While Indianapolis was abuzz through the weekend with Indy 500 qualifying (Congrats, Ed Carpenter) and the NBA Eastern Conference Finals (Nice work, Pacers), the Colts quietly wrapped up their rookie minicamp on the Northwest side of the city.
There were at least 25 rookies this year – the 5 draft picks, 19 UDFA’s, former AFL o-lineman Jack Breckner, and some tryout players – on hand for 5 days of meetings and position drills.
Head Coach Chuck Pagano, as usual, talked about things like grit, determination, and the trusted process to which these young players are being introduced, and he feels good about where they are heading into the first round of OTA’s (Organized Team Activities), which begin on Tuesday.
“We felt like as a staff and an organization that we got five really good days in,” Pagano said. “Found out what we needed to find out about not only our draft picks but our college free agents and tryout guys. Guys did a great job. I think our staff did a phenomenal job.”
Rookie minicamp is short, but it gives the young guys a chance to make an impression before all the veterans come back to work again. As for which players are generating some buzz, it’s likely to change here and there; as we go through the offseason, but these last few days are a good start.
Third round pick Donte Moncrief has made a big impression thus far, at least against his fellow rookies. “Big, smooth, athletic guy,” Pagano said of Moncrief. “He’s a 4.36, I think, coming out, doesn’t look like it, but he just gets behind people, beats people. Catches the ball well, picks things up mentally really good. So, happy. That wide receiver group is a really good looking group top to bottom that we had out here.”
The Colts typically keep five wide receivers, and the addition of Moncrief means their top four spots are filled, leaving six players – including LaVon Brazill, Da’Rick Rogers, and Griff Whalen – to compete for that fifth spot. Receiver should be an interesting battle as we move into OTA’s and eventually Training Camp.
One position where fans were hoping for additions was cornerback, where the Colts’ biggest move was to retain veteran starter Vontae Davis.
With the current group of rookies, Indianapolis has ten cornerbacks – about twice as many as they typically keep during the season – including four 2014 UDFA’s and two more from last year.
As far as who’s standing out, Pagano spoke as though it’s more about experience at this point. “(Marcus) Burley’s been here, so he was a little bit ahead of those other guys,” he said. “But I thought they all did a pretty good job.”
Of course, Sheldon Price has been in the system as well, so Pagano’s answer might be more telling than it first appears.
Another undrafted corner to keep an eye on is former Florida Gator Loucheiz Purifoy, who could’ve been a mid to late round draft pick had he not gotten in trouble for drug possession. Purifoy apparently had an ankle injury during minicamp, but if he can get back on the practice field soon, it’ll be intriguing to see what he can do with his fresh start.
Another player who drew some praise form the coach was rookie power forward – er, tight end – Erik Swoope (pronounced Swope). In case you haven’t already heard it 19 times, Swoope has never played organized football and had a college basketball career that very closely resembled that of fellow former Miami Hurricane, Saints TE Jimmy Graham (both averaged around 5-6 points per game).
Swoope is 6-5, 220 and very athletic. He’ll likely need to add a few pounds to be a good blocker (just speculation), but he’s an interesting prospect, and Pagano was pleased with his progress at minicamp.
“For a guy that’s never played? I mean, think about it,” the coach began. “To be able to just break a huddle, get in a stance, run the routes that he ran, catch the balls that he caught, I mean, off the charts. Exceeded our expectations way beyond anything that you’d ever imagine for a guy that never played.
“He’s an athlete, we understand. We’ve had athletes come into this league, track guys that run 9.9, 10-flat 100 meters. We know the late Mr. (Al) Davis would bring in those speed guys that couldn’t translate over. But this kid was, he did a great job. If he continues to work, he’s a bright guy, he’s smart, he picks things up, he looks like he’s got great passion for this. Who knows?”
The Colts could use a decent third tight end, but with Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener already on the roster, they aren’t looking to invest much in a backup, leaving them with the recent revolving door of 7th round picks and UDFA’s.
They’ve had a tough time finding a guy with some speed and athleticism who can come in and play here and there, so signing a basketball player with NFL aspirations makes sense here. It’s low risk, high reward, like Marcus Pollard in 1995.
The Schedule Ahead
The NFL has a spring meeting in Atlanta, GA May 19-21. Meanwhile, the players will be back to work on Tuesday to kick off three rounds of OTA’s. Here’s their upcoming schedule:
May 20-22: OTA’s
May 28-30: OTA’s
June 3-6: More OTA’s
June 11-13: Mandatory Minicamp
June 22-28: Rookie Symposium in Aurora, OH
Of course, nobody starts hitting anyone until Training Camp, which should begin sometime in mid to late July.
As always, all quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.