The Indianapolis Colts wrapped up their first week of training camp. Here are my four biggest takeaways.
Chuck Pagano and His Coaches are In Teaching Mode
You can see it in every session.
Coaches moving players around.
You can hear it in their voices. Loud, but patient requests for players to stand like this or move like that.
Obviously, you can hear the coaches working with the young players, but you'll see Greg Manusky pulling Dwight Freeney aside to calmly give advice to the seven-time Pro Bowler.
Pagano relishes the opportunity to teach, and this camp has already provided him with plenty. It's clear that after years of being an assistant, he finds comfort in being on the field teaching. When asked what was the hardest part of his transition, he said:
The hardest part is the administrative. You’re delegating, you’re trying to get guys in practice in the right spots, make sure everything is working from an organizational standpoint. At the same time, you want to get hands on.
We had a situation today where we had one of our assistant coaches have a death in the family. Our thoughts and prayers are with Roy Anderson and his family. So Roy had to go home so I had an opportunity to get with the safeties today.
That’s the biggest thing is you got to stay involved and you want to stay close to coaching and teaching as best you can. With all the other things that you’ve got on your plate that’s probably the hardest part for me.
The overall tone of camp can definitely be summarized by the words "instructive." Reggie Wayne talked about how Pagano has mellowed over the years, and that allows him to establish that tone.
Yes. He’s toned down totally. This is a different Chuck Pagano than the college days. At the same time he’s still fun, he still loves the game, still loves to teach, still gets a kick out of guys improving and getting better each day. That’s always good. As long as he keeps that edge I’ll take any Chuck Pagano any day.
Less yelling, more teaching. It's a good formula for a young team.
Andrew Luck has Mastered Practice
There is nothing left for us to learn about Andrew Luck in practice.
As much as people want to rip on reports of pass completion numbers in camp, the truth is that they provide color and texture to all the superlatives getting tossed around about Luck. Every day, like clockwork, he hits around 75 to 80 percent of his passes.
He's not a perfect player by any means, but there's nothing more we are going to learn about his makeup going against his teammates while wearing a red jersey.
He has excellent footwork. He's precise with the football. He throws a tight spiral that is simply...pretty. He'll clearly have his struggles, and I expect a lot of interceptions from him, but one thing I can tell you is that at this time next year, we won't be seeing articles about how much better he looks or how much he has improved his mechanics.
Those things are virtually flawless at this stage. There simply isn't another level he can hit in workouts. I'm certain he'd dispute this analysis, but in my judgement this is a player who needs to see live action before he'll even know how to improve.
I asked Adam Vinatieri if Luck reminded him a young Tom Brady at all. He said:
When you put shoulder pads on and start throwing the ball around for real, you get a good idea of progress and where everybody’s at. He has impressed me with his arm strength. He’s the kind of guy who when he has a short window throws the ball through there real pretty.
He can make all the throws. What I like is his leadership. He has that ‘commander out on the field’ thing. He leads the huddle really well, and he’s really, really smart. He can change plays and do stuff that almost makes him seem like a third or fourth-year guy instead of a rookie. A smart guy who can throw the ball well, that usually is a formula for success.
He should know. He's seen greatness before.
The Colts are Getting Pressure in Unusual Ways
There are limits to what I can say about who plays what position for the Colts, and I'm not allowed to share any strategic information. However, it's certainly no secret that Indianapolis will be seeking to generate pressure in aggressive and unusual ways.
There was pressure on Luck repeatedly today. I believe he took three sacks. Most of them seemed to be forced by creative blitzes cooked up by the defense coaches.
Now, some of those blitzes lead to big plays like an 80-yard bomb to Donnie Avery, who had at least five yards of cushion, but rumors of exotic looks and blitzes seem to be more than just idle gossip.
I don't know that we'll see much of it in the preseason, but expect the Colts to come after Jay Cutler in Week 1.
There's Jerraud Powers and Then There's Everyone Else
The corners on this team are bad. Powers repeatedly makes outstanding plays, but his teammates too often come up empty. It looked today like there were several opportunities for interceptions that turned into head-scratching completions.
On multiple fourth-down plays in the red-zone drills, Colts quarterbacks completed long balls for touchdowns that simply had no business being complete. Luck found Wayne on one for a huge play that made you wonder who was supposed to be doing the coverage.
I asked Pagano whether he would rather see his young quarterback complete lots of passes or if he wanted his secondary making more plays. His answer was revealing.
Well both obviously. You love to see the progress that (Andrew Luck) is making. He’s steadily getting better each and every day. He’s done it from day one until now. Some of the throws that he makes, I’m sure you sit back and they are jaw droppers. Some of them and you just go ‘Wow.’ I sit back from my vantage point now and some of them are amazing.
He’s got such great pocket presence. He’s building chemistry with every one of those guys out there. He’s spreading the wealth. He keeps his eyes down the field. He was sliding the pocket so he’s doing a nice job, and the offensive line, everybody else is doing a great job protecting him.
While everyone appreciated his well-deserved praise of Luck, he carefully avoided the trickier part of the question.
The Colts' corners are not making plays, and as much praise as Luck deserves, the reality is that he is torching one of the worst secondaries in the league.
- LaVon Brazill made more excellent plays today. He is lightning quick.
- Avery looks fine in practice, but I can't help but go back to his play in actual games. He is simply not a player that I see making a difference. I think much of his success has been about who is covering him.
- It's incredibly difficult to evaluate the defensive line or running backs. The media stands in the end zone, and doesn't always get the best angle. Additionally, plays are blown dead, as no one is tackled to the ground.
All quotes were obtained by the reporter.