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Summary from the Final Week of Camp
Carson Wentz returned to practice last week, throwing 91 passes over three straight practices in 7-on-7 periods. With two weeks left until the regular-season opener, Wentz’s next hurdle is getting into 11-on-11 work. Considering he showed absolutely zero hesitation with his cutting and lateral movement and exhibited no worries about his injured foot, it appears a safe bet Wentz will suit up as the starter in Week 1. Jacob Eason was solid in Friday night’s preseason win over the Lions, going 10-of-14 for 74 yards. He probably did enough to lock up the No. 2 role on his merits but will wind up the backup in part because Sam Ehlinger is sidelined for 4-to-6 weeks with a sprained knee.
Jonathan Taylor didn’t play a single snap in any of the three preseason games, but head coach Frank Reich isn’t worried about Taylor’s readiness. “I feel good where we’re at,” Reich said. “I feel like we’ve gotten a lot of good physical work. (We’ve) been here (at training camp) for four weeks, worked really hard. Did get some quality time, got practice, got two days of practice against the Panthers as well. I feel like physically, we’re in good shape.” The Athletic’s Stephen Holder believes Taylor could have a heavier workload than we might expect. His preseason usage suggests Marlon Mack will back up Taylor on early downs, though TheFan’s Kevin Bowen believes Jordan Wilkins has looked better. If anything happened to Taylor, Mack and Wilkins would form a committee on base downs and at the goal-line. Nyheim Hines will maintain his usual role on obvious passing downs.
T.Y. Hilton is expected to miss several weeks with a neck injury. "He's been evaluated for a neck injury,” Reich said. “He was experiencing some discomfort on the trip to Detroit, so we had some scans. It's a disc issue. He will miss some games — we're optimistic it's not season-ending." With Hilton sidelined, Michael Pittman and Zach Pascal are the likely starters in 2WR sets. Parris Campbell will replace Hilton in three-wide receiver sets, a personnel grouping the Colts deployed on 69% of their offensive plays in 2020. Hilton’s injury also gives rookie standout Mike Strachan, Dezmon Patmon, and Ashton Dulin better chances to make the roster.
After playing behind Farrod Green in Week 2, Kylen Granson played the most snaps with the starters on Friday. The Athletic’s Zak Keefer believes Granson will have an every-week role this season because he fits the mold of what Reich wants in his move tight end. Holder also sees Granson as the leading pass-catcher in the tight end group. Veterans Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox will focus more on blocking — especially with left tackle Eric Fisher on the mend from an Achilles injury.
Rodrigo Blankenship will be the Week 1 kicker following Eddy Pineiro’s release. Pineiro had a strong preseason and camp; he could draw interest from other teams.
This year’s first-round pick, defensive end Kwity Paye, made his presence felt for a second straight preseason game. Paye had a sack and forced fumble on the first third down of the game and added another two tackles and a quarterback hit. “Two games and two sacks — that just builds confidence for me,” Paye said. While Paye boosts an already formidable front-seven, the secondary could be in trouble. With cornerback T.J. Carrie sidelined after injuring his knee against the Panthers, Rock Ya-Sin is ahead in the race to be the third cornerback. In the first quarter, Ya-Sin was badly beaten by wideout Quintez Cephus on a slant route in the red zone for a too-easy touchdown catch.
The Colts have two of the best young returners in the league in Isaiah Rodgers (kickoffs) and Nyheim Hines (punts).
Summary from Week 3 of Camp
Carson Wentz returned to practice on Monday. While he wasn’t physically cleared to practice for a few weeks, his mental preparation was admirable. Whether it's discussing route nuances with pass-catchers, or checks with his linemen, or progressions with coaches, Wentz has been heavily engaged in the Colts' practices. "He's getting very antsy. Very antsy," head coach Frank Reich said. "He's wanting to push the envelope, as I would expect. But he's gotta be patient and just stay focused on the mental side of it right now and we’ve got to let things take their course. But at the same time, there's a time to push things and we'll keep doing that as it's appropriate." The quarterback situation behind Wentz is tenuous, as Sam Ehlinger and Jacob Eason combined to average a paltry five yards per pass attempt in Saturday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings. Ehlinger got the start but failed to make a statement, going 8-of-13 for 70 yards and 2 interceptions. Eason finished 16-of-27 for 132 yards, which was a tale of two streaks. He started 2-for-8 with zero yards but settled down and went 14-of-19 for 132 yards after that. Eason would likely start if Wentz cannot, but the No. 2 battle isn’t over. “I need to look at the tape some more, but they both did some good things, made some big plays,” Reich said. “Sam had two tipped balls lead to interceptions, so we have to clean that up. Jacob missed one or two things early but then made some big plays. We’ll learn from those. I think both did positive things. I need to look at the film more closely before I make a full evaluation.”
Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines split snaps with the starters against the Vikings. Mack rushed three times for 10 yards, while Hines finished with six carries for 17 yards and added an 18-yard reception. Jonathan Taylor remains the unquestioned lead back and was held out with most of the other starters. The biggest takeaway from the Colts’ 12-10 win is that the team sorely misses Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly. The running backs got little to no push, as the Minnesota defense controlled the middle of the field. Mack remains the preferable early-down handcuff to Taylor, but Jordan Wilkins appears locked into a spot on the 53-man roster, too.