After roughly two weeks of strength and conditioning working out without pads and helmets trying to get back into playing shape, the Indianapolis Colts threw on the shells at Friday’s training camp practice session.
The Colts are still not permitted to go full bore in practice with full-padded sessions, but they were able to get in some 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work as they prepare for the start of the regular season, which is officially less than a month away.
Even with the limited training camp due to COVID-19 protocols, there were some interesting takeaways from the notebook of Colts.com writer Andrew Walker, who was there to document it all.
Here are four takeaways from the practice session on Friday, Aug. 14:
Parris Campbell, Philip Rivers connect on a big play
After an injury-marred rookie season that saw Campbell deal with several broken bones and muscle tears, the former second-round pick is in line to have a big sophomore campaign.
That was flashed a bit on Friday when, according to Walker, Campbell and Rivers connected on what would have been a long touchdown down the middle of the field.
Perhaps the biggest offensive play of the day came about midway through practice. Rivers launched a pass deep down the middle of the field to speedy wide receiver Parris Campbell, who was able to get by the covering safety Willis and haul in what would’ve been a long touchdown reception. Campbell gave so many flashes of being a big-play threat in his injury-plagued rookie season last year, and with full health, watch out going into Year 2.
While T.Y. Hilton and Michael Pittman Jr. are expected to lead the wide receiver room, Campbell has the YAC skillset from the slot that can make him an intriguing target for Rivers in the middle of the field.
This is certainly a rapport to keep an eye on as practices become more physical.
Jonathan Taylor showing off some receiving skills
The second-round pick out of Wisconsin is well-known for his ability to run the football and while some knocked his receiving ability, Taylor flashed what could be an interesting development with a long reception on Friday.
According to Walker, Taylor took a crossing route for what would have been a long touchdown reception with left guard Quenton Nelson paving the way. Shocker.
Jonathan Taylor logged a 4.39-second 40-yard dash earlier this year at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, which was the fastest time among all running backs. He showed off that speed on one particular play on Friday, hauling in a pass from Rivers on a crossing route and taking it all the way for what would’ve been a long touchdown. Oh, and who was leading the way down the field for Taylor? Quenton Nelson, who hustled from his left guard position and cleared out any defenders to ensure his running back broke free down the sideline.
The two-time Doak Walker Award winner has the makeup and skillset to be a true bellcow in the NFL but will split time with incumbent starter Marlon Mack. But if he continues to make plays in the passing game as well, it’s only a matter of time before the backfield belongs to him.
Chad Kelly, Jacob Eason splitting reps
With Rivers leading the offense and Jacoby Brissett reverting back to the backup role, the Colts have an interesting question to face over the next few weeks: how many quarterbacks will they keep on the active roster?
Typically, it would be two but if there are fears of losing Eason to the waiver wire then they may be forced to keep three. Both Eason and Kelly split reps as the QB3, per Walker, which is to be expected at this point in the preseason.
As expected, Chad Kelly and Jacob Eason split the No. 3 quarterback reps on Friday. Without the benefit of preseason games this year, these opportunities during training camp practices, combined with the mastery of the offense they show in positional meetings, will be huge, especially considering the fact head coach Frank Reich has said he’s yet to rule out the possibility of keeping three quarterbacks on the regular season roster this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The expectation should be that Eason will win out the job over Kelly and while he still isn’t expected to play much at all during his rookie season, it will be interesting to see how the Colts handle their depth under center.
Denico Autry gets a “sack” from the edge
Without playing in full pads and with limited contact, it is difficult to gauge how important every play is. But one interesting note on the defensive side of the ball comes with Autry working from the edge.
After deciding against adding anything of import to the edge in the offseason, it was made known that Autry would be seeing time both inside at the three-technique defensive tackle position and outside on the edge. According to Walker, Autry notched what would have been a sack in a real game from the edge.
Denico Autry at one point had a nice “sack” of Rivers coming off the edge; Autry probably would’ve had a sack in a real game, but the coverage down the field was also so stifling that Rivers, who slid up into the pocket to avoid the initial pressure, had absolutely nowhere to go.
What’s interesting is seeing what Autry might be able to bring from the edge. Even with Justin Houston, Ben Banogu and Kemoko Turay, having another flexible piece like Autry contributing will only make the front seven more multiple.