Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 6/14/12

The Indianapolis Colts open practice at Lucas Oil Stadium gave fans an opportunity to get their first look at the "new era" Colts. With the Colts entering only their second day of work under new head coach Chuck Pagano and more newcomers on the roster than returning players, expectations here were that there would be plenty of "growing pains" on display for the fans. That wasn't what I saw.

While there's plenty of room for improvement, the new look Colts didn't appear to have a rookie quarterback surrounded by a host of new personnel, all learning a new offense. The defense also looked to be taking to the new 3-4 scheme quite nicely,with some veteran Colts transitioning into new roles. Here are some of the other observations from the day's practice:

  • The day's work got off to a great start as Reggie Wayne entered the field just behind his teammates. He was greeted by an ovation from an estimated crowd of 7500 appreciative Colts fans.
  • Rookie speedster TY Hilton was in attendance, but not participating. I was looking forward to seeing his speed on display.
  • In position drills, Robert Mathis worked with the linebackers on dropping into pass coverage while Dwight Freeney worked with the down linemen. During team drills, both Mathis and Freeney lined up as outside linebackers. Mathis looked good in his drops and nearly picked off Andrew Luck when the rookie QB ran a bootleg off of play action. He never saw Mathis drop into coverage.
  • Donald Brown got the majority of the first team work at running back, but rookie Vick Ballard hits the hole very quickly. If Ballard can pass protect (which Brown didn't set a very high bar for last season) he could see a lot of time on the field.
  • Jerraud Powers looked very good at cornerback. He had tight coverage for the most part and drove on the ball very well. Twice he broke up Luck passes, once on a stop route to Coby Fleener where Fleener didn't shield Powers with his body. The other was on a crossing route to Austin Collie where Powers showed good closing speed and batted down the ball. 
  • The other corners were unremarkable to bad. Donnie Avery burnt Kevin Thomas to a crisp on a hitch and go route. The ball came out of Luck's hand fluttering and was underthrown. Thomas never turned around and was flagged for interference.

As for Andrew Luck, the timing between he and his receivers obviously isn't there yet. Other than that, he was as advertised. I've seen rookie quarterbacks at training camp. Luck doesn't look like a rookie. He looks more like a veteran getting a feel for new teammates.

Luck was nearly flawless in his reads, save the one pass where Mathis was in the area. Watching his footwork, one was very much reminded of Peyton Manning. His arm strength was plenty good enough. The zip on his throws and the tightness of his spirals was noticeably different than his counterparts. 

Luck's best throw of the day was to Reggie Wayne on a seam route. With Jerraud Powers in Wayne's hip pocket, Luck fired a laser that hit Wayne right in stride. After the play, Powers was visibly perplexed as to how Luck got the ball into that tight window.

The offense will look very different from what Colts fans are accustomed to, and not just with personnel. Bruce Arians has brought a lot of packages that are reminiscent of what he ran with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Colts showed a lot of two tight end looks with Coby Fleener often split out into the slot. The other rookie tight end, Dwayne Allen, sometimes shifted into an H-back position in the backfield.

Most of the 11 on 11 plays involved play action. Luck looked very comfortable with his ball skills. The formations featured several variations on the "bunched set" that the Steelers would run with receivers staggered at the line of scrimmage and overloads to one side. 

The routes were layered and heavily weighted on drag routes and five to ten yard stops for Luck's checkdowns. Luck already looked very comfortable with his progressions.

All in all, it was a much better performance than I expected, especially from a young offense and a new coaching staff. As Andrew Luck develops continuity with this group, Colts fans can expect great things from him, probably sooner than later.

For pictures of yesterday's workout, be sure to go to the Colts 101 Facebook page where an album is up of images from the day.

 

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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