Turning Up the Heat

The Indianapolis Colts were back at practice Monday afternoon, working out in shoulder pads and shorts on a sweltering August day. Eric Hartz braved the heat and shares what he learned from the Colts' second practice of the 2010 season inside.

Like most practices, the Colts spent the beginning working on special teams, but seemed to add an extra period or two to break down specific parts of the kicking game.

Second-year punter Pat McAfee, who has quickly become a fan favorite during his short time in Indianapolis, wowed the crowd with punt after punt of 50-plus yards with substantial hangtime. But the practice wasn't all about the "third phase" of the game.

Donning shoulder pads, the first units for the offense and defense got to square off against one another for the first time at full speed. Despite this, there was relatively little hitting, with players simply touching players "down" most of the time.

In fact, the biggest pop of the practice probably came from an offensive player, when Dallas Clark threw a shoulder into Jamie Silva after a catch and run.

Several players — including Jeff Saturday, Ryan Diem, Joseph Addai, Bob Sanders and Ervin Baldwin — sat out of Monday's afternoon practice, although Jim Caldwell indicated that in some cases, that is by plan.

"We do have quite a few guys who we are monitoring," Caldwell said. "We don't have many two-a-days in the system that we're using. We have just a couple. So, all those days when we do have two practices we're going to juggle those guys around. Some will practice in the morning and some will practice in the afternoon. It keeps some balance in the squad."

Indeed, some players that missed the morning practice, like Dwight Freeney, Brody Eldridge and Adam Terry, were able to take part in the afternoon practice. First-round draft pick Jerry Hughes, who signed his contract Monday, was also at practice, although I didn't see him.

Some more quick-hit thoughts from the afternoon practice:

  • Another player with injury concerns, Anthony Gonzalez, was not limited to just one practice. He missed nearly all of last season and had his minicamp cut short earlier this summer, but he went all day on Monday and looked terrific.

    During seven-on-seven drills, he caught three of Peyton Manning's 10 completions (on 11 attempts), including one down the right side for a touchdown and hauled in a wobbly Manning throw with a diving catch for a long gain.

    During full team drills, Gonzalez was also active, working again mostly on the right side where he was slated to start in 2009. I did wonder where Pierre Garçon was: after a standout morning practice, he didn't do much in the afternoon. Except ...

  • I Tweeted this, and it's an understatement, but the Colts receiving corps, and the quarterback throwing to them, are very, very good. Even the fifth and sixth guys on the depth chart (Taj Smith and Samuel Giguere) are very skilled. Add in the considerable receiving talents of guys like Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai and Jacob Tamme, and things start to get scary.

    The Colts own defensive players even got frustrated at the seamless attack Manning and Co. were throwing at them Monday. Kelvin Hayden, slipping to his knees after Garçon shook him off on one play, pounded the ground after yet another completion.

    I'm not big on predictions, especially so early on (hey, it's only been one day) but the potential is there for the Colts' offense to have an exceptional season, even for their high standards. Like, 2004-type exceptional.

  • The team spent a lot of time working on screen passes, and seemed to prefer throwing to running backs when they went to the left, and to Clark when they went to the right. But, they also threw to running backs on the right too, so maybe it is just a matter of Clark being comfortable on that side and the team having the confidence to throw it to him on a screen there. I didn't notice any of the other tight ends getting reps on the screen passes.

  • With some offensive linemen out, we got a glimpse at potential backups along the line. Tony Ugoh was in at left guard, Mike Pollak logged time at center, and Adam Terry played right tackle with the first team.

    Speaking of Ugoh, I did watch him a bit during pass-rushing drills, where he was again playing left guard. He did a very nice job fighting off Daniel Muir.

    I mentioned Jaimie Thomas getting better of John Gill in the morning session. Thomas is a player with great size (6-feet-4, 330 pounds) and I believe he'll end up playing a lot somewhere, someday. But Muir got the better of him this afternoon on one play, with a powerful rip move that left the second-year guard clutching at thin air. Muir seems to just get quicker and quicker — he's a project that has really seemed to pan out for the Colts.

  • I mentioned above that Manning went 10-of-11 during the seven-on-seven drills. It was linebacker Cody Glenn that kept him from being perfect, making a nice knockdown of a pass intended for Jacob Tamme.

  • I wrote about Brandon James' struggles in the morning practice update, and he continued to have an up-and-down day, getting "coached up" a bit by Clyde Christensen after rounding off a cut in a route. Later, though, James got between rookie corner Jordan Hemby and rookie safety David Caldwell on a post route, hauling in a long pass from Curtis Painter in full-team drills.

    That's about all for tonight. I'll try to dump any notes I missed in another piece later in the week. Be sure to continue following our Training Camp Tracker and Live Updates for all the latest.

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