The Indianapolis Colts wrapped up minicamp last week and with it, the offseason training program.
As the team goes its separate ways for the next month and a half before returning to Westfield for training camp, we learned plenty about the storylines that will take place at Grand Park beginning in late July.
Here are 10 things we learned about the Colts this offseason:
The Matt Ryan trade is starting strong:
The biggest move of the offseason seems to be going well so far. The trade for quarterback Matt Ryan should give the Colts a better chance at winning the AFC South, and the veteran has been nothing but impressive during his first few months with the team.
Head coach Frank Reich raved about Ryan’s leadership and accuracy all offseason. The way in which Ryan immediately commanded the respect of his teammates has left an impression on the fifth-year head coach while his teammates had nothing but positive things to say about the 37-year-old.
“Matt (Ryan) was unbelievable, did a great job, great command – really, AZ. He did everything right – just great leadership, great play, ”Reich told reporters at minicamp. “I mean the whole way he took command, great collaborating as an offensive staff with him to kind of work in and nuance some of the things we do to kind of suit him and his style.”
Ryan’s top target, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., echoed similar statements about working with the veteran.
“The ball is just right there, and you just turn and catch the ball. I mean, it just makes it easy, ”Pittman Jr. told reporters during OTAs. “Matt can pretty much put it wherever he wants.”
Inuendos aside, the Colts need more stable play at the quarterback position. Ryan wasn’t flawless by any means during OTAs and minicamp, but he did show consistent ball placement throughout the offseason workouts.
We’ll see just how far the Colts can go with Ryan, but the move is starting out on the right foot.
A big holdout looming:
For the first time in Chris Ballard’s tenure as general manager, he may be looking at a contract holdout. Cornerback Kenny Moore II made it clear that he feels undervalued and underpaid relative to his position across the league. It led him to sit out voluntary OTAs and while he participated in the first day of minicamp, he suffered a minor injury that kept him off the field the final two days.
Moore spoke to reporters during the minicamp to give his side of the story. He does have a legitimate gripe with his pay even though the Colts feel the deal he signed was fair at the time and still is.
“I would love to be on the field at training camp,” Moore II told reporters during minicamp. “With it being June right now, I’m just taking it one day at a time right now, respectfully.”
Should Moore get to the point where he does holdout, the Colts will be forced to fine him $ 50,000 per day under the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Part of the issue for Moore is the way he feels he valued as a pure slot cornerback when his role truly is more extensive than that.
“I will not go into comparisons or anything, all that stuff will handle itself,” Moore II said. “But as far as my play, I do not like the whole nickel, slot corner thing. I’m a corner at the end of the day. You guys watch the games that we play. ”
There is still time to get this resolved one way or another, but this is a fine line for Ballard to walk. Does he simply fold every time a player wants a new deal with two years left on their current one? Or does he stand pat and make it clear that renegotiating can only be done on the dismiss terms?
Either way, there will be implications from this contract dispute regardless of how it ends.
Parris Campbell could breakout if …
… He stays healthy.
* ducks *
I know, I know. We’ve been saying this ever since Campbell was drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft. Though the injuries did not truly start until the regular season of his rookie campaign, this has been the constant theme for Campbell.
The truth of the matter is Campbell’s skill set is still perfect for the NFL, and it’s perfect for what the Colts need. There’s a reason he has shined during OTAs and minicamp. His elite speed and vision with the ball in his hands make the perfect combination with Matt Ryan’s quick release.
It’s just a matter of whether he can avoid another season of freak injuries. It’s a challenge that Frank Reich has bestowed upon the fourth-year wideout.
“I think we’re all pulling for Parris (Campbell) but there’s no sentimental favorites here. You have to earn every rep you get on that field, ”Reich said during OTAs. “We all love Parris and we all have a lot of belief in Parris and the upside, this is like I said, there’s no sentimental favorites. “Every guy is going to get a fair shot to earn a spot to be on the field.”
The talent Campbell has could bring him as high as the WR2 in the offense. No one would be shocked if a full season from a healthy Campbell saw him finish with a line of something around 60-70 receptions for 800-900 yards and roughly five touchdowns. That’s in his range of outcomes.
But staying healthy has been the biggest challenge for Campbell. Can he do it entering a contract year?
The battle at left tackle:
One of the most important position battles for the Colts comes at Matt Ryan’s blindside. It’s the classic case of a veteran holding the spot while a promising rookie battles his way into more reps.
Through OTAs and minicamp, the job is still Matt Pryor’s to lose. The Colts were intrigued by his performance in a spot-start situation against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 17. That’s what led to the Colts re-signing him to a one-year deal this offseason.
Pryor has been taking most — if not all — of the first-team reps at left tackle this offseason. However, the Colts also spent a third-round pick on Bernhard Raimann.
The rookie has been impressive with his opportunities thus far, showing the promise the Colts thought he had when they drafted him at No. 77 overall.
“Yeah, Bernhard’s done a really, really nice job. Really smart, really engaged, really athletic for the position, ”Reich said during OTAs. “It’s only obviously been a short time so far, but he’s made a very good first impression.”
Raimann is still learning the position after switching over from tight end in 2020. With that said, there is a very strong possibility he takes over the starting role early in the season or even during the preseason. The latter would be a bit more surprising, but it’s not outside the realm of possibilities.
This battle will be the one with the most eyes on it during training camp — or at least it should be — because it will have plenty of implications both in the short and long term.
Nyheim Hines is going to be used A LOT:
One of the most head-scratching storylines from the 2021 season was the lack of usage for Hines. Despite having signed a three-year extension that offseason, Hines saw career lows in several categories.
His 57 targets, 40 receptions and 310 receiving yards were all the lowest marks of his career. In the three seasons prior, Hines averaged 71.7 targets, 56.7 receptions and 409 receiving yards per year.
Now, the Colts are trying to correct that mistake in a big way.
The versatile Hines was lining up all over the field throughout the offseason. He saw his typical work in the backfield and in the slot but was also seen taking reps against cornerbacks while being split out wide. He had his share of successes, too, including a deep 40-yard reception against Brandon Facyson.
How the Colts use Hines will be interesting but one thing is for certain: he will be involved heavily.
Isaiah Rodgers szn is coming:
The Colts have several players vying for a breakout campaign in 2022. One player to keep an eye on in this regard is Rodgers, who was one of the most impressive players on the defensive side of the ball this offseason.
Going into his third season, Rodgers is coming off of a very promising 2021 campaign. According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers allowed a 62.3% completion rate, 10.7 yards per reception and a 72.2 passer rating on 61 targets.
Now, he’s been one of the best players on the defense during the spring.
Rodgers is battling for the No. 3 cornerback role with Brandon Facyson, who also had a solid showing this spring. With the contract situation looming for Kenny Moore II, the Colts are going to need Rodgers to step up into a bigger role.
And the former sixth-round pick is proving he’s up to the task.
UDFAs making noise:
The Colts saw their streak snap of 22 consecutive seasons with an undrafted rookie on the Week 1 roster in 2021. The chances of that happening again in 2022 are slim after some players from this year’s crop have begun to show out.
Coming on the defensive side of the ball, the Colts had a pair of undrafted rookies make some noise during OTAs and minicamp. Linebackers Jojo Domann and Sterling Weatherford.
Domann was one of the highest-ranked undrafted free agents following the 2022 NFL draft. He saw reps with the first team as the SAM backer during minicamp and recorded an interception.
The other is Weatherford, who entered the draft as a safety. However, the Colts clearly likely his athletic traits considering they would be unique to the linebacker position. He’s made plays throughout the spring.
Another UDFA to keep an eye on his running back D’Vonte Price. While Phillip Lindsay may be leading the RB3 battle right now, Price will find his way into the mix considering his size, speed and receiving abilities.
The WR4 spot is up for grabs completely:
The first three spots in the wide receiver room are essentially locked. The spots behind Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce and Parris Campbell, though, are completely open for competition.
While jobs aren’t won in the spring, the foundation is laid out for when it really matters during training camp and the preseason. Dezmon Patmon and Ashton Dulin made the most noise in that regard while Keke Coutee should not be overlooked either.
Second-year wideout Mike Strachan missed most of the spring due to an undisclosed injury. His upside is intriguing, but he was not able to get on the field for much of the spring workouts. That hinders his ability to win the job entering training camp.
The Colts are still open to adding a veteran wideout to the room, and they may have to consider the question marks surrounding the current state of the position.
Darius Leonard’s injury status:
At first, it was thought that Leonard was being held out of spring workouts due to precautionary reasons regarding his nagging ankle injury. Then, it was revealed during minicamp that Leonard was undergoing surgery on his back.
It still remains unclear whether the back injury had an impact on the ankle — we haven’t gotten much clarity on the subject. But what we do know is that Leonard is likely going to miss time during training camp as he recovers from the procedure.
Leonard is the type of player that can probably miss some time during camp and still play like his normal self when Week 1 rolls around. But he has missed some valuable time getting work in a new defense under Gus Bradley.
The Maniac is a smart player, and his instincts allow him to maximize his athleticism. So this isn’t a worrisome storyline until it becomes one. However, we should expect Leonard to miss time during camp, and it wouldn’t be a shock if they held him out of the preseason games as a precaution.
Gus Bradley’s defense focusing on the pass rush:
Pass rush. Pass rush. Pass rush.
That was the main focus for the Colts defense this spring. Bradley has been installing his defense over the course of the last few months, and the focus of the defensive line has been on one thing.
Get off the snap.
“I think it’s just right now, that’s the big emphasis for us is the get-off and the disrupt up front,” Bradley said during minicamp. Obviously, it’s not chaos but just the mindset of get-off and set the line of scrimmage. To affect the quarterback this day and age, you got to be able to affect the quarterback and it starts with a good get-off. ”
While the Raiders defense under Bradley in 2021 only had two more sacks than the Colts did, his unit had the fourth-most quarterback hits in the entire NFL.
The pass rush is either going to be the reason the Colts make that jump into the next tier or continue to be a good but inconsistent defense.
The hope remains this new scheme will bring forth the former.