INDIANAPOLIS – We’re at 15 days and counting until everything counts.
That’s why a second visit to Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday was deemed an important next step for Frank Reich, Philip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts.
“Mission accomplished,’’ Reich said.
“It was really good work both times in the stadium,’’ Rivers agreed. “It was good to go through that whole pregame routine. It’s just kind of continuing the trend and the direction where we want to go to be ready week 1.
“I thought with the lack of the preseason games, this was the best way to get it done. Now we have one more similar-to-a-training-camp week, then it will be game week. It’ll be here before we know it.’’
It’ll be here Sept. 13 with a trip to Jacksonville. That’s when we’ll discover whether the Colts, flush with fresh talent on the heels of an active offseason, are indeed playoff caliber after missing the postseason in four of the past five seasons.
Observations from day 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium:
Rivers and the offense
During Monday’s first practice downtown, the Marlon Mack-led running game stepped up big. Saturday, there was more emphasis on the passing game.
“Wanted to get a rhythm, get the pass game going,’’ Reich said. “Felt like we were able to do that for the most part.’’
On the opening 11-play drive, Rivers ran things with quicker tempo. He hit his first six passes before the drive stalled.
“As a passer, it’s a little bit like a jump shooter,’’ Rivers said. “You get rollin’.’’
He conceded things weren’t perfect, but at times things were pretty good. At one point, he walked up to Hilton.
“I was like, ‘Hey, we get going like this now, we’re going to be tough to stop,’’’ Rivers said.
And the up-tempo, no-huddle approach?
“The ability to have all those tempos, to be able to change it up – week-to-week, quarter-to-quarter, series-to-series – can be another tool in our toolbox,’’ he said. “I do like it.
“The drawback of no-huddle is if you’re not getting first downs, it ain’t worth a hoot.’’
An otherwise productive afternoon was marred by a calf injury sustained by tight end Trey Burton. One of Chris Ballard’s key offseason additions couldn’t put any weight on his left leg and had to be helped off the field.
The team won’t know the severity of the injury until an MRI is taken.
“My anticipation just from talking to him is it’s going to be a little bit,’’ Reich said. “He’ll bounce back. He’ll heal quickly.’’
The Colts hope so. The tight end room is arguably the team’s thinnest in terms of proven players, and it’s dealt with injuries throughout camp.
Jack Doyle was held out of Saturday’s work and has missed recent time with a neck injury. Mo Alie-Cox is back, but opened camp in the physically unable to perform list. Xavier Grimble has missed time and Ian Bunting has been placed on IR.
Healthy tight ends include rookies Farrod Green and Dominique Dafney and Andrew Vollert. Dafney was added to the roster Wednesday as a free agent. The Colts claimed Vollert off waivers (Carolina) Aug. 21.
“The new guys we’ve got in we feel like can add something,’’ Reich said. “Everybody’s got to step up.’’
Another day, another twist. After it appeared incumbent Chase McLaughlin had produced separation in his battle with Rodrigo Blankenship, the free-agent rookie responded.
Blankenship enjoyed a 6-for-7 day – good from 41, 37, 57, 52, 33 and 56, wide right from 48 – while McLaughlin endured a 4-for-7 afternoon. McLaughlin knocked down his first three (41, 37, 57), but then pulled a 52-yarder wide left, hit a 33-yard PAT and was wide right from 48 and 56.
In two practices at Lucas Oil, McLaughlin was 12-of-15 and Blankenship 11-of-15.
“It’s exciting,’’ Reich said. “It’s good for the team. It’s good for those guys.
“Two good kickers. These are two NFL kickers right here. These guys both need to be playing in the league. We’re just going to continue evaluating everything.’’
This and that
While the focus was on Rivers, the other three QBs also got in work. Jacoby Brissett 11-of-18 with a TD to Artavis Scott, Chad Kelly 1-of-4 with an interception and rookie Jacob Eason 3-of-4.
Kelly’s interception wasn’t his fault. Safety Tavon Wilson deflected a pass and linebacker Zaire Franklin grabbed the ricochet.
Defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis continued his strong camp. On one series, he dominated the right side of the offensive line for two sacks of Eason. On the next series, Lewis got immediate penetration and chased down Jordan Wilkins for a 7-yard loss.
Consider it a mixed afternoon for Pittman. While the team’s top draft pick came up with a 2-yard TD from Rivers, he also suffered a few drops in traffic.
“I think he’s got really good hands,’’ Reich said. “I think he’s just going to get better and better as time goes on. He looked good out there today.’’
Kenny Moore II was one of several players who missed Saturday’s practice. The veteran cornerback has been out since suffering a groin injury Aug. 17, the first day of padded work.
“Kenny continues to make good progress,’’ Reich said. “We want to get him back on the field as soon as we can. He’s getting very close. Hopefully it’ll be this week.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.