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Colts Mailbag Weekend Edition: What Is The Outlook For Andre Johnson In 2016?

Posted Jan 23, 2016

Intro: In Saturday’s mailbag, readers inquire about what position the Colts should look for in the draft, the Colts heading to London next year and what happened to Griff Whalen.


INDIANAPOLIS – Each week, readers of Colts.com can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Wednesday or Saturday mailbag.

Submit your question here.

With the abundance of questions in recent weeks, we will have two mailbags each week. This one comes via a weekend edition (here’s the Wednesday version from this week).

Here is this weekend’s collection:

Chris G. (Williamsburg, VA)


With plenty of needs on both defense and offense, what positions do you think the Colts will address through free agency, and which do you think they will address thought the draft?? Thank you!! #coltstrong

Bowen: Chris, this is a good question, but one that’s difficult to narrow down in dividing up specific positions for free agency versus the draft. A lot depends on the talent pool available in each. While I could see reasons for adding certain positions in each, I think finding a young running back in the draft along with defenders is a key come April. The Colts have to get younger on defense, and that could be said really for every level of that unit. Then on offense, Frank Gore isn’t going to run until he’s 50, so the Colts could use someone behind him to groom. For me, adding to the defensive talent you drafted last year is key again in 2016, and then finding a rookie running back would also be beneficial when the draft rolls around in late April.


Taggyrt M. (Keenesburg, CO)

Is Griff Whalen coming back to indy? It broke my heart to see the colts let him go like that. He will most likely end up in New England if we don't resign him. And that could hurt our team bad because he has so much potential. Is there anything new on him?

Bowen: Ah, the old “he will go to New England and burn us” line from fans. Austin Collie, Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne---all very accomplished Colts who didn’t do too much in New England. The Colts waived Griff Whalen in late December from the team’s injured reserve list. Look, there’s no denying that Whalen is a guy that can contribute and be a productive receiver in the NFL. However, the four fumbles in 40 touches this season proved costly. I haven’t seen or heard anything on Whalen and where he might end up in 2016.


GJ B. (Anderson, IN)

Do you think our nightmare is finally over with Greg Toler? He has to have a record for giving up the most 20 yard passes and being the worst 3rd/4th down defender in the NFL.

Bowen: The big plays continued to plague Toler in 2015. He gave up an average of 17.0 yards per catch in 2015, the fifth highest amount of an NFL cornerback (per Pro Football Focus). It’s not getting a lot of attention this offseason, but what the Colts do at cornerback in the coming months is going to have my eyes and ears. The question marks regard Toler (a free agent) and the development of rookie D’Joun Smith (who’s rookie season was just four games due to a knee injury). New defensive coordinator Ted Monachino has stressed that success in pass coverage is going to come from more pressure on the quarterback. Well, a starting cornerback opposite Vontae Davis would go a long way in achieving what Monachino wants to up front. Will the Colts have to turn to free agency and/or the draft to find that?


Oliver B. (Northampton, UK)


Hi Kevin,

As a British Colts fan I am very excited to have now purchased my tickets to see the Colts at Wembley in London on the 2nd of October! Will there be any events in the run up to the game where we might be able to meet some of the players or indeed you guys (the Colts.com writers etc.)?

Bowen: Oliver, this is a question that we should have more information on as the offseason moves along. The Colts are still in the gathering stage of deciding when to head over to London for their Week Four game. Some teams haven’t made the trip over there until the Thursday night prior to that Sunday’s game in London. Others have gone earlier. That is going to dictate (I’m sure) how much free time the Colts will have for the events you mentioned. On Colts.com later this year we will do a weeklong series on the team going to London and what all that entails (for players, logistics and fans on each side of the pond).


Jim C. (Point Pleasant, NJ)

With all the urgency around the offensive line, why didn't Ben Heenan get brought up to the active 53 man roster ? Any word on his future with the colts? I understand he signed a futures contract. Does that allow him to work out with the colts in Indy during the off season.?

Bowen: For the most part, the Colts didn’t really have a need (injury wise) to look at another interior option this season. The Colts clearly felt that Denzelle Good was ready when Anthony Casotonzo went down. Heenan was only on the practice squad for two months, so that didn’t leave a bunch of time for him to get called up. He did sign a future contract earlier this month. That means Heenan will be a part of the team when its offseason program gets underway in mid-to-late April.


John C. (Bellerose, NY)

hi kevin, while the the staff is being reworked I see we have game in London.i'm not in favor of those games, so my question is has any team faired well after playing there. thanks john c

Bowen: John, there are plenty of teams who have gone over there during the regular season and made the playoffs that year. Kansas City in 2015. Dallas and Detroit last year. Conference finalists in San Francisco (2013) and New England (2012) also played in London and made a run in the playoffs. I understand your questioning on maybe the toll this takes on a team. However, I think nowadays teams are very prepared to handle the rest of the season post-London. The NFL has those teams’ bye weeks immediately following the game in London. So, for example, the Colts will fly home immediately after their game in London, land in Indianapolis likely very late on Sunday night/early Monday morning and then have an entire week to get back adjusted to time in the United States.


Stan C. (Minneapolis, MN)


Thanks for your time, Kevin. I know that fans and football executives alike should be careful about focusing too hard on any one particular draft prospect. That being said, I think that Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott might be the single biggest wild card for the Colts in the first round.

Of the Colts primary draft needs (C, RG, RB, OLB, ILB, CB), running back is arguably the least dire immediate need. Between Gore's productivity and a batch of youngsters like Josh Robinson and Tyler Varga, the thought of spending a first round pick there seems trivial compared to the glaring needs among the interior OL, pass rushers, and second corner spot.

That being said, RB is certainly a need. Gore is not young and has a bruising playstyle that can slow careers suddenly (see Lynch, Marshawn). The young RB's are unproven as significant contributors. And at pick 18, Elliott may very well be the most talented player available at a position of need. Assuming Mackensie Alexander, Myles Jack, and Jaylon Smith are gone, the best remaining prospects would be Elliot, Reggie Ragland, A'Shawn Robinson, Andrew Billings, Scooby Wright III, Leonard Floyd, Kendall Fuller, and Tre'davious White. Among those, Elliot and Wright are far and away the most talented, with Wright having an injury question mark. And it would certainly fit Grigson's emphasis on dynamic offensive playmakers. What are your thoughts on this curious prospect?

Bowen: I mentioned this in our first Mock Draft look and I’ll say it again here: where Elliott goes come April fascinates me. Last year, the drought was finally broken on first-round running backs. Todd Gurley dazzled after going No. 10 overall. At spot No. 15, Melvin Gordon had an okay rookie campaign. Elliott seems to project somewhere similar to Gurley and Gordon from last year. I’m with you Stan, the Colts have far greater needs than finding a running back in Round One. Guys like Arizona’s David Johnson (third round) and Seattle’s Thomas Rawls (undrafted) make you a pretty strong case the other way. I’m of the belief that running back is a need for the Colts in April. However, I would pass on Elliott.


Zac N. (Butler, IN)

Hi Kevin. with the pro bowl coming soon I was wondering why they went about drafting the players to the teams instead of having the usual AFC VS. NFC pro bowl games. Seems like to me it's just a big celebrity show with Irvin and Rice picking players and I liked the old way a lot better. Thanks again!

Bowen: I think the “celebrity” appeal is a reason why they’ve changed the Pro Bowl format to incorporate former stars of the game. Personally, I like the new format because it doesn’t force unwarranted guys into the game. Sure, there are still snubs every year. But what I mean is that you don’t have to have exactly three wide receivers from each conference. Instead, the six “best” receivers get invited with conference affiliation non-existent.


Isak H. (Mexico City)

Hi. So the colts have six picks this year. If you were asked, who would you draft with those six picks that look like good fits to the team? Thanks.

Bowen: Isak, there’s a better chance of you and I getting carries for the Colts in 2016 than me correctly predicting multiple draft picks come April. Can you imagine filling out a seven-round Mock Draft as if it was the NCAA Tournament? Your head would explode. I’ll give you six positions I think the Colts should address in April. Of course a lot of this depends on how the boards falls. But my positions of need are: linebacker, offensive line, cornerback, running back, defensive line and safety.


James F. (West Virginia)

Kevin long time reader first time writer.my question do you think during our draft that we should trade up and get the running back from LSU that kid can flat out run thanks for listening

Charleston wv

Bowen: LSU’s Leonard Fournette is not draft eligible in 2016. Players have to be three years removed from high school in order to enter the NFL Draft. Fournette is (shockingly) only two years removed.


Dustin K. (Fort Wayne, IN)

Is there any chance that we would get Derek Henry if he is available at the 18th pick thanks for your time

Bowen: I haven’t really seen any Mock Draft where Henry is in the top-20. I don’t think the Colts should look at Henry at No. 18. There are far greater needs that are more pertinent to this team than a running back in Round One. I do see a young rookie running back being something the Colts could use over the course of the three-day draft.


Nathan J. (Fishers, IN)


What will happen to Andre Johnson next season?

Bowen: We got this question about a week ago and this is what I had to say about Johnson: Johnson’s status for next season is going to be one to watch. He talked after the regular season finale about how he knows the business side of the NFL and the potential impact that could have in his future in Indianapolis. Jim Irsay mentioned to the IndyStar last week how some veterans could be cap causalities in the offseason. Do the Colts feel like they have enough depth at receiver to move on from Johnson? That’s something to at least ponder in the offseason. From an on the field standpoint, Johnson’s production in 2015 was so puzzling. How does a guy catch 85 balls in Houston and haul in just 41 the next season with the Colts? Like Irsay said, the Colts are going to have some decisions to make regarding a few veterans and their future with Indianapolis.
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