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Colts Mailbag Weekend Edition: How Important Is The Pass Rush Need This Offseason?

Posted Feb 27, 2016

Intro: In Saturday’s mailbag, readers inquire about the tight end outlook for 2016, where cornerback is on the offseason pecking order and if another wide receiver is a need.


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:

Matthew R. (Texas)

I have noticed while reading ESPN articles that some people see that a good fit would be Noah Spence (DE, OLB). I have seen a lot of talk about the pass rush, which is a must need. What about covering the middle of the field? I think we also need a linebacker who can fill that gap as we seem to get torched in the middle by TEs. Also on defense, do you think next year Geathers will get the chance to prove himself as a started? I like what he brought to the table last season. A sort of reminder of our old Bob Sanders.

Bowen: We get into Spence questions below, so let’s give the other topics the attention here. A rangy linebacker in the middle of the field I see as a need. Jerrell Freeman’s uncertainty in being a free agent would answer that question. If Freeman departs, that opens up a starting spot and probably your best cover linebacker, too. I see Clayton Geathers’ role in 2016 coming down to what happens with Dwight Lowery. If Lowery, an unrestricted free agent, isn’t brought back, I expect Geathers to start next to Mike Adams. It was a small sample size last year, but I think Geathers showed he could be a starter in this league.


Justin N. (California)

Is there the possibility that Jack Doyle could be our starting TE assuming that Coby Fleener and/or Dwayne Allen leaves Indianapolis in search for a larger contract in the FA market? Also, what happened to Ahmad Bradshaw? I remember back when he was a consistent RB for the Giants a few years back.

Bowen: I would be very surprised if the Colts didn’t re-sign Coby Fleener or Dwayne Allen. I love Jack Doyle and what he brings to the team, but you need a true No. 1 tight end to allow Doyle to fill in at all the areas he does. You let those two guys walk, and off a sudden tight end is a big need. We did have a question about Erik Swoope in this week’s mailbag. Swoope, the former college basketball, is still an unknown because we just haven’t seen him much in an offensive game setting. Swoope is under contract though, so he will be a part of the team’s offseason program for a second straight season, with some potential more reps coming his way. Ahmad Bradshaw is an unrestricted free agent after ending a third straight season on injured reserve.


Trent R. (Greenfield, IN)

Hey Kevin. Back again with another pressing question, this time about the draft. With the Combine starting up and top prospects in the nation flocking to Indy, one group that deeply intrigues me is the cornerback position. So here's my question: If one of the top CB prospects disappoints enough at the combine to fall all the way to the Colts at the 18th pick, would it be reasonable to draft a young talent to play opposite Vontae Davis and potentially develop him into a star, creating a very formidible secondary for the Colt's defense? Thanks again! GO BLUE!

Bowen: Trent, I’m not sure if you’ve been reading past mailbags, but this has been a feeling of mine for a while. Cornerback is a need. Ryan Grigson mentioned it on Thursday. Pairing a young cornerback opposite Vontae Davis would really lock down that position, while also allowing more and more attention to be given to the front seven.


Ryan W. (Virginia)

Hey my question is on how the colts wil approach this offseason. I know that we have to get another CB to play across from Davis and pass rush and offensive line. But as it stands now we only have about 20ish million in cap. I went on one of those cap calculator things and it said if we release Johnson, Cole, Walden, Werner, Jones we would go to 40ish million. I feel that there is a lot more defensive depth in the draft. I wanna know do you think that there is a chance that in fa we go all out on the right side of the offensive? I suggest we sign Center stefen Wisnisewki (26) and then sign a guy I've seen a couple articles online saying he high on our list to sign Guard Brandon Brooks (26) and Tackle Mitchell shwartz (26) he would be the most expensive out of the group?

Bowen: From listening to Chuck Pagano at the Combine, the interior of the offensive line is the primary focus up front. That’s the thought process I’ve had in recent weeks. You don’t have enough resources to just hand out money non-stop. That’s why the focus is in the middle of the line. You have Joe Reitz at right tackle, who played very solid there in 2015. Toss in Denzelle Good and you see why the Colts feel fine with what they have at right tackle, thus allowing concentration on the interior.


Mark C. (Abingdon, VA)


Hey thanks for anwering our questions, I trust Chuck and Ryan on what is need in the 2016 draft, they did a great draft last year,but my 2 cent worth on the colts needs is linebacker,cb and then oline. What your idea of us taking a outside linebacker in the first round ,then cornerback ,then oline in the third round.

Bowen: I think fans would be more than okay with such a haul come April. I would say if the Colts can add an offensive lineman in free agency who is of starting caliber, that would allow for a bit more patience in the draft with that area (like the third-round).


Nick R. (New Oxford, PA)

With the Rams release of James Laurinaitis and the Colts need of a LB, do we go after him after unfortunately passing on him years ago in the draft?

Bowen: I get into this more below, but age has to be considered when talking about any of the linebacker moves this offseason. If Jerrell Freeman returns, the Colts top five linebackers next year will all be at least 30 years old. James Laurinaitis turns 30 years old in December. Do you want to add another player of that age to an elder linebacker group?


Henry H. (Neptune, NJ)


The focus for the first 3 rounds should be OL and a pass rusher. Do you see the Colts doing something like taking a WR in the first three rounds?

Bowen: If the Colts draft off strictly position, I don’t see it happening. The Colts clearly have bigger needs in the spots you mentioned. I do think a wide receiver will join the group at some point this offseason, especially with some uncertainty about Andre Johnson’s future. His potential departure would open up about 65 percent of the offensive snaps at wide receiver.


Dan A. (Muncie, IN)

Kevin, I disagree with you that the linebacker position is the biggest priority in this draft. I feel like the Colts could pick up guys like Courtney Upshaw, Nick Parry, Bruce Irvin, James Laurinaitis, Tahir Whitehead, etc to fill in those roles. Protecting the Colt's investment in Andrew Luck for years to come should be biggest priority. I also believe that the Colt's should make an offer to the Browns for Alex Mack. I would say that two offensive lineman (center and right guard) and a cornerback should be the picks for the first three rounds. My question is why do you not agree?

Bowen: The Colts need to improve the interior of their offensive line. Quality interior guys can be found throughout the draft. That’s what track records show throughout the NFL. When it comes to linebackers though, and edge rushers, they usually come from premium picks. That’s why I still pencil linebacker as a top priority. Let’s look at the potential age of the Colts’ starting linebackers in 2016: Robert Mathis (35), Jerrell Freeman (30), D’Qwell Jackson (32), Erik Walden (31) and even Trent Cole (33). You see the trend there. The Colts have to get younger there.


Dave H. (Sebring, FL)

WHY ARE PEOPLE DOWN ON ANDRE JOHNSON,HE PUT UP OVER 500 YARDS? ALL THE WRS NUMBERS WERE DOWN,WITH A POOR O-LINE,AND QBS GOING DOWN WITH INJURIES? AND HE WAS LEARNING A NEW SYSTEM AS WELL.I WOULD BEING HIM BACK, IF WE CAN GET THE BOTH LINE FIXED. WATCH ALL THERE NUMBERS JUMP THIS SEASON?

Bowen: I think the biggest surprise with Johnson was his catches dropping from 85 in 2014 to 41 last season. Johnson had his moments, but there just wasn’t the incredible consistency he’s had since being drafted in 2003. Johnson caught 53 percent of his targets last season, a number much lower than he had put up in previous seasons.


Justin G. (Indianapolis)

Kevin,

Unfortunately, as Kravitz recently put it, "Johnathon Newsome smoked his way out of Indianapolis." I went to BSU and was really excited about the impact Newsome was having for the Colts. I have a few questions related to his departure. Do the Colts or the NFL have an official policy related to MJ related issues or was it the Colts decision after considering all the issues to release Newsome? Kravit's full quote says "Jonathan Newsome smoked his way out of Indianapolis, among other less-publicized misdeeds." Can you elaborate on what those less-publicized misdeeds might be? And finally, what does Newsomes future look like?? I really hope he can land on his feet being a former Cardinal!!

Go Blue, Chirp Chirp!!

Justin G

Bowen: This was the Colts’ decision to part ways with Newsome. I think Newsome said it best in his tweets after the Colts waived him. Newsome used the plural “mistakes” to indicate his two years with the Colts. When a guy with red flags coming into the NFL, makes more than one mistake, that’s not a recipe to keeping your job. I think some team will probably take another chance on Newsome given he’s a pass rusher, but the leash is very, very thin.


Nils K. (Dortmund, Germany)

Hi Kevin, huge Colts fan from Germany here. Really enjoy reading the mailbag, keep up the good work.

Like most of the other enquiries, mine concerns the upcoming draft as well. I've been following recent mock drafts and kind of like the idea of going for a center in Nick Martin in the 2nd. However, in case he is gone before the Colts pick at position 48, what do you think of Kyler Fackrell? Unfortunately I don't get to watch a lot of college football over here, so I've never seen that guy in game action, but draft experts seem to praise his versatility in pass rush and coverage. This sounds like a good fit to me, especially when assistance is needed to guard dominant tight ends and he seems to be projected in the end of the 2nd as well. Really interested in a more professional opinion here, thanks a lot.

Bowen: Nils, thanks for tuning in to the bi-weekly mailbag. I think you are onto something in how teams view Fackrell, an outside linebacker type from Utah State. In three seasons as a starter, Fackrell had 36 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and four interceptions. Fackrell definitely played closer to the line of scrimmage later in his career, so I’m not sure how much recent tape there is to judge him in coverage. When talking about that next tier of edge guys in this year’s class, Fackrell is right there in that group.


Tom R. (Lafayette, IN)

Love the mailbag. My question involves field goal attempts. Has there been any consideration to having Pat try some long field goals (55+ yards). His kickoffs are long and accurate so I would assume that he would be able to do the same out of a hold. Your thoughts?

Bowen: Tom, I’m sure you recall in the 2014 preseason McAfee attempting a 64-yard field goal at the end of a game. The Colts know the weapon they have in McAfee and that sort of option he provides late in halves/games. I just don’t think the Colts have been in a position to use McAfee like that in regular season game setting.


Paul C. (Colorado)

There seems to be a lot of talk that the 1st round is too high to draft a center, and the Colts love Costanzo at left tackle, so it may be too high to draft a tackle, too. How likely is it the Colts trade down, pick up another 2nd round pick and take a couple OL there? Chances are that one or both of the top centers will still be available (Notre Dame's Nick Martin being #2), plus some pretty good guards and tackles (maybe even some with a 1st round grade), or a pass rusher.

Bowen: The idea of trading down is very appealing to me, if center was your only real need. The Colts could definitely use young talent on the defensive side of the ball so you can’t overlook that route at pick No. 18. I understand your thinking though in that you don’t often see centers go in the top 20, so trading down from there makes plenty of sense (if that’s the thinking early in the draft).


Amy H. (Rineyville, KY)

With the 18th pick in the Draft would you choose Robert Nkemdiche if he's still available or another defensive lineman to stop the running game?

Bowen: This is a very interesting case study. Robert Nkemdiche might just be the most physically gifted player in this year’s draft. Some film has scouts raving about the 6-4, 300-pound defensive lineman. SEC offensive linemen here at the Combine have called Nkemdiche the top player they faced in college. Even with Nkemdiche’s off-the-field concerns, I think it would be a surprise if he lasted until the 18th pick. I do think defensive line is an option for the Colts, but with the depth at that position this year and the Colts needs more pressing elsewhere, I can see them waiting to address that area.


Mike A. (Raleigh, NC)


Hi there,

This question is about Ben Heenan and his outlook with the Colts. With the left side appearing to be solidified long-term, the rest of the o-line is still in question, most notably right guard. Do you think Ben Heenan, arguably the best guard in the CFL when we signed him, could start at right guard next season? In the very least, do you think he'll make the 53-man roster?

Bowen: Ben Heenan is a bit of a forgotten man when we talk about the offensive line future. Heenan is on the roster and is a name to watch this offseason. With Heenan not playing last year, we have no real idea of just how physically ready he is for life in the NFL. Obviously, the Colts see some promise there by bringing him back. Where Heenan could fit on the depth charge will largely depend on his development and what the Colts bring in during free agency and the draft.


John F. (Horseshoe Bay, TX)

Do you think the Colts will be looking at Noah Spence from E Kentucky in the first round? Is he really the best edge rusher in the draft?

Bowen: To put it simply, yes. By all accounts, Spence is the best pure pass rusher coming off the edge. The Colts are definitely going to be looking into Spence. With concerns about Spence’s past (the Big Ten suspended him at Ohio State and Spence finished his career at Eastern Kentucky), many draft pundits believe he could fall into the middle of Round One.


Leonardo B. (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Hi Kevin. I'm not sure if I understand the salary cap carryover. Colts have near 5 million from 2015. Can you Clear this matter, please?

Bowen: We had a few inquiries about this with the news coming out at the Combine that the Colts had 4.95 million to carry over into 2016. From the NFLPA: “Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each NFL Club has the option to carry over unused cap space from the prior League Year…Under the current CBA, Clubs have minimum cash spending requirements. For the years 2013-2016, Clubs are required to spend an average of 89% of the Salary Cap over the four-year period. League-wide, Clubs must spend an average of 95% of the Salary Cap over the four-year period.”


Ismail A. (Toronto)

Hey Kev, Huge colts fan. My question is how does the importance of WR and OLB since the release of Newsome (huge mistake) and Johnson (saying he's done with Indy) impact our needs this offseason? I think there's a better chance of Monachino pushing to sign OLB Courtney Upshaw now that we absolutely need one. How does this impact your FA and Draft board?

Bowen: I’ve always thought of outside linebacker as a need in 2016. I don’t think the waiving of Newsome all of a sudden makes that a substantially greater need. The Colts know they have to get younger there. As far as wide receiver, if Andre Johnson isn’t in Indy next season, there’s about 65 percent of the offensive snaps that open up. You have to think Phillip Dorsett would gobble up a good amount of those. But there’s still room for another body or two to fill at receiver, depending on what happens with Johnson.
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