ANDERSON, Ind. -- Quick hits from my first half-day with the Colts, out of a long practice and some interviews afterward.
Yes, it’s a snap judgment -- camp practice reports are filled with such snapshots. But everything I’ve read and heard about Andrew Luck was on display. He’s got great command of the offense considering how long he’s been running it. I tweeted that and got hammered by some for anointing him. Of course we need to see him against better defenses that are more unfamiliar. But what we see now is all we have, and all we have is pretty good. I did feel like he sputtered towards the end of a long practice, when he put two balls too low in a red zone period -- one to T.Y. Hilton at the goal post (which rolled to me) and another short one low and behind Reggie Wayne. But after those he made a beautiful throw to Austin Collie in stride as he angled to the front left corner of the end zone with corner Brandon King nearby. It’s easy to say it, but Luck’s mannerisms and execution do remind one a bit of Peyton Manning -- he does the quick pump fake as he drops back, he’s got a little hop, etc.
There were a lot of short throws by all the QBs. I don’t know if the coverage dictated it or if it was the stuff they were focusing on today or if there was any big meaning to it. But the ball was out quickly for steady, if small, chunks of yardage. And guys were getting the ball with a chance to turn and look to find additional yards.
Wayne working on a Jugs machine is something to behold -- I watched his session after practice and got a couple decent pictures. It’s mesmerizing in a Zamboni-like fashion, but there is obviously a lot more variance. He takes balls from one side, then the other, then straight on. He catches with both hands. He makes sure they are coming at difficult angles that force him to make the sort of tough plays he’ll see in game situations.
Early quarterback work I liked: Working on their own with QB coach Clyde Christensen, they took drops into a corridor of the other two QBs, two coaches and a couple equipment guys. They slapped and poked at him while he dropped and as he moved back up in the “pocket” before making a throw.
During early special teams, Robert Mathis spent a bit of time on his own working on his drops into coverage. Not long after, linebackers and defensive backs covered tight ends and running backs in a one-on-one period. Mathis covered rookie Coby Fleener on the first snap, stayed on his hip and picked off Drew Stanton’s throw.
I planned on my initial bite of the apple here to be on veteran receiver Donnie Avery. He had a big chance with the Titans last year when Kenny Britt went down and couldn’t work his way onto the field. Now he’s drawing a lot of praise and sounds like he could factor into the mix for Luck and the Colts. Alas, he made a sprawling catch for a long TD from Luck (120 yards away from where I was, so it was hard to see) and landed badly. He was taken off the field with a left leg injury. Sounds like he will have an MRI, but coach Chuck Pagano promised “it’s nothing major, I know that.”
I spent three and a half days with the Jaguars last week and found it hard to judge the offense , which looked bad, because of the talent on the team’s defense. It may be the opposite here – it may be hard to judge the offense, which looks good, because of the lack of talent on the team’s defense -- especially at corner. Justin King, who’s been running with the ones, has a hip flexor and missed his third day.
Antonio Johnson, the team’s front-line nose tackle, said he’s up to 330 pounds from 320 but feels like he’s running around just the same.
More to come on this, but tight end Dwayne Allen is very good. Fits right in with what they are trying to do. Looks like a natural for this offense. A bright guy. His play and our chat is worth its own post. Stay tuned.