INDIANAPOLIS – The second week of the Indianapolis Colts’ ramped up offseason work – week 2 of organized team activities (OTAs) – included more than a few highlights.
The Matt Ryan-led offense generally was crisp during Wednesday’s 7-on-7 work, although it must be noted the defense is at a disadvantage during these drills. Ryan was decisive with his reads and seemed to hit his receivers in stride. That’s an offseason point of emphasis: increasing yards after the catch.
“That ball is out,’’ tight end Mo Alie-Cox said of Ryan’s passes. “When you come out of your break, you gotta be ready because it’s not that slow turn of your head. The ball is going to be on you, but it’s going to be on point.’’
In separate goal-to-go sessions, the defense was whoopin’ it up. First, rookie linebacker Sterling Weatherford – a Hamilton Heights H.S. product – made an end-zone interception, got to his feet and raced 100-plus yards for a pick-6. Later, rookie cornerback Rodney Thomas II victimized backup quarterback Nick Foles with another end-zone interception.
On the rehab front, safety Julian Blackmon went through positional drills roughly seven-and-a-half months after rupturing his left Achilles tendon in an Oct. 20 practice.
“I feel good,’’ Blackmon said. “My progression’s been good.’’
There’s every chance he’ll be ready for the start of training camp at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield in late July.
All in all, said coach Frank Reich, “Another good OTA. Got good work.’’
As much attention as the players on the field rightfully demanded, there are some lingering issues. Such as:
- Kenny Moore II: The team’s Pro Bowl cornerback was not seen at practice. Last Wednesday, Moore attended the practice open to the media, but did not participate in on-field work.
He is seeking a new contract. Moore has two years remaining on the four-year, $33 million extension he signed in June 2019.
Missing last week and this week might be detrimental to the development of Gus Bradley’s defense, but this phase of the offseason program is voluntary. Offseason work culminates with next week’s Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday minicamp, and it’s mandatory.
Reich has maintained contact with all of his players, but said he hasn’t talked with Moore about whether he’ll attend the mandatory work.
According to the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement, a player not attending minicamp is subject to a fine each day: $15,515 for day 1, $31,030 for day 2 and $46,540 for day 3. That’s a potential three-day dockage of $93,085.
- Darius Leonard: For a second straight week, the team’s All-Pro linebacker looked on as practice unfolded. Leonard apparently still is dealing with a left ankle injury that bothered him throughout last season. He had surgery on the ankle last June, but it remained an issue.
And it’s still an issue.
Reich admitted he was surprised when Leonard didn’t practice last Wednesday.
Is he concerned the ankle once again will linger?
“You never know and that’s exactly why we’re trying to be cautious with him,’’ Reich said. “Just taking it day by day, trying to see what exactly we’re dealing with, how can we get it to respond and make some progress.”
“Sometimes when you’re going through something and you it a lull and you can’t get over a hump you want to get past, you’ve got to stop and pause and say, ‘Why aren’t we getting over this hump?’ That’s a little bit of what it is with Darius.”
“We’re just continuing to be cautious with him and want to be smart about getting him ready.’’
Another surgery isn’t being considered. Yet.
“No, not at this point,’’ Reich said.
- Yannick Ngakoue and Khari Willis: The two veterans haven’t been in attendance.
“All voluntary at this point,’’ Reich said. “I’ve been in communication with those guys. Each one is a different thing.’’
Like Justin Houston before him, Ngakoue prefers to work out on his own during the offseason. He’s expected to attend the mandatory work. The reason for Willis’ absence hasn’t been disclosed.
- Parris Campbell: The 2019 second-round draft pick is heading into a pivotal fourth season. Campbell has missed 34 of a possible 49 regular-season games with a slew of significant injuries.
But he continues to flash during OTAs, and Reich is hopeful that carries over into the regular season.
“He’s smart, he’s explosive,’’ he said. “If he can stay healthy . . . he’s got to prove it. He’s got to prove he can stay healthy. He’s got to prove he can execute and make play after play after play.’’
Reich is hoping the odds finally fall in Campbell’s favor because of the nature of Campbell’s previous injuries. They’ve included a broken left foot, a broken right foot, a broken hand and two damaged knee ligaments.
“Because they aren’t soft tissue or something like that, I don’t want to say they’re freakish things, but a little bit like that,’’ he said. “That makes me feel like, ‘OK, what are the chances that keeps happening?’ You never know, but you certainly hope for the best for him.
“I think we’re all pulling for Parris, but there’s no sentimental favorites here, right? You’ve got to earn every rep you get on that field.’’
- Rodrigo Blankenship: After setting club rookie records for points (139), field goals made (32) and PATs (43) in 2020, he became something of a forgotten Colt last season after sustaining a hip injury during pregame warm-ups week 5 at Baltimore. The team turned to Michael Badgley, and Blankenship finished the season on the injured reserve list even though he was healthy enough to kick at some point.
Badgley hasn’t been re-signed and the only kickers on the roster at Blankenship and Jake Verity, who spent most of 2021 on Baltimore’s practice squad before suffering a hip injury.
So, what’s up at kicker?
“Rod was our kicker last year, so in my mind it’s Rod’s to (lose),’’ Reich said. “But’s an open competition. We’re going in like that at every position, really.
“I would say Rod would be on the depth chart as the quote-unquote No. 1 kicker. But is it a competition? Yes.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.