The Colts were back to work this morning trying to elevate the level of play that led to a disappointing 7-9 record last year. High priced free agent Philip Rivers, DeForest Buckner, the guy for whom they traded the 13th overall pick, and Chris Ballard’s fourth draft class will help them make strides from without. The rest of the improvement will have to come from within.
It’s early, really early, to make any wild declarations of massive leaps toward a championship run, but there were obvious takeaways from the last two days. Today was a much better day than yesterday to get a look at the Colts. The weather forced the work indoors and the media gets to watch from the sideline rather than the end zone outdoors.
Here are nine declarations about the Colts as we look forward to another morning of work tomorrow:
- Rivers makes the right read and hits his target far more often than he doesn’t, but with his trademark sling, velocity is lacking. That means that any mistake is going to result in an opportunity for a defensive takeaway. Yesterday, Rivers was spot on throughout 11-on-11 work until a bad read. Same deal today. Many good throws that put playmakers in spots to make plays, and then Rivers throws a floater to the defense.
- Tyquan Lewis looked like a guy who has shown up knowing he needs to earn his position in a very deep defensive line rotation. Paired twice against Quenton Nelson in one-on-one drills, Lewis made Nelson look like less than the All-Pro left guard he is.
- Communication is a problem that will be corrected. It’s been a long time since Rivers was a new man on a roster, and so occasional communication breakdowns are expected early in camp (that’s why they have camp!). Every time one occurred today, Rivers and the receiver had a conversation. The Colts and Rivers have 26 days to get this straight because with Rivers throwing changeups instead of fastballs, bad communication will lead directly to turnovers.
- Jacob Eason looks and throws like an NFL starting quarterback. The fourth round draft pick out of Washington is a statuesque 6’6″, throws with velocity and touch, and is the guy to whom my eyes are naturally drawn. In drills and very few throws in 11-on-11 work, Eason has aimed small and not missed. His only miscue today was a fumbled snap of the last rep of today’s practice.
- DeForest Buckner is immense. Funny, the difference between 6’5″ and 6’7″ should be harder to notice than it is when Denico Autry and Buckner stand next to each other.
- The kicker competition seems to be advantage Chase McLaughlin. Rodrigo Blankenship is a rookie out of Georgia with a big foot, but McLaughlin won the competition today by hitting every kick that I saw. The ball just seems to come off McLaughlin’s foot more consistently and with slightly greater force than Blankenship.
- There is always one unheralded undrafted rookie who flashes, and this year is no different. That guy is DeMichael Harris, a small wide receiver out of Southern Miss. He’s getting a look as an option to return kicks, and is also adroit at creating space as a receiver.
- Andrew Donnal looks okay as an option for offensive line depth. For a second day, he was steady against a variety of opponents in one-on-one drills. He’s a six-year veteran out of Iowa with a chance to help if either Anthony Castonzo or Braden Smith.
- Michael Pittman Jr., is a long, graceful and explosive athlete with soft hands. It’s easy to get lost watching him move off the line and blowing by an overmatched corner whether or not the ball is thrown his way. You know how sometimes you glance across a field or court, and an athlete just appears to be different from everyone else? That’s Pittman. He is unique.
Like I wrote earlier – only 26 days to the opener. So far, so good for the Colts.