-- Mathis Pagano Brian Spurlock USATS

#ColtsCamp Musings: Passing the Torch

Instead of daily camp reports, which I generally loathe (I know they get clicks, but they are full of worthless info, outside of injury news), I decided to compile all of the camp information into one big piece. But as I started writing I realized that said piece would be too long, so instead, here’s the first in my series of camp reflections. 

I had a fantastic trip, meeting a good number of contacts that were only “internet friends” up until that point, and catching up with others I hadn’t seen since my last trip to Circle City. Thanks to all who accommodated me while I was there, whether it was just by fitting me into your schedule for lunch or meeting me for a movie.  

I’m already looking forward to next year’s trip.  

Every player has his post-practice cool down ritual.

D’Qwell Jackson hit the JUGS machine for a few reps before giving it up to the younger players, like tight ends Jack Doyle and Eric Swoope.

Da’Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen each lined up and caught passes from Chandler Harnish on the near side of the field, moving down the field from left to right as they ran through route tree one after another. Harnish then moved down to the opposite side of the field to toss a few balls to the rookie wide receivers. Each of the rookies, from Donte Moncrief to Tony Washington, had met in the far end zone to run some light calisthenics.

In the open space directly across the practice field from the fans’ bleacher seats were the rookie offensive linemen, who practiced their punches on a blue, hanging punching bag. Just to the left of them was Daniel Adongo, who caught punts and kicks for about 45 minutes after practice.

Back on the field, Ricky Jean Francois led a few young defensive linemen in a few light technique exercises. The group included Jeris Pendleton, Montori Hughes and UDFAs Tyler Hoover and Nnamdi Obukwelu.

A few players signed autographs on this day (Andrew Luck, Pat McAfee, Arthur Jones, Matt Overton), but most simply cooled down and hit the showers, or interacted with visiting family or the group of local kids who had gotten to visit the field at the end of the practice.

Reggie Wayne tossed a small football to two his two youngest sons for over 30 minutes, pointing to them when the crowd’s clamoring for autographs grew too loud. Erik Walden practiced hand-offs to a little girl of about six years old.

But the players that caught my eye weren’t on the practice field. Instead they had retreated to the open field on the far north side of the facility, a smaller area down a short incline from the rest of the practice field. It was there that LaRon Landry and Vontae Davis had been rehabbing for most of the week, down away from the crowd.

It wasn’t Landry and Davis there now, however. No, they and the training staff had packed up their equipment an hour ealier.

Instead, it was veteran outside linebacker Robert Mathis and second-year pro Bjoern Werner. They’d gone away from the crowds with one item: a red half-round agility dummy, like the kind you’d use to do step-overs.

Mathis would hold the pad out at a 90 degree angle, and Werner would have to explode out of a three-(or four) point stance and keep his body low as he dipped under the pad and around Mathis. While he dipped, Mathis would swing the pad just ahead of him around in a 360-degree turn until Werner had completed the circle.

Then they switched places.

This continued for a good 15-20 minutes before the two sat down in the grass and just took a break. Eventually another player would walk over in join them, and they gave him a turn with the pad.

I don’t know whether Bjoern Werner is significantly improved or not. I don’t think that training camp is a place where that can be observed.

But the interaction I saw was fascinating, to see Mathis committing to helping Werner improve, as he has by stepping back and taking second-team reps in camp this year. Hopefully that’s a sign of Mathis’ respect and belief in the former Florida State defensive end as well, although that’s a bit of homer speculation.

When it comes to Werner, however, all there is right now is hope. His 2013 season was a disappointment, and we have yet to see evidence of him being able to rush the passer with any effectiveness.

With just 2.5 sacks and 18 tackles last season, Werner almost matched Mathis’ 3.5 sacks and 17 tackles from his rookie season. Like Mathis, Werner wasn’t a starter and won’t be next year either. But Mathis managed 10.5 sacks in a reserve role during his sophomore campaign. If the Colts can get anything like that from Werner, they’ll be popping champagne bottles, and Mathis will have successfully passed the torch.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.