though, before a rough final day against the Browns. With the Colts leaving Grand Park, it’s been Brissett as the starting QB for all 29 team practice sessions this offseason. He’s had ample practice time with his fellow starters. Will that help him, if the Colts need Brissett to keep things afloat for some games this season? Back to the offensive line, Frank Reich was very frustrated with the pass protection against the Cleveland Browns. We group Brissett and the OL together because the jobs by the QB & Center are so critical to success in the pass protection for the Colts. Ryan Kelly did miss some time during camp, and we know how massive his health is for success up front.
-We don’t have a great idea yet for the 2019 rookie role of Parris Campbell. A hamstring injury sidelined Campbell for the final 12 practices at Grand Park. The injury has impacted the sort of role Frank Reich and the Colts originally thought was possible for the dynamic wideout. If Campbell can be healthy for the start of the regular season, maybe he plays around 10-15 offensive snaps (looking for 3-4 touches in those reps), compared to the 30 or 40 snaps that could have been there as a more complete slot receiver. Perhaps we will see more of an Ohio State type of role for Campbell early in his rookie campaign.
-T.Y. Hilton and Darius Leonard remain studs, and Denico Autry looked like a Pro Bowl caliber player throughout camp. Hilton called it the best camp he’s had in his 8 NFL seasons. A slimmed down Leonard routinely halted any offensive momentum with his rangy sideline-to-sideline ability. Autry deserves mention for his interior disruption. In practice settings, it’s hard for defensive tackles to really stand out. But Autry did on a daily basis. If Autry can stay healthy, the Colts will have a strong interior rush presence.
-The Colts have some unique athletes at the linebacker position. You watch a three-linebacker grouping of Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke and E.J. Speed on the field together and it’s an eye-popping trio of length and speed. The body types have really changed at linebacker. Having said that, the cerebral Anthony Walker (MIKE) and the run presence of Matthew Adams (SAM) look to be maintaining their starting jobs, but some intriguing athletes are right behind them.
-Cornerback will be the hardest positions to cut down. This was the thought coming into camp, and it remains the storyline exiting Grand Park. Wide receiver will be tough as well, but the Reece Fountain injury (unfortunately) makes things a tad easier. The bigger debate at wideout is can you carry 6 wide receivers? At corner, some tough decisions will be needed on guys bringing different skill sets: Nate Hairston (versatile), Chris Milton (special teams focus), Marvell Tell (young development) and Jalen Collins (outside corner).
-Hale Hentges is trying to carry on the undrafted tradition. After 20 straight seasons of having at least one (and usually more than that) undrafted free agent on the Week One roster, that streak is in jeopardy for 2019. But Hentges has done his best at continuing this run. Known as more of a run blocker, Hentges impressed the Colts with his ability to make plays in the passing game, thanks to an incredibly reliable set of hands. Now, it’s still not a lock Hentges makes the team, but he is in the mix for that 4th tight end spot, with Ross Travis battling a hamstring injury at Grand Park.
-The 2017 draft class had some very good health this camp. The Colts had 4 starters participate in every single session at Grand Park: Marlon Mack, Mark Glowinski, Quincy Wilson, Malik Hooker. Three of them are 2017 draft picks, who have battled injuries in their career: Hooker, Wilson and Mack.
-Jabaal Sheard’s knee injury could impact the 53-man roster cut down. With the mid-way point of August now passed, cut down date is looming (August 31st). And the Colts will have to factor in a couple of injury situations when making those decisions. One is the health of veteran defensive end Jabal Sheard, who suffered a knee injury on Day One of camp. If Sheard is going to miss time in the regular season, the Colts must decide whether they need to carry an extra defensive end, or if putting Sheard on injured reserve (to return) is a necessary path. The latter move doesn’t appear to be the case, but if any more injuries start piling up, it’s worth monitoring.
-Chris Ballard might have to keep a third quarterback on his 53-man roster. It’s been a while since this was a real debate at such a late point in the preseason. And if the Colts keep a third quarterback, it has to be Phillip Walker over Chad Kelly, who is suspended for the first two games of the regular season. Now, Ballard and the Colts might try to play up a schematic advantage standpoint by first putting Walker on the practice squad, and then promoting him late in the week before the season opener. We do need to watch what happens with Kelly once his suspension is lifted after Week Two.
-Rookie Ben Banogu has ground to make up to earn playing time. A hamstring injury kept Banogu off the field for a chunk of camp. Banogu returned this past week and had some nice moments, but he’s still down on the depth chart. Can Banogu show enough to close out the month and sneak onto the field for a third-down role this season? Other guys that didn’t help themselves this camp, for a variety of reason: Jordan Wilkins, Evan Boehm, Jalen Collins, Marvell Tell, Matthias Farley.