Luck looks great
When last we saw Luck between the lines, he was getting creamed by a pair of Denver Broncos linebackers, his kidney left with a season-ending laceration.
Throw in the sore ribs and the earlier shoulder injury and Luck was a physical mess in 2015.
On Tuesday, when Luck made a series of accurate downfield throws to his receivers, you saw nary a hint of what he endured last season. He said he currently has no physical limitations, meaning he won’t miss any of these valuable workouts in which the Colts are installing a new offense under coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
“He looks really good,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “I think he’s in a good place.”
It was hard to disagree. Luck threw the ball with good velocity and accuracy. The latter characteristic often eluded him in the seven games he played in 2015, so it bears mentioning. But this was, of course, just practice. There’s no risk of being decked by an oncoming linebacker. But after a tough 2015, Luck values even the little things.
“When something’s taken away from you,” he said, “it does give you more appreciation of it.”
Offensive line shaping up
We don’t know how exactly the offensive line configuration will shake out this season. But with Hugh Thornton and Denzelle Good out with minor physical issues, the Colts went with Jon Harrison at right guard and Joe Reitz at right tackle.
Ryan Kelly, the team’s first-round pick, is expected to be the starting center while tackle Anthony Castonzo and guard Jack Mewhort will man the left side. But the right side of the line remains in flux, with competition expected.
Harrison is interesting. Barring injury, he clearly won’t be the starting center any longer. And we don’t know whether he’s got what it takes to be a full-time guard seeing how he’s only played there in one game in his two seasons as a pro. Prior to that, it had been quite some time since Harrison had played guard, but he thinks he has a shot.
“In college, my first start was at left guard, but that was for just one game,” Harrison said. “After that I went to center. But so far, I’m really enjoying guard. I feel comfortable at all three interior positions. And I’m here to compete.”
Ditto for Reitz. He started 10 games at right tackle last season and figured to have to fight for the right to do so again. But, for now, he’s holding his own.
“If we had to line up tomorrow and Joe Reitz was our right tackle,” Pagano said, “I’d feel really good.”
Alas, the Colts don’t play for another four months. So, things on the right side of the line will remain fluid.
As for the other draft picks outside of Kelly, look for them to get opportunities in the coming weeks. For now, they’re still learning what to do. It’s too early to know whether they could be factors in the competition.
Wide receiver battle
We tend to overlook the wide receiver position when addressing the subject of position battles. But the truth is, there is a key battle unfolding in one of the Colts’ strongest units.
While Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett are viewed as the top three receivers, the Colts have turned their attention to the fourth and, possibly, fifth spots. With the Colts moving on from aging Andre Johnson after one year, there’s a lack of proven depth in this position. The Colts are one injury away from a largely unknown player being their third receiver. (They got a not-so-subtle reminder of that when Dorsett went down Tuesday with what Pagano believed to be a hamstring injury.)
So, who is the Colts’ fourth receiver? It could be Josh Boyce, Brian Tyms or Quan Bray, a trio that has 16 career receptions between them. Or, it could be none of those. In other words, it’s wide open.
That was reflected in the performance of the backup receivers on Tuesday. The competition is already intense, with Boyce and Tyms, in particular, passing the eye test with some impressive catches that displayed reliable hands. Bray sat out Tuesday with an
“It’s been fun to see those guys compete,” Luck said. “And as quarterbacks, you have to get reps with them. It’s the only way to learn about them.”
Want to know how wide a net the Colts are casting? Consider: Twelve players on their 90-man roster are receivers.
This is something that will bear watching through training camp and beyond.
Another area the Colts have competition is inside linebacker. D’Qwell Jackson figures to start, but who replaces the departed Jerrell Freeman?
Tuesday’s practice didn’t bring much clarity. With Jackson sitting out as a precaution, the Colts used the combination of Nate Irving and Sio Moore with the starting defense. Had Jackson been in the lineup, it’s anyone’s guess who the other starter would have been.
But here’s an educated guess: Keep an eye on Irving. The Colts, remember, signed him to a notable three-year contract last season with a max value of $9 million. A torn knee ligament sustained in 2014 still hampered him last season, but the Colts are hopeful he now can return to the form he showed with the Broncos two years ago.
“I don’t think Nate was ever 100 percent coming off that knee,” Pagano said. “I think, right now, he feels better than he’s ever felt from a physical standpoint since the surgery.”
Is Chudzinski’s offense a power-run, play-action scheme or an air-it-out, pass-first attack?
The truth is, we don’t know and won’t know for quite some time. Installing individual plays is not tantamount to calling an actual game and showing tendencies. So it’s hard to draw real conclusions.
But, for what it’s worth, the Colts really aired it out on Tuesday. We saw them aggressively push the ball down the field, often with a moving pocket – something that seems like a great idea to combine with Luck’s skill set and ability to throw on the run. The Colts didn’t do much in the way of running game work. Remember, Tuesday was just one of three practices this week.
But the Colts, it would appear, will not be shy about throwing deep under Chudzinski.