What we learned from Colts OTAs: Young players make impression on coaching staff

INDIANAPOLIS — The headlines from the first Colts organized team activity were the health of Anthony Richardson’s right shoulder and Michael Pittman Jr.’s left knee.

Richardson’s arm looked strong, and he took all of the snaps a healthy starting quarterback would be expected to take. Pittman apparently avoided serious injury on a collision at the end of a route, according to Indianapolis head coach Shane Steichen.

But there were other developments on display during the practice open to the media, the first chance for a lot of players to make an impression on the Indianapolis coaching staff, either because they are rookies or they spent the 2023 season rehabilitating an injury.

Indianapolis Colts tight ends Jelani Woods (80) and Kylen Granson (83) work through drills Friday, July 28, 2023, during an indoor practice at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Indiana.
Indianapolis Colts tight ends Jelani Woods (80) and Kylen Granson (83) work through drills Friday, July 28, 2023, during an indoor practice at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Indiana.

Latest on Colts TE Jelani Woods

Jelani Woods is the wild card in the tight end room.

Woods spent his entire sophomore season on the injured list due to recurring hamstring injuries, but Indianapolis used a third-round pick on him in 2022 because of the unique blend of size, speed and big-play ability Woods possesses, the sort of skill set Indianapolis did not have available at the position last year.

He’s healthy now.

Woods caught two intermediate throws from veteran backup Joe Flacco, working the seam and over the middle with his size. From the sounds of it, the Colts coaching staff is intrigued by the possibilities Woods presents for the offense.

“Finally getting to see him,” Steichen said. “I mean, I saw him a little bit in training camp, he got the injury, but to see how long he is and how he can run, vertical threat, different things you can do with him. It’s good to have him out there.”

Jaylon Carlies' interception

When Steichen watches practice, he’s often watching through the eyes of a quarterback, mentally making the read and the decision along with his passer.

He would have tried the same throw Flacco attempted on Wednesday.

“I ain’t going to lie, I threw it right there, too,” Steichen said. “I was trying to lay it over the top of him.”

Jaylon Carlies, the team's fifth-round pick out of Missouri, was the “him” in question, lying underneath the route in a zone.

Flacco flipped the ball, Carlies leaped and stretched out his 6-3 frame, unfurling his 34-1/2 inch arms at the highest point.

The pass never had a chance. Carlies picked it off easily.

“I said ‘Holy smokes,’” Steichen said. “That was a hell of a play by him.”

Indianapolis is high on the potential of Carlies, a college safety the Colts are converting into a linebacker because of his 227-pound frame and natural physicality. The Colts defensive coaches believe linebackers coach Richard Smith can teach Carlies the more physical parts of the position, allowing Indianapolis to take advantage of his natural coverage ability, the kind that is essential to linebackers in the modern NFL.

“The athleticism, the explosiveness,” Steichen said. “A lot to learn, obviously, with any young player … but you can see his ability.”

Daniel Scott returns from injury for interception

Richardson threw one interception in Wednesday’s workout, a crossing route in 7-on-7 that he left too far behind the wide receiver.

Daniel Scott was there to take advantage of the misfire.

Scott, the former Cal safety who tore his ACL shortly after Indianapolis used a fifth-round pick on him in the 2023 draft, attacked the ball and caught it as he went to the ground, then popped up quickly to begin the return.

“I think he’s going to have a hell of a future,” Steichen said. “He’s smart, intelligent. That’s part of it playing in the back end, communication. He made a good play on the ball.”

Julian Blackmon and Nick Cross were the starting safeties in Wednesday’s session.

But it is no secret that the Colts need much more consistency from the free safety spot, and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has said it will be an open competition there among Cross, Rodney Thomas II and Scott. Cross and Thomas have the starting experience in the NFL; but Scott might find a way to be a factor.

Quick hitters

Alec Pierce still has to prove he’s more than a deep threat, and he caught at least three passes in the session on a series of short-to-intermediate throws. … Middle linebacker Zaire Franklin popped tight end Mo Alie-Cox on one catch over the middle. … Josh Downs and Anthony Gould handled punt returns. … Right tackle Braden Smith (offseason knee surgery), Ashton Dulin (recovery from torn ACL), linebacker Segun Olubi, linebacker Liam Anderson and cornerback Chris Lammons were not practicing due to injury, but the Colts had the majority of the roster available.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts' young players make impression on coaching staff at OTAs