In the early preseason, it often seems like the defense is a little ahead of the offense. This makes sense, of course, as the defense just has to react, whereas the offense is much more choreographed. But Peyton Manning and Co. didn't seem to have much trouble shaking off any rust Monday morning as the Colts opened camp.
After nearly having his first pass picked off by Kelvin Hayden, Manning made several excellent throws during full-team drills and seemed in step with his talented receiving corps in the morning session in front of a large crowd at Anderson University.
Manning, who is coming off back-to-back NFL MVP seasons, spread the ball around to his receivers, with highlights coming on a play-action pass for a deep gain to Pierre Garçon during full-team drills and a long fade route, also to Garçon, for a score in seven-on-seven work.
Manning, of course, is a veteran who knows about coming to camp to work. Some of the younger players showed some first-day jitters, however.
Rookie kick returner/receiver Brandon James dropped an easy pass from Manning on an out route during the first seven-on-seven session, and later dropped another after trying to trap the ball against his chest.
Devin Moore, a first-year running back and kick returner, also dropped a pair of punts, one of which tight end and special teams ace Jacob Tamme was able to pounce upon. Tamme also had a nice catch on a circle route from Manning to end the morning practice.
For the most part, the Colts were healthy and ready to go. Dwight Freeney, free-agent acquisition Adam Terry and rookie tight end Brody Eldridge were among the players sitting out, but Eldridge told me after practice he plans on taking part this afternoon.
It's hard to get a feel on anything definite after just one practice, but here are some news and notes from the morning session:
- First round draft choice Jerry Hughes was absent from practice as he was finalizing his contract. Owner Jim Irsay spoke with the media during practice and indicated the team was close to a deal with Hughes, and sure enough, he signed his contract (reportedly around five years, $12 million) and will be in practice this afternoon.
- While Brandon James did struggle a bit, that's to be expected for a rookie in his first week. When he did have the ball in his hands on a couple of punt returns, he looked electric, with quick cuts and great acceleration in the open field.
- To be even more fair to James, Pat McAfee punted more wobblers than usual Monday. Even Anthony Gonzalez dropped one. Rookie Blair White also returned some punts, and he looks like he has some good hands, making a couple of difficult catches look routine.
- I thought Gijon Robinson looked a little smoother and more comfortable in the passing game this year. He also looks like he has slimmed down slightly. He'll need to have a good camp with Tamme and Eldridge pushing for playing time, and he got off to a solid start Monday.
- Both Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir looked strong in full-team action. Johnson even flushed Manning into a full-on scramble on the fourth play of full-team, first-team vs. first-team drills. Don't expect to see much of Manning running once the games start, however — the players on the Colts know they can't hit him, and so does Manning.
Mitch King also made a nice pass rush against the second-team line, breaking through for what would have been a sack on Curtis Painter. Painter made some bad throws early, including one at Javarris James' feet, but seemed to settle down later in seven-on-seven drills. The difference between Manning and all the other quarterbacks is significant, though, even in practice.
- While King made a couple of good impressions, fellow second-year defensive lineman John Gill struggled during the pass rushing drills, getting buried twice in a row by Jaimie Thomas.
- The offensive line that began with the first team in full-team drills was Charlie Johnson at left tackle, Jamey Richard at left guard, Jeff Saturday at center, Kyle DeVan at right guard and Ryan Diem at right tackle.
- Rookie Dudley Guice made the catch of the morning on a long pass down the right sideline. Guice turned to face the throw, leapt with his hands over his head with legs windmilling and brought the ball down while falling. Guice, who impressed me during the Colts minicamp earlier this summer, looks like a solid prospect and eager to learn — he was in the ear of the coaches and older receivers, trying to learn the ins and outs of the offense.
I've got more notes from this morning, but they will have to wait until later. In the meantime, be sure to check out our Training Camp Tracker and Live Updates from practice this afternoon.
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