The Colts have sky-high hopes for their current safety duo of Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon. Willis is more of a steadier, strong safety type while Blackmon has eye-popping athleticism that prompted the Colts to spend a third-round pick on him last year even as he was coming off a torn ACL. Colts DC Matt Eberflus says it’s easy to tell Blackmon played mostly corner in college at Utah.
“I’m standing there next to (secondary coach) Alan Williams, and we have him side-by-side with the corners and we’re doing break drills, the movement drills that DBs do, and we were looking at each other like, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy is as good as a corner,’” Eberflus said via the Athletic’s Zak Keefer. “We knew right then he had that special quickness because you could see that on tape — he had the ball skills and he was a ballhawk type of guy. So, he proved that (during the season) and he’s going to have to prove it again.”
- ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes the Colts were an option for the Eagles in a trade of TE Zach Ertz. But Indianapolis has since given LT Eric Fisher more than $8 million and still needs to sign LB Darius Leonard and RT Braden Smith to new deals, so they might be out.
- ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler says a source from another team believes the Jaguars would be willing to take a fifth or sixth-round pick in exchange for dealing QB Gardner Minshew.
- Jaguars HC Urban Meyer said QB Trevor Lawrence has right hamstring tightness and should be fine to return to practice Thursday. (Mike Garafolo)
- Meyer called second-year WR Laviska Shenault “one of our playmakers” and a “puzzle piece” for their system: “He’s one of our best playmakers…I love who he is, I love the way he practices, he’s been there every day. He’s a great puzzle piece for us to have on offense, plus his attitude every day is fantastic.” (Michael Giardi)
Titans’ new OC Todd Downing said he isn’t focused on filling the shoes of former OC Arthur Smith and wants to be the “best version of me.”
“I think there would be pressure if I looked at it as: My job is to fill Arthur’s shoes’,” Downing said, via Jim Wyatt of the team’s official site. “But I think each year is its own year. It has its own challenges, its own components. I look at this job more as what Coach (Mike) Vrabel and Jon Robinson asked me to do to fill it this year, not to be Arthur Smith or to be anybody else. It’s my job to be the best version of me, and (be) the best coordinator for this offense that I can be. I’m really looking forward to stepping into moments and figuring out ways that I can improve and give this team my best each day.”
Downing believes the Titans have “continuity” on its well-balanced offense and plans to progressively put his “stamp” on the system.
“There is a good balance there,” Downing said. “Obviously the continuity being here helps me with the language, and the transition of getting everybody on the same page from a communication standpoint. We’re really in the phase of laying our foundation right now, and seeing what guys can do for us, cultivating those competitions. I think we’ll get more into the differences in scheme down the road,” said Downing. “I am not as caught up in putting Todd Downing’s stamp on the offense as I am coming up with what the right recipe for the ingredients we have is, and making sure that we’re as competitive and consistent as we can be.”
Downing feels he’s progressed as a coach since his time as the Raiders’ offensive coordinator in 2017. Since then, he was the Vikings’ tight ends’ coach in 2018 and served the same position in Tennessee from 2019-2020.
“Every stop along the way in my career has taught me something,” Downing said. “I’ve been able to glean a little wisdom, I hope, from each stop, and my time in Oakland is no different. … Hopefully I’ve grown as a coach, and I am always looking for ways to improve daily.”
Downing said they will continue looking for ways to utilize Derrick Henry and their other offensive playmakers.
“It is certainly an easier job having Derrick Henry back there,” Henry said. “We’re always looking for ways to get our playmakers the ball, and to be efficient, and we know that Derrick is one of our playmakers, and the offensive line works extremely hard to open up holes for him. It is no secret that is part of the identity of this offense, so I am looking forward to finding ways to make sure that Derrick is utilized.”
Downing added that Titans’ new WR Josh Reynolds is “hungry” and is an intelligent football player.
“I think he is hungry, and I think he knows the game,” Downing said. “I think he has really good savviness to him, and a good football IQ. I am excited to see where he can increase.”
Downing called Titans WR A.J. Brown a playmaker and plans to “expand his route tree” in their system next season.
“A.J. fits into the playmaker category. Those are guys that you look for ways to get them the ball, and rely on their strengths, and hope that they can continue to ascend just like everybody else. I don’t think there’s a guy on offense that we feel like has arrived, is a complete product, and A.J. is going to continue to work hard to improve in every area that he can, and I’m excited to see the production that he can have for us.” Downing said. “It will be fun to watch him progress, and see where we can move him around. (We’ll) expand his route tree a little bit and watch him have successes as we expand it.”