The Indianapolis Colts put on pads for the first time in 2012 today at Anderson University. Normally, that’s when injuries start to occur, but for the Colts, they lost two players for the season on Sunday’s first day with non-contact injuries.
Offensive lineman Ben Ijalana and linebacker AJ Edds will be lost for the season, head coach Chuck Pagano confirmed after practice today. Both suffered “significant” injuries to their ACLs.
For Ijalana, the injury is particularly tough as the Colts’ 2011 second round draft pick re-injured the same knee that cost him most of his rookie season.
For Edds, a Greenwood, IN native, the injury will cost him an opportunity to compete for a spot on the rebuilt Colts defense. Edds was a valuable special teams contributor last season.
Coach Pagano was pleased overall with today’s practice, emphasizing the importance of getting to see players for the first time being more physical. Most of the practice focused on situational scenarios, especially red zone execution. For Pagano the mindset of his offense and defense is important in those scoring situations:
“Our mindset, when we’re down in the red area, is we’ve got three points, let’s keep that, OK? If we can score a touchdown, that’s great…Don’t try to force things.”
Kicker Adam Vinatieri reinforced that notion with an amazing display of accuracy during his practice kicks. He not only split the uprights, but most of the time he appeared to be having target practice with the cameramen situated in scissor-lifts behind both end zones. More often than not, Vinatieri scored direct hits on the lifts.
Pagano also emphasized the defensive mindset in the red zone:
“Defensively, they’re not scoring. We’re gonna hold them to a field goal or force a turnover. That’s our mindset down there.”
Among the players that stood out in today’s practice was rookie wide receiver TY Hilton. Hilton played with the first offensive unit when the Colts went to four wide in their red zone work. He was very effective working out of the slot in those situations. That’s good news for Hilton who is known more for his ability to get behind defenders with his speed and make big plays in the return game. If he shows the coaches a presence in the red zone, he could become a very important part of the Colts’ offense.
Austin Collie looks to be Andrew Luck’s favorite target early on. He has a knack for finding the open spot on nearly every play. Luck checked down to Collie often.
Luck showed the first signs of being a rookie that we’ve seen thus far from him. On a few occasions, Luck locked on to his intended receiver early, allowing defensive backs to jump the route. In one red zone, play, Luck’s pass in the flat was tipped by Antoine Bethea who read the play. Jerry Hughes hustled over from his linebacker spot to pick the ball out of the air for the interception.
For Hughes it was a good day as well. Perhaps no Colts veteran has more to prove in this camp than him. He showed good quickness off the ball in pass rush drills and looks much more comfortable playing as a stand-up outside linebacker, as he did in college.
The Colts may have also found a new passer/receiver combination. Punter Pat McAfee hit rookie TE Coby Fleener off a fake field goal attempt for their first touchdown combination. Somehow, I don’t think the Manning/Wayne or Manning/Harrison numbers will be threatened.
The play of the day belonged to third string quarterback, Chandler Harnish. Harnish hit undrafted free agent wide receiver Kris Adams in stride on a fly pattern that covered 70 yards. It was such a nice ball, I originally thought it was Luck’s throw. Then I saw Harnish’s number eight.
The Colts will have the day off tomorrow before resuming practice at 1:50 p.m. on Thursday. Coach Pagano did say it was possible the team might work out some players tomorrow, however, to take the roster spots opened up by the injuries to Ijalana and Edds.
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