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Colts Wednesday Mailbag: Is Inside Linebacker An Offseason Need?

Posted Jan 11, 2017

Intro: This Wednesday, mailbag readers inquire about drafting Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, the injured players from 2016 and how big of a need is safety in the upcoming offseason.


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.

Here is the collection of Wednesday questions:

Noah M. (Albany, NY)


Hey Kevin,

Now that our season is over and our coach/GM situation has been decided, it's time to to look to free agency and the draft. In my opinion, our biggest needs are OLB, RB, ILB, and CB. I like a lot of players in those positions in the draft but I don't think we can fill all of those needs with starters through the draft. Do you think we can fill any of those needs in free agency? Also what players do you see as the best first round options for us at those positions? I personally like Derek Barnett at OLB, Dalvin Cook at RB, Rueben Foster at ILB, and Teez Tabor at CB.

Bowen: With free agency, outside linebacker makes a lot of sense to me (along with finding another one in the draft). Inside linebacker could be an option there, too. But I think running back and cornerback are bigger focuses for the draft. You really need youth at those spots in changing the makeup of those positions. For the best first-round options, I look at outside linebacker and cornerback atop my list.


JB (Atlanta)


First off, thanks again for doing this for the fans, it's greatly appreciated. Have a few questions:

1) Do the Colts have an AFC Championship hangover? Are there stats to prove that it even exists?

2) Why are so many sportscasters, commentators so hard on the AFC South? Usually each division has 3 good teams and a struggling team, depending on the year. Is it just the records of the teams?

3) Why do so many people overlook the rest of the Colts offense? They make it seem like the only player on the entire team is Andrew Luck, as if he throws the ball to himself. Didn't we have a top ten offense this year?

Thanks again for the platform and the response.

Bowen: 1. The Colts have been a .500 football team since the AFC Championship loss. I don’t know if there’s a “hangover” from that game still lingering two years later. The roster turnover has been immense since that game. Not winning enough home games and divisional games are why the Colts have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. 2. I think it’s the records/point differential for the AFC South teams outside of the division. Tennessee did take a giant leap forward in 2016. Outside of that, the rest of the division stayed the same. 3. The Colts finished the 2016 season with the 10th ranked offense in yards per game (364.4 YPG) and 8th in points per game (25.7). I don’t think people really “overlook” the Colts offense. They acknowledge that the offense was/is the unit that does the heavy lifting for this team. Frank Gore, T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle all had very solid seasons to go along with Andrew Luck.


Dave C. (New Castle, IN)


Perhaps this question is premature, but any update on the status of all of our Colts who were put on IR through out the season?

I have always thought that they should have the opportunity to come out of the tunnel on our last home game so we fans could thank them for their efforts and wish them well via our applause.

Bowen: Dave, no update on those guys and I wouldn’t expect any for a while. The season just ended and their rehabs are ongoing. To be honest, the Colts really don’t have any significant injuries on injured reserve coming out of the 2016 season. Jack Mewhort (knee) and Clayton Geathers (neck) both have injuries that are not expected to impact their availability for the start of 2017 (like we saw last year with Henry Anderson).


Carac C. (Indianapolis)


Hi Kevin, first of all thanks once again for continuing to do the mailbag. But I was wondering since Grigson is still the gm what is something he might do in the draft that surprises fans? Like with the first round pick of Dorsett. Is there a position that we need depth that he could pick before a position of immediate need like corner or outside lb?

Bowen: Personnel guys around the league will always say that the board dictates to you when it comes to the draft. You don’t draft off of positional need. But I think you are starting to see more and more drafts merge those two lines of thinking a little closer. It’s no coincidence the Colts entered 2016 with a major offensive line focus and then turned around and spent four of their eight picks on the O-line. I don’t think the Colts would rule out a defensive lineman or even a running back in the first round. If guys start to fall that you cannot say no to, then you make that selection (or trade back). We will hear from Ryan Grigson at the Combine into how he views the offseason for the Colts.


John B. (Indianapolis)


Thank you for the response Kevin but yes you are right but what did Andre Johnson actually do for the colts? Didn't it seem like a waste just signing all these old players just so they can retire? Or get injured? We're talking about the future but signing guys who can't stay on the field or won't be on the field much longer.

Isn't that kind of weird if we had money?

Another question is do you think the colts will go out like how the broncos did picking up so many quality defenders? Maybe a star OLine too?

Bowen: The Colts have had their hits and misses when it comes to inking veteran free agents for sure. Andre Johnson didn’t pan out. Frank Gore did. I don’t expect the Colts to use a similar plan in free agency anytime soon. They know how important it is to get younger going forward and really focus on the draft to build. With free agency, I think the Colts have the opportunity to sign a starting-type player or two. I would put more stock in defense, than the offensive line when free agency rolls around.


Alex H. (Indianapolis)


Hey Kevin. Love the mailbags, read both each week. I have three questions that I need you to answer.

1.We really saw Chester Rogers come into his own as a pas catcher last season. Is there a chance we could see him as a WR2 or 3 next year, and maybe use Dorsett and his great speed in the return game?

2.I think the biggest problems was the Colts are O-line, and well basically the entire D,and a need for a young RB. So the question is do we have enough draft picks to fill those needs?

3.Has there been any thought about maybe retaining just Jack Doyle and Eric Swope and trading Dwayne Allen for a draft pick? I like Allen but this move would free up a lot of cap space plus Allen durability and inability to catch troubles me. Your thoughts? Thanks. Go Colts.

alex H

Bowen: 1. I answer this later in the mailbag. 2. I do think you have enough picks to really change the look of the defense and find a young runner. Now, you aren’t going to completely fill every hole, but you do have the ability to take a major step forward in revamping the personnel on that side of the ball. 3. I hear you’re thinking on this, but I just don’t see it happening. I think Rob Chudzinski loves having so many tight ends to use. Erik Swoope showed promise in 2016, but are you asking a lot for him to ascend into a virtual starting role if Allen would depart? Also, when you trade players for picks, you rarely see the return be as high as you would think. It’s sometimes a little puzzling to me on the late-round picks that teams deem worthy enough in exchange for a player. Allen had a nice close to 2016, so I expect him back in 2017.


Tim B. (Indianapolis)


Kevin, what are your thoughts on the Colts waiting until the middle rounds of the draft to select a running back? I.e. Brian Hill (Wyoming). He would be a steal in the middle rounds. Very much under the radar. I had the pleasure of coaching him in his youth and have followed his path to the draft. He will be special! As for the early rounds.... Defense, defense and more defense!

Bowen: Sign me up. You and I have the same thinking in practicing patience when wanting to take a running back. I mention this later in the mailbag, but consider this: of the NFL’s top 10 runners last season, only 1 was taken in the first 47 spots of the NFL Draft.


Jack Y. (Wilmette, IL)

I feel like our defense lacks guys that can create turnovers. Obviously this starts with good pass rush, but regardless we need to add to our secondary. What do you think about drafting Malik Hooker in the 1st round and sliding Geathers to Linebacker. That way we can kill two birds with one stone. What are your thoughts?

Bowen: Yes, the Colts need more game changing plays. They had just 17 takeaways in the NFL last season. That was tied for the 6th fewest in the NFL. Of the five teams with fewer takeaways than the Colts in 2016, four of them will draft in the top six spots of next year’s NFL Draft. You need to create more opportunities for your offense. Now, you bring up an interesting proposal. Safety is the biggest wild card position for me. If you are going to move Geathers to linebacker, Darius Butler becomes a virtual must re-sign. If you feel good about T.J. Green starting in 2017, then I don’t think the need is there for a first-round pick on a safety. I still would have edge rusher and even cornerback higher up on my list.


Andrew H. (Fargo, ND)

Hey Kevin,

Do you think ILB is still a big need? I think we have an interesting group with Morrison and E. Jackson. I used to have the Colts drafting Zach Cunningham out of Vanderbilt. Then I had them taking one in the middle rounds. But now that the season is done, do you think we should focus on different positional upgrades and develop 2 promising linebackers? Also one more quick question. Who would you take in the first round out of these 3 players. Tim Williams, Derek Barnett, Dalvin Cook. I say Williams. Thanks for answering our questions, much appreciated!

Bowen: I think if the right guy presents himself at that position, the Colts should not turn their head at it. Yes, Antonio Morrison and Edwin Jackson had some moments in December, but I think it would be naïve to treat them as the “definite starters” at inside linebacker until you see what happens in the draft. Like you said, the Colts do have other positional upgrades necessary, but I think inside linebacker could fall on that list, too. With your draft scenario, I’m going with the order of Derek Barnett, Tim Williams and Dalvin Cook. The positional need of an edge rusher is why I have Barnett and Williams up there. I have Barnett higher because I like how productive he was despite not having a bunch of other first-round picks on his defense, like Williams. More attention was coming the way of Barnett, versus Williams.


Stan C. (Minneapolis, MN)


Hey, Kevin! Thanks as always for your hard work. I wanted to put up a "tough love" question about receiver Phillip Dorsett.

Dorsett has always had a tough time earning fans' love, being a wildly panned Grigson pick in a draft where the Colts had needs at all levels of the defense. Instead of picking available players like Landon Collins, Eric Kendricks, or Malcom Brown (not hindsight picks, but real-time suggestions), the team chose a WR who was a 4th stringer coming into the 2015 season. Admittedly, I was among the fans who was unfairly prejudiced against getting behind him. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. However, he has since struggled to emerge as a difference-maker. He seems to only make an impact as a deep threat, hoping to draw PI or beat his man deep. But his massive drop problems leave him as a problematic 2nd/3rd option. Chester Rogers appeared to have overtaken him as a reliable piece in the intermediate game at times last season as the year progressed.

Do you think if Dorsett continues to struggle that Rogers could potentially completely overtake him in the depth chart during the latter part of 2017? Or could we see a Trent Richardson-esque effort to maintain snaps for a struggling high-profile acquisition, seemingly to justify the pick? I know it's an uncomfortable situation, but Dorsett's drop issues and lack of use in the intermediate game are beginning to limit his viability on the field. Thanks for your insight!

Bowen: Just look at the numbers from late in the season, Chester Rogers was receiving more and more targets than Phillip Dorsett. In the last three weeks of the season, Rogers had 12 targets. Dorsett had just 6. If Dorsett and Andrew Luck cannot get on the same page more in 2017, than the Colts have to turn more to Rogers (if he can continue to progress). It’s going to be one of the big storylines of 2017 for the Colts: what does the future look like for Dorsett? This is a big season coming for him in terms of looking ahead to a second contract. Dorsett is under contract through 2018, with a fifth-year option for 2019. Rogers did his part in eating into some of those targets and was deserving of extra reps coming his way.


Briz C. (Zionsville, IN)


Im waiting to see Henry Anderson become a pass rusher,,seems to me he plays for the run game.what do you think?

Bowen: It’s hard to completely judge Henry Anderson on his 2016 season. A 300-pound guy coming off a torn ACL in less than a year isn’t going to be his normal self. To play virtually an entire year is a feat in itself. It was clear Anderson was never back to his rookie self. It will be a much different offseason now for Anderson. The ACL rehab is in the past and I expect him to get back to the player we saw in 2015 as he now enters his third NFL season.


Jeremy C. (Shelbyville, IN)


Do you think we should get Dalvin Cook in the draft and then focus on Defense and O Line or what is your take on what we need? Dalvin Cook from FSU is a beast and a great back also can catch too!!

Bowen: Dalvin Cook is a tremendous talent. I think he has a chance to be special. But, like I say in every mailbag, a running back in Round One is not the route I would take. Defense. Defense. Defense. That’s the path I would go down in the very early rounds. You can find a middle-round running back who can make an impact. Of the NFL’s top 10 runners this past season, only 1 was a former first-round pick. You can wait on a running back.


Andrew E. (Lafayette, IN)


Hey kevin, its been a while since I have been here, despite everything still love my team this year and saw many things to be excited for next year o line being one. Tied for fifth best at the end oftimes the year with at least two rookies starting at all times? Not too shabby. Of cousre all the people calling for blood on chuck and grigson wouldnt know that. My question is about keeping our free agents. I really dont wanna part with any to be honest. After the surgery trent cole looked like a new man and it would be nice to have to vets, him and walden leading the pass rush with the young bloods already here and coming in the draft. We have to keep butler and mike adams is still playing great football, is there any chance we offer a year contract to some of these guys just to keep the band together one more season? Also is dqwell jackson coming back I thought he was a free agent too? Last question should we convert geathers to lb, or just add packages where butler is saftey and geathers is a lb, then draft another saftey to go with tj and adams and fairley who started playing well too at the end. Sorry for so many questions but like I said im.excited for where we were trending.

Bowen: I understand your affinity in wanting to bring back the soon-to-be unrestricted free agents, but you must look big picture. The Colts have to get younger on that side of the ball. That’s why I just can’t see the Colts being able to re-sign both Erik Walden and Trent Cole. The same could be said for Mike Adams and Darius Butler. You have to start looking to younger guys at those spots, especially after the defense struggled so much last season. D’Qwell Jackson remains under contract going into 2017. With Geathers, I see positives in moving him down to linebacker or keeping him back at safety. If you bring back Butler, then I could see Geathers moving down to linebacker. The only way this would be possible is if the staff feels ready to pull the trigger on T.J. Green as a starter. Green had his ups and downs as a rookie. Part of me says keep Geathers as your base safety on early downs and then get more creative on the passing downs. But of course, that means inside linebacker could be a bigger need in the offseason.


Gilbert M. (Salt Lake City, UT)


I agree with you that the Draft is the future. Draft is ten times more important than signing Free Agents, who are facing the end of their talent. Why don't the Colts stock up more Draft Picks. The Patriots have a history of obtaining extra 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks. What is the cost in trading for these extra Draft Picks? The Colts need extra picks to build for the future. Gil M. Vietnam Veteran and Colts Fan Since 1958 (Baltimore Colts).

Bowen: It’s just so hard for a team to acquire picks. Most teams that find middle-round picks do it from trading back or receiving compensatory picks. Look at last year for the Colts. They traded back in the second round nine spots. That allowed them to add an extra fourth, a pick they used for Antonio Morrison. I’m with you in how much of a luxury it is to have more picks. But other teams are thinking the same thing. Unless you trade back, it’s hard to obtain extra selections.


Michael M. (Kokomo, IN)


Hey Kevin, thank you for your insight and passion for the Blue Shoe Nation. My question is on free agency. Texan CB A.J. Bouye is a free agent this year. With our cap abilities shouldn't we go after a proven CB like him and really address CB or RB and DE at the draft. Thanks

Bowen: You would think Bouye is going to be one of the more highly sought after free agents in 2017. I do think the Colts are in the market for a cornerback. A lot will depend on how they view Patrick Robinson (who had an injury riddled 2016 in the first season of a three-year deal) and what the outlook is for free agent Darius Butler (Do the Colts bring him back? And do they keep him at cornerback or move him to safety?). The Colts are getting older at the cornerback spot with their top three guys, so that’s why I consider this position a need in the spring. My only issue with going after Bouye is if the price gets too high. Does a team look at Bouye as a top-five/top-10 cornerback in this league? If so, that could keep the Colts away from such bidding. Personally, I think a draft pick at corner makes more sense. But Bouye is just 25 years old, so a player like him would give the Colts a much younger option compared to what they have on the roster.


Aric F. (Colton, CA)


After looking at a few different mock ups for the upcoming draft most have the Jags picking Miles Garrett 3rd overall. Do you think it would be possible for the colts to make a move up via trade with the 49ers to the #2 pick and get Garrett? What do you think we'd have to give up? Would it be worth it to be able to create a pass rush, replace Robert Mathis' presense and keep Jacksonville from adding another defensive weapon?

Bowen: I get your thinking in this scenario but I just think it’s too pricey to move up that much in the first round. Myles Garrett’s talent is clearly top-five material. To jump from the middle part of the first round to pretty much the top would really mortgage the rest of the draft for the Colts. The Colts have several needs. The quantity of picks is really important to this team. That’s why I don’t think it’s a good idea. Just too costly for a team that has to hit on several high-end picks in 2017.


James F. (Denver)


Hey Kevin, first thank you for answering a prior question I submitted. I both enjoyed your response and agreed with it. I am pretty fired up about the OL future, and am probably one of few that would not be disappointed if we did not even draft a single prospect.

One of my questions is, have the Colts given any serious consideration to moving TJ Green to CB? His skills might be raw, but he has been working with the team for a year and I am curious if there has been any effort to polish some of those skills for a potential move. My main reason in asking is the flexibility that would give us come draft time if there are not top tier CBs available but there are still top tier safetys.

I am also curious (I am sure this is WAY to early to even discuss) what upcoming free agents would you see as having potential fits with the Colts? Or to better phrase, out of the players that are set to be free agents, if you had a wish list who would be on it?

This might not be a question, so I will try to turn it into one. Dorsett might not be performing the way fans wanted him to (or have had the opportunities that would make that more plausible) but he can still be an elite receiver. I am a huge Dorsett fan (as of this past year) and would like to see him and Hilton stack with Moncrief out wide.. that would give us the ability to send blazing speed in two directions, which can open a LOT of options. Most teams are not equipped to defend that type of speed. Are there plans for using Dorsett to his full potential more going forward? I feel like he has not gotten the quantity of opportunities some young guys need to really get their feet under them.

I would also like to hear about any/all players you think we have a realistic shot of picking up in rounds 1/2.

This might all be too much and that is okay, I look forward to any response I can get. Have a good one!

Bowen: We touch on other parts of your question throughout this mailbag (or even others), so let’s concentrate on the Green to cornerback part, plus Dorsett’s future. With Green, the Colts mentioned back in October that this thought was thrown around. The Colts have some position questions regarding the secondary coming up in 2017. For now, it looks like Green is definitely staying at safety. But Ryan Grigson had this to say about Green playing cornerback in October. “That’s a great question. And I’ll tell you what, he’s been out there at practice, and we’ve seen him in those matchups, and it sure looks right. When you watch it and you just watch him press, flip his hips and run — there was a lot of teams that would’ve played him and made him a corner in this league. There was a lot of them that would’ve just made him a corner right off the bat. So, yeah, that’s something that Coach and I have talked about at points just that, if you ever get in a jam, here’s a guy that flat-out has length, can run, can press. Now there’s a lot of nuances at the position that he would have to learn, but at least one thing, he’s big, long and faster — heck, and can make up for any mistakes, because he has tremendous make-up speed; he’s 4.34 (40-yard dash). But right now he’s filling a great role on (special) teams — I mean, he had the gaffe with the field goal — but he shot out of a cannon coming off the edge there. He’s got so much explosion. But we’re excited about having him on the field in any role possible, because, like I said, that safety group is pretty good, even if you throw in Matthias Farley in there, too. He’s no slouch.” With Dorsett, the Colts have to explore ways to get the soon-to-be third-year receiver more involved. The opportunities were there for Dorsett this past season. With Donte Moncrief playing in just nine games, Dorsett did not find his way into a much bigger role at all. The targets/receptions number did not rise like I expected them to. An offseason project to explore from the Colts has to be trying to get Dorsett to tap into more of his potential in what will be his third NFL season. The speed trait is obviously there for Dorsett but the Colts haven’t been able to truly witness that so far. Will we see more yards after catch type plays from Dorsett in 2017, an area that would allow him to use the rare speed he brings?


James H. (London)


Hi Kevin thanks for answering my question in Saturday's mailbag, leading in from your answer will the colts draft at 14/15 in the 2nd round as well if so do you think TJ Watt will still be around

Bowen: From the early Mock Drafts that I’ve looked at, right around the start of the second round is where I’ve seen Watt slotted. It would appear he has a chance to go in that range.


Frank B. (Jacksonville, NC)


Wouldn't the Colts be wise to concentrate on the Oline rather than skill players. Luck needs protection. He needs more time to get the ball down field. Oline number one priority then defense number 2.

Bowen: You drafted four offensive linemen for a reason last year. You saw some promise from three of those four rookies. It’s time to let those guys develop. That’s why the priorities should be more on the defensive side of the ball after committing all those resources to the O-line last year.


Dana E. (Indianapolis)


Hey Kevin, we had a alright season but what do you think the colts are going for a free agent this year and who would be good fit and the draft is coming up what you think about these players coming to are team DeMarcus Walker, Derek Barnett, and CB Brandon Clements his highlights are off the chain specially on screen plays were we got killed alot on 3rd downs, thanks for the time GO COLTS.

Bowen: Before the Colts start exploring other free agents, they must address their own and how they want to approach some rather important guys about to hit the open market. With free agency, I do expect the Colts to explore some options off other teams. It would not surprise me at all if the Colts found a starting-type player or two via free agency. The players you mention in the draft match up with what the Colts need to do on that side of the ball. I was really impressed by Walker, a versatile defensive lineman, in watching Florida State’s bowl win over Michigan.


Jarred M. (Marion, AR)


Hey kevin thinking ahead to the draft more the 4th or 5th round. I figure we need a young running back and Aaron Jones from UTEP and Christian McCaffrey from Oklahoma would be great for the colts dont you think.

Bowen: Taking a running back around Round 4 or 5 fits right into my thinking about the 2017 Draft. Focus on defense early, find a back in the middle rounds---an area of the draft where ball carriers have come in and made early impacts.


Steve P. (Washington)


Hi Kevin, as Colts fan since 1958 I can say that I've always have stuck by this team no matter what but I've gotta be honest because I came very close to turning my back on this team after they gave up 17 points to a very bad Jacksonville team but I just couldn't. I can understand Luck throwing a pick now and then but what really get me to scratching my head is why the fumbles, they drive me crazy because they seem to happen at the worse time, not saying that there's ever a good time but he has to make sure that above all else protect the ball. The good news is that I gotten past this season disappointment and looking forward to improving this team, I will be a colts fan for life !!! The last part of my question is about the defense and what it is we can do in finding some playmakers there, is the answer the drafting of young talent and udfa, or do we still try and build by signing free agents.

Bowen: The bulk of the building on defense has to come through the draft. Finding blue chip caliber players that can change a defense occurs during the draft, by spending high picks. The Colts can (and should) use that avenue in 2016. Now, the Colts can still go down the free agency path/UDFA route to further help that side of the ball. But the vast majority of changing the defensive look must come through the draft.


Roger G. (Conway, AR)


I'm confused about how Pro Bowl and All-Pro voting works. After Pat McAfee was included as the Pro Bowl punter for the AFC team, how did he get left off the All-Pro team? Instead, Marquette King from Oakland was included.

Bowen: The Pro Bowl vote is based off three groups: a third from the fans, a third from the coaches and a third from the players. The All-Pro team comes from the Associated Press writers voting. I have no answer as to why McAfee didn’t receive more All-Pro consideration. McAfee’s numbers merited more discussion that he ultimately received.
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