QB Peyton Manning (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
The Indianapolis Colts and Franklin College invited the public to Saturday's minicamp practice, and ColtPower.com editor Eric Hartz was on hand to watch. See what Hartz thought about the new punters, new special teams coach Ray Rychleski, how the battles for the tight end and receiver positions are shaping up, and more inside.
I spent much of my day taking photos and updating the ColtPower Twitter feed, but I also had time to jot down a few notes. With all that going on, I surely missed out on some of the action on the field, so if you saw something I didn't, be sure to drop me a line or post it in the forums.
On to the notes:
- The Colts spent a lot of time working with the punt teams, and for those that never played football, that's actually a fairly common activity for football practices, particularly in a training camp-type environment. With Hunter Smith gone to Washington, fans got their first look at new punters Pat McAfee and Tim Mastay.
The team used a draft pick on McAfee so it would seem he's got the inside track for the job. It looked to me like McAfee had the better overall leg — as in, his punts traveled farther — but Masthay appeared to have the edge in hangtime.
One of the knocks on Smith was that he didn't get much hangtime on his punts, and the team's punt coverage struggled because of it because the gunners couldn't get down the field in time to stop the returner from getting a head of steam. So, if the coaching staff decides to value hangtime over pure distance, perhaps Mastay could have an edge in that area.
On the other hand, McAfee also can kick field goals and kick off, and with Adam Vinatieri aging and recovering from hip surgery, the Colts may need McAfee as a fill-in if Vinatieri isn't ready to start the season.
Either way, the battle between these two new punters should be an interesting one to keep an eye on during training camp and the preseason.
- New special teams coach Ray Rychleski has a lot of energy and a BIG voice. He could be heard barking out encouragement all from all corners of the field.
At one point, when the punt unit wasn't quick enough to line up to Rychleski's liking, he cracked, "what are we, union?" which got a laugh from players and fans alike. He reminded me a bit of James Tolkan, the actor best known as Principal Strickland in "Back to the Future" and Stinger in "Top Gun." I think it's safe to say Rychleski won't be putting up with any "slackers" on the Colts' special teams.
- Another interesting factor to watch throughout the 2009 season is how the Colts use their stable of tight ends. Dallas Clark, of course, will spend most of his time out on routes, and made one of the best catches of the day, one-handing a low pass off his shoe tops on an in route.
I spent a fair amount of my time watching the other tight ends, and I thought both Jacob Tamme and Gijon Robinson struggled a bit in the receiving drills. Robinson dropped a pass on a corner route, but did come back and make a nice grab on an out route a little later. Tamme dropped a pretty easy pass on a dig route but later made a couple of tough catches in the seven-on-seven portion.
- Reggie Wayne told the media this weekend that he felt he was in the best shape since his early 20s and he looked the part on Saturday. The three-time Pro Bowler was ready for business — he was the first player off the bus and broke into a jog to get to the practice field.
In drills, Wayne looked super smooth and confident, doing everything well. Even his throws back to the ball boys after catches were perfect, on-target spirals.
At one point during seven-on-seven drills, cornerback Tim Jennings came over to the sidelines for some water. A fan asked him if there was a lot of jawing between the DBs and receivers during practice.
Jennings' response: "No, none of the receivers talk that much — except for Reggie." Seems Wayne can walk the walk AND talk the talk.
- There's been a lot talked and written about who will be the Colts' "third receiver" this season, but statistically, that receiver will more than likely be Dallas Clark.
Pierre Garcon, Roy Hall and rookie Austin Collie are the likely candidates, but I think all three will end up on the opening day roster and will all contribute on special teams.
Collie looked very comfortable fielding punts, as did Garcon, and Hall worked as a gunner on the punt team. On offense, Hall's size is a huge advantage, while Garcon has great moves and Collie runs solid routes. The Colts can use all three of them to their strengths and keep defenses guessing on who they will have to line up against — just another addition to Peyton Manning's toolbox.
Speaking of Manning, he said earlier in the weekend that Taj Smith should also be in the conversation, and he looked quite comfortable out there as well.
Based on what I saw yesterday — and remember, this was one minicamp practice in early June, in shorts — I think Garcon will probably put up the best numbers of the three, but Collie looked very fluid as well. Hall doesn't have the speed of those two, but again, his size just can't be duplicated. With Hall wearing No. 81, he reminded me a bit of Marcus Pollard, actually.
- Neither the seven-on-seven or the full 11-on-11 drills ended on a particularly high note. In the seven-on-seven, Manning threw to Wayne on a deep post route on the last pass, but it was just beyond his grasp.
In the brief 11-on-11 segment, rookie corner Jerraud Powers made the most notable play, making a nice break on a Manning-to-Wayne pass down the left sideline and knocking it down.
On the last play of the 11-on-11, Manning was forced to scramble a bit and eventually opted to the throw the ball out of bounds before Jim Caldwell blew the whistle to signal the end of practice.
Afterward, Manning hung around a bit to sign autographs, while the rest of the players grabbed box lunches before getting on the bus. Jim Irsay, Bill Polian and Caldwell chatted a bit, and Irsay signed autographs for a while as well, thanking fans for coming out to watch.
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