Here are my observations from Wednesday night's Indianapolis Colts training camp practice:
- Wednesday's practice was the first practice in pads. Keep that in mind. My overall impression was that training camp is as much about development as it is evaluation. Be very careful not to read too much in to any one observation. What you are getting from the many excellent fan reports and tweets is snap shots. It would be like trying to piece together the plot of the Godfather using a few random still images taken by people who had never seen the end of the movie. The biggest mistake fans can make with training camp is to draw conclusions from a small and incomplete sample.
- Anyone recently resigned or reworked was sitting last night. That means no Tommie Harris, Nate Davis, ect. Peyton was there and engaged. The reports that he was throwing yesterday were encouraging, but that was well before I arrived.
- Curtis Painter wasn't perfect, but he was noticeably better than I thought. I grant you that his competition was Mike Hartline, but he completed a pair of gorgeous balls to Reggie Wayne. He threw with some zip, and looked generally competent. Anyone hoping he'd come to camp as a complete trainwreck is going to be disappointed. I'm no Painter fan, but I did think he was the best backup option last year, and after seeing him last night, I won't be surprised if he wins the job again.
- I thought Gonzo had a bit of a rough night. He got some separation deep, but failed to haul in some passes. It's always hard to tell if that's on him or Painter, but at one point Lacey had him locked down pretty well. Gonzo made the catch, and Lacey drew a penalty flag from the official that was there for training purposes, but in a real situation, Gonzo would have been looked off. He worked out a lot with the second unit.
- Mathis was back, so anyone wondering if his temporary absence was some kind of secret contract antics can put that to bed. Please.
- Jerry Hughes had some nice moments, openly abusing Ijalana early. He's definitely quick.
- Castonzo verses Freeney is a mismatch. Freeney made him look silly with a spin move, popping Delone Carter in the hole just as he took the handoff. The fumble was not Carter's fault. He had no chance. It was on one of their snaps against each other, though. Don't worry too much about Freeney besting a rookie playing against him in pads for the first time. There's is no analog in football to his spin move.
- Carter looked good over all, but it's frankly impossible for me to evalute running backs in a situation where they aren't really being tackled.
- Overall, the defensive line looked better than the offensive line.
- Rookie WR Larron Moore dropped several passes. Rough night for him on a day when most receivers were catching the passes fluidly.
- McAfee had a punt that hung in the air forever. Guy next to me timed it at 5.1 seconds of hang time. Garcon, Gonzo, and Powers were all fielding punts.
- I stopped by to say hello to Chris Spann, brother of Chad Spann (read that great profile). The family was out watching camp. We only spoke for a minute or so, but they seemed very nice. I asked if they were nervous at all, and Chris's answer was illuminating. "We've been through this before". I forgot how many years of games and practices the family goes through before a son or brother makes the NFL. It's too long a road to sweat a training camp workout the first week in August.
- I took some pictures at the time, but the network was simply too slow to upload them to twitter over the wifi connection. I'll upload higher quality non-smart phone photos taken by my friend and 18to88 correspondant Nate Manahan later today. Frankly, I hate smart phone pictures, they never look good. The second one is a sasquatch style shot of Peyton. Couldn't you tell?
- Don't come to camp without having an updated roster.
- There are some great tweeters out there. Be sure you are following Andrew Mishler from Ball State and Dan Graham, who had good insights last night. Fair warning, Graham can be salty, but has good information.
- The amazing thing about camp is how fan friendly it is. The $10 parking fee is reasonable, but then when you are there the concessions are all fairly priced. Four bucks bought me a bottle of water and a Dr. Pepper. That's a far cry from the prices at the Luke. By making camp free and offering so many great options for families, the Colts have really made it possible for the fans to get close to them. Not everyone in Indiana can afford tickets to a game, but a lower middle class family of five can go to Anderson and for $50 of gas and parking get to see the team up close and have a lot of fun. It's really an amazing thing.
- Fans line the fences hoping for autographs. Considering there were thousands there last night, it's really an amazing scene.
- My kids got into a conversation about the Colts. It went like this:
Ellie: Peyton Manning is the best player on the Colts.
Scott: Peyton Manning is the best player in football.
Ellie: It's the same thing.
Scott: Yeah. Mommy, is Peyton Manning real?
Ah, a five year old who loves superheroes. You can't beat it.