INDIANAPOLIS — Making progress.
That’s how Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is rating his team’s first week of training camp practices.
“You know, I think this is pretty much standard. I think the defense is probably a little bit ahead than the offense right now,” Pagano said. “That’s not to say we’re not doing some good things. We started to run the football a little better. But I like the way our defense is coming together.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys that are tough and smart and playing together. Not giving up big plays and playing smart so I like that. I like our front. I like our linebacker play. We’ve got some athleticism in the back end. Again, offensively, we’ve got some playmakers on the outside.
“Quarterbacks are doing a good job. They’ve had to step up filling in for Andrew’s (Luck) absence. They’re doing a good job. We’re making mistakes. It’s not going to be perfect, it’s not going to be clean.”
The Colts’ coach has been particularly pleased with the developments on special teams. Veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri is the most important holdover for Indianapolis. Former punter Pat McAfee unexpectedly retired during the offseason while veteran long snapper Matt Overton was released last spring.
“(Coordinators) Tommy (McMahon) and Mo (Maurice Drayton) have done a great job with that union. It’s completely turned over, everything,” Pagano said. “They’ve got a rookie snapper (Thomas Hennessy). (Linebacker) Luke Rhodes (is) developing into a fine snapper. That’s going to be a heck of a competition there.
“Then two kickers that are new here. (Punter) Jeff (Locke) has done a nice job and (undrafted rookie punter) Rigoberto (Sanchez) is doing a great job. I’m pleased with where we’re at (overall). But nowhere near where we need to be, but we’re making progress.”
One area the Colts have stressed during training camp is physicality. Indianapolis has had limited contact in previous training camps since Pagano was hired in 2012. The Colts, however, have started sluggish in each of the previous five seasons.
“I think there’s a perception out there, and we have to change it,” the Colts coach said, referring to the team’s slow starts.
Tackling better as a defense is crucial. That’s also been an issue in recent seasons.
“You’ve got to practice it. If you don’t practice it and you can’t tackle on defense, you’re not going to be a good defense. So we’re putting an emphasis on it,” Pagano said.
–The Colts and Detroit Lions will practice together in Indianapolis Thursday and Friday. Indianapolis and the Lions are slated to begin the pre-season Sunday (1:30 p.m.) at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The joint workouts are closed to the public. Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell previously served as the Colts’ assistant head coach/offensive coordinator and succeeded Tony Dungy as head coach. He was on the Indianapolis coaching staff from 2002-11 and was head coach from 2009-11.
–Defensive coordinator Ted Monachino likes what he’s seen so far from rookie safety Malik Hooker and rookie cornerback Quincy Wilson.
“When you saw what we saw on college tape, you knew that was the truth,” Monachino said. “You see that carrying over in everything that they’re doing. They’re competing not only out here, but in the meeting rooms and in the weight room, everything we’re asking them to do.”
NOTES: QB Andrew Luck has been pretty much invisible during the Colts’ early training camp practices as he continues his rehab from offseason shoulder surgery. Luck, though, made an appearance at Saturday night’s workout at Warren Central High School and was also
a very obvious presence at Sunday’s practice session. … OLB Jabaal Sheard hasn’t disappointed the Colts’ coaching staff during the first week of training camp. The former New England Patriots’ linebacker has been as good as advertised. “A lot of the stuff that we saw on tape. Obviously, a quiet guy. He doesn’t say a whole lot,” Pagano said. “He demands in his own way of himself and his teammates. But he’s a big, physical guy and he’s a good pass rusher. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have double-digit sacks for us this year. “We’re going to do a lot of things. He’s good
against the run, he’s hard to block, he plays with great leverage, he’s got good length and he’s got good strength. If we do our job on first and second down and we get in third-down situations, (defensive coordinator) Ted (Monachino) and those guys are going to put him in position. He’s going to have his fair share of singles and then we’ll do some stuff to try to get some free runners. He’s doing a nice job right now.” … DT Johnathan Hankins tweaked his ankle during the team’s training camp practice at Warren Central High School last Saturday. The injury is not considered to be serious but Hankins, who signed as a veteran free agent during the offseason after playing for the New York Giants, was held out of Sunday’s workout.
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