On Wednesday, many Indianapolis Colts writers left with the impression that the team they cover was a step or two ahead of the Detroit Lions. Many said that quarterback Matt Ryan had his best day of camp—an inauspicious sign about some of the concerns Detroit Lions fans have had about their defense.
But Thursday was a different story. And while much of the Colts beat was watching the Lions' offense compete against the Colts' defense, there were plenty of observations coming from both fields that paint a much more equal picture of the two teams during the second practice.
Here’s a look at everything the Colts’ writers are saying about the final day of Lions-Colts joint practices.
Before we get into it, here are links to full articles that are worth your time:
- Indy Star: Rookie TE Jelani Woods shines, WR Michael Pittman Jr. dominates (Joel A. Erickson)
- 107.5 The Fan: Most starters will not play in preseason home opener (Kevin Bowen)
- SI.com: Defense stands its ground (Jake Arthur)
- Indy Star: Defense struggles with Lions’ trickery, physical play (Nate Atkins)
- Colts.com: What Matt Ryan sees in Alec Pierce (JJ Stankevitz)
- Fox59 (Mike Chappelle)
- Notebook: Lions defense bites back a bit on Day 2 (George Bremer)
- The Athletic: Matt Ryan carves up Lions, Michael Pittman primed for breakout (Zak Keefer)
Lions offense vs. Colts defense
Many outlets covered what was a big, tricky play the Lions pulled off to connect with Trinity Benson for a huge gain for the first team offense. Here’s how Atkins described it:
On Thursday, it meant Jared Goff running a fake jet sweep and uncorking a deep ball down the left sideline that got Nick Cross and E.J. Speed to bite and allowed third-string receiver Trinity Benson to run in for a touchdown.
The Lions, trying to hide some of the trickeration, shared video of the pass and catch, but none of the lead-up:
While we know the Lions' defense allowed zero touchdowns during the red zone period of 11-on-11s, the Colts' defense didn’t have as much luck against Jared Goff and the Lions' offense. Per the Detroit News, Goff was hot during 7-on-7s:
Quarterback Jared Goff started the segment going 6-for-8 with four touchdowns from inside the 20-yard-line, including two to Josh Reynolds, one to D’Andre Swift (15 yards), and another to T.J. Hockenson (10 yards).
Again, the Lions offered us a peek at the video of D’Andre Swift's touchdown:
Another positive that came from several different outlets was a run from Jamaal Williams that bowled through several defenders for a touchdown. Both Lions' running backs were a problem for the Colts' defense, but this play sounded like the most fun. Again, from Atkins:
“Hard Knocks” star Jamaal Williams scored a physical touchdown where he bowled over the second and third lines of the defense.
However, Colts’ writers believe that the defense bounced back in a pretty big way, especially on the defensive front. This video of Frank Ragnow getting bowled over by Grover Stewart went viral:
More from Atkins:
Reps went back-and-forth on Wednesday, with DeForest Buckner winning with ease as usual but others reaching plenty of draws. Ben Banogu had his way with speed against second-team tackles, which holds consistent from his 1-on-1’s against the Colts.
The Colts beat didn’t make much mention of the two-minute drill that ended practice, but the good ole Lions beat has us covered there. The Detroit News noted that both the first team and second team offense were able to move it downfield for potential “winning” field goal attempts—however, both kickers missed tries from 49 yards.
Colts offense vs. Lions defense
Naturally, the Colts beat painted a much more even picture of Thursday’s practice than the Lions beat when it came to this matchup. While Colts’ writers certainly admitted Day 2 was much more evenly matched than Day 1, they believed Matt Ryan dominated the early portion of practice, which seems like an exaggeration based on what I saw. From Bremer:
The Indianapolis Colts’ offense still had its fair share of success Thursday in the second and final joint practice against the Detroit Lions.
Quarterback Matt Ryan again carved apart the Lions’ secondary, and the run game produced several big gains — including a rush of more than 30 yards by Johnathan Taylor.
Per several Colts’ writers, Ryan was 9-of-12 on the day, and several writers correctly noted that rookie third-round tight end Jelani Woods had a great day. There, admittedly, was a good run or two early in practice, too.
Many also raved of Michael Pittman, noting that the Lions couldn’t stop him throughout both days of practice. Here’s Erickson:
The Lions could barely cover the Colts’ No. 1 receiver in the two joint practices. One day after making three catches against Detroit, Pittman Jr. racked up five of Ryan’s nine completions — the Colts’ starter completed 9 of 12 passes on the day — including a pair of explosive plays over the middle that would have gone for 20 or more yards.
To their credit, several Colts’ writers admitted the Lions fought back nicely during full-team portions of practice.
“A day after the Colts offense steamrolled the Lions in the red zone, Detroit was much tougher to beat,” Erickson wrote.
There were two interesting notes that I found the Colts beat differed from the Lions beat slightly. For one, Colts’ writers suggested that some of the Lions’ success in these red zone drills were because Indianapolis was a bit more run heavy—an argument that at least carries some weight.
Still, it’s always good to hear things like this (via Bowen):
But in a live goal-line situation, the Lions dominated the line of scrimmage with both their starters and backups.
... especially when you consider that the Lions were one of the worst red-zone defenses last year.
The other inconsistent note I found comparing Lions and Colts coverage is that each pass breakup I noted from the Lions defense on Thursday was referred to as a “drop” from Colts writers. Those aren’t exactly the same things, but it’s a nice reminder of how focus and perspective can change one’s observations.