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COLTS MAILBAG

Posted May 8, 2013

Each week readers of Colts.com can submit questions about the team and have the chance for their questions to be answered. Here are this week’s answers to selected questions that were sent. To submit a question for Craig you can visit the COLTS MAILBAG or tweet your question with the hashtag #COLTSMAILBAG.

INDIANAPOLIS – Readers of Colts.com may submit questions during the week and have a chance to have them answered during the middle of each week. Submit your question here.

Here are responses to some of the questions received recently.  We thank you for your interest in the Colts.

 

TOM B. (from Wabash, IN) I think Darrius Heyward-Bey has been in a tough situation since entering the league.  I believe he can become a real weapon for Andrew Luck if he works hard and could eventually replace Reggie Wayne.  One, do you see that potential scenario, and two, if he impresses early on will the Colts try to extend his contract?  I’d hate to see him have a breakout season only to leave after one season.

A:  Darrius should have a tremendous opportunity to excel here and from my visits with him, he seems very happy to be on board.  He feels refreshed and likes the atmosphere on the club.  Right now, getting acclimated with Andrew Luck is job one.  There always is an adjustment when you come into a new system and start working with a new quarterback.  Here’s hoping they get it down quickly, whether it’s here in Indianapolis or somewhere else should Andrew and the receivers convene off-site (ie:  Miami, Reggie’s backyard).  Of the quarterbacks he played with in Oakland, only Carson Palmer had an extended run of success.  Darrius had a string of quarterbacks, and that likely affected some competitive maturation.  Again, I don’t like to speak about “replacing” another player, particularly someone of Reggie’s caliber.  That has been a trendy notion this year, but I will refrain from any discussion along those lines.  In my opinion, what Reggie has done is too special, and I don’t see any wane (no pun intended) in his driven nature to play at the level he’s done.  As for contract matters, I never want to get into that either.  The club will make the prudent moves at the right time.  Let’s let that time come.  (I’ve had other letters about Andrew Luck’s and Pat McAfee’s contracts, and I never intend to use this forum to discuss that part of the business side of the game.)  Suffice to say, I’m happy Darrius is here.  I think he can contribute.

 

DAVID L. (from Vermont) I'm a Vermonter who has a brick at the stadium, and I also have a question.  We picked two offensive linemen first and second a few years back.  Ben Ijalana has been hurt for two years straight and I am wondering is he ready to compete, or are his injuries making him the reason for so many offensive linemen?  It would be nice to know what his potential is assuming he stays healthy.

A:  Ben has had two very unfortunate and quite significant injuries.  He is mending and should be ready sometime later this spring, probably in training camp.  He and everyone here wants to see what the future holds.  Whether or not his injury played a part in the team drafting along the line is debatable.  Linemen are precious commodities and like every unit, there is talent coming out on an annual basis.  The current roster breakdown is about what annually is on the roster this time of year.  I don’t think it could not really be traced back to Ben’s recovery.  We want to see Ben healthy and make a push to be on the field this year.  As for having a brick at the stadium, thank you very much for your dedicated support.  I don’t know how many out-of-staters have a brick at Lucas Oil Stadium, and it’s great to know we have a wonderful fan in Vermont.  Keep in touch and visit your brick sometime – preferably on a game day. 

 

JEFF P. (from Bristol, CT) Hi again, love this site, long-time Colts fan.  My question is why are so many Colts fans are down on Donald Brown?  I know you cannot speak for them.  In my opinion with our new bigger and hopefully better line, Donald can do for the Colts what he did for Connecticut, plus adding a good fullback will open more holes.  Who is faster, Vick Ballard or Brown?  Thanks.

A:  I would not be one who is down on Donald.  I find him to be a great person who has matured here especially physically.  I think he can contribute, and I hope he’s a solid part of the new offense.  I think his skills match up with it just fine.  I’m not sure who is faster – Donald or Vick.  I do think there is room for both.

 

WILL C. (from The Woodlands, TX) It seems as though the Colts addressed almost every need but more wide receiver and running back help.  In the coming weeks and months do we have the cap space for an extra back or receiver?  Yes, we got (Darrius) Heyward-Bey, but (Reggie) Wayne is getting up there in age and (Vick) Ballard seemed over-worked at times.
A:  We’ll find space if the need persists to add players at those positions.  I’ve spoken earlier in the mailbag this week on Darrius and Reggie.  I don’t think Vick Ballard was over-worked last year.  He averaged 14 “touches” per game last year and went over 20 carries in a game three times.  I know he had 27 rushes in the Houston finale.  If he were getting that many on a regular basis, it might be a concern.  We still have to see how this year’s offense shakes out, but I think you’ll find Pep Hamilton constructing it in ways to benefit all players.  I do think fans will notice the one year’s physical maturation for Vick.

 

TONY B. (from Danville, CA) We have several players on the new 90-man roster that are recovering from 2012 injuries, namely Ben Ijalana, Justin Anderson, Griff Whalen on offense and Josh Chapman, Brandon McKinney, Pat Angerer, Scott Lutrus, Fili Moala, Drake Nevis on defense.  Can you give us a sense as to the status in recovery of these players and which ones may not be ready for September?  Some of these guys are pretty important.  Thanks.

A:  You are pretty thorough in your list and sound like a number of reporters who pepper Coach Pagano on injury updates whenever they can.  Coach spoke earlier this year that all players with injury matters are coming along on a pace that presents no real concerns.  Some will be ready for work this spring, while others are targeted to start work in training camp.  All are important on the 90-man roster, and it will be good to have them when they’re ready.  I hope that answers your question.  I don’t want to dodge it, but there seems to be nothing at this point as it relates to anyone’s training camp readiness.

 

TOM R. (from Santee, CA) I’m so excited we got Bjöern Werner since I grew up in Germany and just glad he’s on my team.  I wish one day I’ll get to speak German with him.  But my question is, are the Colts currently still active in the free agent market?  PS:  Leon McFadden went in the third round to the (Browns).  I think we will see some great play from him and Colts should trade for him in the future!

A:  Glad you are big on Bjoern.  He seemed like a very pleasant and smart person when he visited the building after the draft.  Bjoern seems very comfortable with himself, and he said it is amazing how many Colts fans there are in Germany.  I’m glad we have at least one in Santee with you.  I hope you get the chance sometime to meet and speak with him.  I asked him if he spoke any other languages than German and English.  He does not, and it will be fun when he gets in our building again in a day or so for rookie camp.  As personnel types say about a number of players, “The arrow is up on him.”  He will be a great addition, along with being a role model to others on the value of hard work.  As for McFadden, congrats on one of your favorite players making it into the league, and he and Bjoern might meet on the field in week three of preseason when we host Cleveland.

 

ROBERT T. (from Indianapolis) With Dwight Freeney gone, how are the Colts planning on getting pressure on some of the fast-running QBs that are out there?  (I) love the draft and feel Manti Te’o would have been a better fit, but (I) guess you are the experts.  Go Colts, let’s get another trophy to bring home.

A:  Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner will be at least two of the players who will have the chance to put heat on quarterbacks.  We know replacing Dwight is a priority, and we addressed it through unrestricted free agency and a first-round draft pick.  That shows the importance we placed on it and the prices we were willing to spend.  We wish Manti Te’o the best in San Diego.  He was a tremendous collegian who is trying, like Bjoern, to prosper on the highest level.  We appreciate your support and regular mailbag contributions, and we want another Lombardi Trophy, too.  The other one could use another to keep it company.

 

PATRICK K. (from Danbury, NC) Do you think any of the undrafted free agents the Colts signed will make the 53-man roster?

A:  It’s way too early to know if past history can be repeated.  There is too much to be determined and nothing will be measured in its true sense until pads go on in training camp.

 

GEORGE B. (from Bluffton, IN) How about bringing back “Bang the Drum All Day” as the song played after a Colts score?  It really seemed to energize the fans.

A:  George, thanks for the input.  I will pass it along.  We want all fans to have the best possible experience at the games.

 

KEITH S. (from Lawrence, MA) I have to say I’m a long-time big Colts fan and New England Patriots fans don’t cut Colts fans much slack out here, but I'm very excited about the Colts team I’m seeing develop under Grigson and Pagano.  Do you think sports analysts are under-rating the Colts?  Most of them have the Colts winning fewer games than last year.  I think the Colts on the other hand could do very well.  They have a young group of receivers that is very fast and should be hard to cover.  The defensive secondary looks the best I’ve ever seen it with the additions of guys like Vontae Davis and LaRon Landry.  And it looks like the size of the guys on the Colts line has grown HUGE!  It seems like every guy is about 320 or so.  Montori Hughes is BIG (340 lbs.), but the video I saw of him, that (guy) can move!  The team is getting much more physical and aggressive.  And this year they added a lot of versatility and depth to the lines.  To me, it almost seems like a pairing of a Peyton Manning Era quality offense with more speed and a Steelers or Ravens type of physical defense.  Am I just overly excited, or are these analysts just missing the boat like they did last year?  To me, this team seems to have the balance that it never did while Peyton was here.

A:  Sounds like you’re a stranger in a strange land, so to speak.  I can’t imagine you would get much loving from Patriots fans, just like one of them wouldn’t get much here in our area.  That’s one of the great things about our league, as long as it is in good taste.  Regarding analysts, they are entitled to their opinion.  What we worry about is what our playing roster thinks.  Their response to being viewed as the 32nd-best team in the league last year was to go 11-5 and be one of 12 in the playoffs.  Guys all year just focused on doing their jobs.  This year, I’ve seen rankings that place us in the middle of the league.  While I’d like it to be higher, it would only have the same bearing – none – as it did last year.  Maybe we’re under-rated, maybe not.  If we don’t approach this year like we did last year, it would be hard to get back to 11 wins – a real accomplishment.  Let analysts do what they do, that’s fine.  We just need to listen to the voices around us that count.  The lead voice that needs to be listened to is Chuck Pagano’s.

 

NICK R. (from Hanover, PA) I'd like to start off by saying I love all the free agent and draft acquisitions the Colts have made.  I am really excited about Bjoern Werner, but being 6'3" and 266 with a slight lack of speed I’d like to know how he would fit better.  Where do you believe he best fits in Chuck's defense at DE or OLB?  Also I love Justice Cunningham, but will he be able to be an impact playing behind Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen?

A:  Bjoern will be an outside linebacker and it will be fun to get him plugged in and see him grow.  He doesn’t need to do anything except be himself and play to his ability.  Any other measurements to the past do not matter.  As for Justice, he looks like a great physical package and a player with pretty good ball skills.  He will be one to watch this spring.  The tight ends will be big components to the offense with Pep Hamilton.  Watching that position group this spring and summer should be a fan’s priority on June 12 at our open mini-camp practice and at training camp in Anderson.

 

DARYL I. (from Port Perry Ontario, Canada) (I’d) just like to thank you for responding to my questions.  Out of all the undrafted free agents, who do you see us keeping on our final roster?

A:  You are welcome and keep writing.  It’s too early in the process to have a real grasp.  We have seen some great Colts emerge from this category throughout our Indianapolis years but until you get guys in training camp in full pads, you never really know the true measure of a player.  We will see them later this week in a rookie camp and later on through the OTA process.  While those camps can start a baseline of analysis, training camp is more of a real litmus test.  I know you’ll be watching.

 

MICHAEL F. (from Porter Ranch, CA) On Monday, May 6, you've written two stories where you make reference to the Colts signing eight unrestricted free agents.  I count 10 – Gosder Cherilus, Aubrayo Franklin, Matt Hasselbeck, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ricky Jean-Francois, LaRon Landry, Lawrence Sidbury, Donald Thomas, Greg Toler and Erik Walden.  What am I not understanding?  Are two of them in a different category?  Thanks again for this column.  It’s much appreciated.

A:  You keep your eyes peeled, and we appreciate it.  Matt Hasselbeck and Darrius Heyward-Bey were veteran free agents who joined us, but not as unrestricted free agents.  It is a different designation technically and thanks for asking. 

 

COREY G. (from Indianapolis) I keep hearing the phrase, “Iron sharpens iron like man sharpens man,” and frankly I agree.  I love this new atmosphere that the new regime is building.  For years we were known as the finesse team.  But I’m starting to get the feeling that we’re building a hard-nosed football team that comes to play every Sunday, teams like the Ravens and the Steelers.  Is that our collective goal?  Is that the kind of atmosphere we are trying to build?  I get the feeling this whole offseason has been about that.  We set the foundation last year and now we’re continuing to build the monster.  I’ve never been more proud and excited for the upcoming season in all my years as a Colts fan.  I literally keep tabs on this team every day. #BLEEDBLUE

A:  The origin of the phrase is from Proverbs 27:17, and Coach Pagano is the first one I’ve heard using it in a football sense.  You can’t deny the message, and you hope for the results.  So far, they look quite tangible.  Early on, he said his teams would look a great deal like the ones you mention – Pittsburgh and Baltimore.  The tone of the AFC North is in Indianapolis, too.  Players respond to Coach and his message.  The foundation is laid, and the bar is high.  I think a lot of Colts fans sense what you do, and thanks for checking in.

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