The Colts took the field at 8:30 Monday morning, relegating all work to the two practice fields east of the main stadium. After going through a series of stretches and agility drills, the team broke up into units and began to work on special teams, fundamentals by position, and situational work for the offense and defense. The morning stayed rather cool right up to the end of practice, though it started to heat up quickly as many fans were walking back to their vehicles.
The turnout was well under what the evening and weekend practices are able to generate. Still, with much smaller bleacher space surrounding the practice fields it was standing room only for spectators who failed to arrive a half hour or more early (including this guy).
The Colts started work with the special teams kick coverage unit. Early in the session, coach Ray Rychleski was not happy with what he saw and instructed his men to, “act like football players.” Melvin Bullitt quickly turned the coverage unit around — earning praise from Rychleski — while Brandon James and Ray Fisher managed to break impressive returns through creases during the last two kickoff drills.
Brandon James did struggle quite a bit handling passes, sticking out as the receiver with the worst hands on the field. Oddly enough, James managed to reel-in a difficult catch on a tight comeback route from Curtis Painter during team drills. Both Anthony Gonzalez and Pierre Garçon sat out of practice.
Taj Smith was impressive in practice, catching everything thrown his way, and looking fluid out of breaks and after securing the football. Garçon had a “God damn it Donald” moment when the first team offense was doing some work. Manning yelled, “Pierre, get your ass over here!” across the field at Garçon, who apparently was not where he belonged.
One of the most impressive players Monday morning was John Chick. At one point, Chick lined up across Tony Ugoh — wide left — and used his quick first step and defined upper body strength to bowl over the temporary starting left tackle. It can be assumed that on any normal NFL down, the play would have resulted in a Chick sack.
If fans thought Pat McAfee had an impressive leg last season, they should be happy to get a look at the second year punter in 2010. McAfee consistently boomed punts of nearly 50 yards, coming up shy of 45 yards only once or twice.
The rumors that Brody Eldridge can catch a football are entirely true. Not only did Eldridge haul in nearly every pass thrown his way, he caught one pass running a shallow post route 25 yards down the field with his hands stretched completely above his head. The body control, agility, and soft hands required to make that catch make him exciting as a release option for Manning.
Both Eric Hartz of Colt Power and my trusty camp companion Kelly Hinojosa pointed out that Eldridge is extremely slow compared to his tight end counterparts. Still, I feel like Eldridge will be used primarily as a blocker and only as a release option for Manning — like Gijon Robinson, James Mungro, or Dan Klecko have done in the past. I would not put it past Eldridge to prove the three of us wrong.
Jacob Tamme is also getting a lot of looks during training camp. He has displayed good speed, hands, and the ability to get open down-field. More importantly, he looks bigger — which continues the trend from a season ago where Tamme noticeably filled out and took on a bigger role on special teams units. Keep an eye on Tamme in preseason games. He is my early favorite for most improved player in 2010.
Finally, Bob Sanders continues to look like a beast in training camp. He managed to make the marquee hit of the day, earning a collective gasp from the crowd, and a loud ovation following confirmation that everyone involved was okay. The more I see Sanders, the more he looks like the Bobzilla we are all hoping to see take the field again in 2010.