LAS VEGAS — Each week, Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.
Let's jump right into this week's questions:
Schmolo on Colts Reddit: "How is Castonzo looking and what will the Colts do at that position, if he's not coming back soon? How high is an heir to the LT position on the draft board?"
Walker: I've got to say, I was pleasantly surprised to see Anthony Castonzo back out on the practice field this week, even as a limited participant on Thursday and Friday, and then being labeled as questionable for today's game. You just never know with these knee sprains which way they're going to go, but Castonzo is very in-tune with his body and obviously did what he needed to do to at least put himself into position to potentially be ready after missing just one game. So we'll see for today's game against the Raiders, but if history is an indicator, whenever Castonzo practices on Thursday and Friday, even in a limited role, he plays on Sunday. As for left tackle priority in this upcoming NFL Draft, I've got to imagine it's pretty high. Now, I'm not going to pretend that at this point I even have the slightest idea which prospects might be good fits and where they might be available, but if you want to get a good enough tackle that could potentially sit for a year or two and then take over for Castonzo once he's ready to hang 'em up, I would have to think that'd be someone at least in the top three rounds.
tyhilton4prezident on Colts Reddit: "How much of a chance do we have going 11-5?"
Walker: OK, so let's see, that would mean the Colts finish 3-1 over these final four games? I'm not big on odds, but Indy is favored in today's game over the Raiders, and it's pretty much assumed the Colts are also going to be favored in their home games against the Texans and Jaguars, and will be underdogs on the road against the Steelers. So if we're going by the fine folks in Vegas, then that puts them at … 11-5. So take that for what it's worth.
JediSith1812 on Colts Reddit: "Is Philip Rivers slower than Manning was? Even before the toe injury, it looked like he was running on slow-mo_"
Walker: Well, congrats, because your question just led to me watching this entire video (IMPORTANT: mute your sound unless you want The Knack's "My Sherona" in your head the rest of the day):
I always remember one of my favorite parts about each Colts season with Manning at quarterback was the one or two times a year they would draw the entire defense one way and he would take off running with the ball in the opposite direction for a huge gain or touchdown. I know you don't want to expose the guy too much, but you get the feeling that play would've resulted in a ton of yards pretty much every single time if they wanted to run it.
So who's faster between Manning and Rivers? Well, Manning allegedly ran a 4.8 40-yard dash at some point, and Rivers recently guessed his 40-yard dash time at an N.C. State pro day was in the 4.98 to 5.08 range, so Manning, I guess?
Luck1492 on Colts Reddit: "It seems like LT and QB will be the positions of interest for the front office this offseason. Do we get them through the draft, free agency, or let one our backups from this year take the starting role next year?"
Walker: I'm a huge proponent of finding your quarterback of the future through the draft and getting them on that rookie contract for four years, allowing you to allocate tons of money elsewhere (until it's contract extension time for said quarterback, of course). Now, as Chris Ballard has said time and time again, the Colts aren't just going to draft a quarterback for the sake of drafting a quarterback, especially if they're going to use a premium pick on one; it has to be the perfect fit. And I mentioned before that in my opinion it seems like the Colts will need to use at the very least a third-round pick (or better) on a tackle here very soon; Castonzo continues to play at a very high level, but he's also in his 10th year in the league and has already tossed around the idea of retirement. If seems to make the most sense to pick a tackle high enough up where he can take over at the premium position of left tackle down the road, but also be good enough in the here and now to also potentially be your swing tackle — a guy who can step in and be effective if needed as an injury replacement.
Andy_and_Vic on Colts Reddit: "A lot of fans are dissatisfied with Frank Reich's play calling. Can you determine if the play calling is an issue as opposed to execution? If it is a problem, what can Reich and the coaching staff do about this? I know a lot of people have also floated the idea of Sirianni taking over that role."
Walker: I totally get the fact that there are some really passionate fans who hang on every single play, which means on occasion they're going to notice some schemes and designs that just don't end up working out for whatever reason; when those come during crucial moments of the game, then they're magnified even more. But I've got to imagine that's the case with just about every fanbase across the entire league. I'll say this: Frank Reich and his staff seem to scheme guys open a whole heck of a lot — much more than previous Colts regimes have (at least recently). And the consensus of just about every national media member and/or former player/coach that I follow on Twitter seems to be that Reich, overall, has been a terrific playcaller. So, sure, a couple third- and fourth-down play calls this season haven't really worked out, but I think for the most part Reich and his offensive staff do a really good job scheming things up each week.
dgiszewski on Colts Reddit: "How many dominoes need to fall in place in order for us to realistically win the Super Bowl? Is it more likely we win the Super Bowl or miss the playoffs?"
Walker: Right now I'm seeing the Colts at about a 3.4-percent chance of winning the Super Bowl (according to some oddsmakers), and about a 30-percent chance of missing the playoffs, according to fivethirtyeight.com. Now, if Indy can win today against the Raiders, those playoff odds jump to 89 percent; a win against Houston next Sunday, and the Colts' playoff odds are about 97 percent (depending on other results, of course). So that's when these odds start matching up a little bit. We'll see if that actually ends up coming to fruition, but that's where we stand currently.
moviescriptlife on Colts Reddit: "With Pat McAfee doing well in NXT, which current Colts players would make the best wrestlers?"
Walker: Oh man. Great question. My No. 1 seed is Darius Leonard, because he lives and breathes professional wrestling. Quenton Nelson would probably make for one heck of a heel. Rock Ya-Sin has the actual wrestling background, so he might be one I'd pick as my technical guy. I'd also throw Luke Rhodes in the mix — that dude just looks like he belongs in the ring.
hi123156 on Colts Reddit: "Has Ben banogu been a bust and a disappointment or is it to early to say?"
Walker: It's too early to say. Of course you would've loved to have seen Ben Banogu take a huge leap forward here in Year 2, but that just hasn't come to fruition yet. The obvious reference/comparison here is Tyquan Lewis; Lewis also had a stretch in his second season last year in which he was a healthy scratch, much like Banogu has been these last few weeks, but now in Year 3, Lewis is clearly starting to figure things out in the role he's being asked to play. What doesn't help Banogu's case at this moment is the fact he's not considered one of the team's core special teams players; that's a big reason why a guy like Cassius Marsh was active over Banogu for a few games (before being plucked off the Colts' practice squad by the Steelers earlier this week). If you're not going to be a starter along the defensive line, your role is most likely going to be determined by how you practice and how much you contribute on special teams; as of now, Banogu is on the outside looking in, but that could change at any moment.
Aleph_Alpha_001 on Colts Reddit: "How much has our special teams play suffered with the loss of Rigoberto Sanchez? It seems to me that the opponent's starting position has increased by 5 to 6 yards on average."
Walker: While Rigoberto Sanchez to this point has missed just one game as he works his way back from his cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgical procedure, he also didn't handle kickoff duties two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, so we'll look back at the last two games and the field position battle and how it stacks up. With Rodrigo Blankenship handling kickoffs these last two games, the Titans and Texans' starting field position, on average, has been at the 25.7-yard line, compared to the 24.3-yard line with Sanchez kicking off this season. As for the punting game, Ryan Allen, Sanchez's replacement, punted five times for 235 yards (47-yard average) and a net average of 39.2 last week against the Texans; Sanchez this season has a punting average of 47.2 and a net average of 41.9. So while both Blankenship and Allen have filled in admirably as Sanchez's replacements in the kickoff and punting game, respectively, those one to two yards per kick can really end up making a huge difference over the course of a game. It's awesome to hear from Frank Reich, however, that Sanchez has been back in the Colts' facility and he has a good prognosis moving forward — heck, he might even return to game action this season. Either way, I think the team is in good hands moving forward, but it'd certainly be a nice bonus if and when No. 8 can get back.
bodiepartlow on Colts Reddit: "I haven't watched much Raiders football this year until the last two weeks. What's contributed to their poor play over the last few weeks, and how can the Colts exploit similarly?"
Walker: I actually wrote this for the Game Preview article:
The Raiders might be one of the most confusing 7-5 teams in recent NFL history. One week they look like legit contenders in the AFC, and then next they look like they should be among those picking in the top five of the upcoming NFL Draft. Just look at Las Vegas' résumé this season, which includes wins against the New Orleans Saints (10-2), the Kansas City Chiefs (11-1) and Cleveland Browns (9-3). But in the last two weeks, the Raiders have been blown out by a 4-7 Atlanta Falcons team, 43-6, and then, last Sunday, needed a last-second bomb from Derek Carr to Henry Ruggs III to defeat the winless New York Jets, 31-28. Over the last three weeks, the Raiders rank 31st in the NFL with eight turnovers and 45 quarterback hurries allowed, 29th with nine dropped passes, 28th in explosive run plays (10-plus yards) with five, have allowed the second most touchdowns in the league (12) and have the eighth-fewest sacks (four). That's no formula for success, but the only thing the Colts know they can expect coming into Sunday's game is a team fighting tooth and nail for a spot in the postseason, and nothing else.
EastStreet on Colts.com Forums: "On WRs in general, why isn't the depth chart, and unofficial weekly depth charts, more accurate? The stacks are strange, and it's pretty clear the past 5 weeks that Pittman is a starter (yet Johnson is still listed as starter). IIRC, Pittman has led all WRs in snaps the last 5 weeks. I know it's not a big deal, but seams they'd be a bit cleaner."
Walker: Unofficial depth chart. That's the answer. But, in all seriousness, take the unofficial depth chart as a general guide, especially earlier in the season, but it's also something that shouldn't merit much analysis beyond that.
PrideOfAthens17 on Colts.com Forums: "I know there was discussion of the Covid requirements for bringing in new players from outside the current reserves, with regard to finding help at tackle this week. There has also been mention at different points this season of O'Donnell already being on the practice squad as possible help. It's him I'm interested in here. From whatever you have discovered so far this year, how realistic an option is O'Donnell to provide them any playing time this year? Or is mentioning him from time to time just a matter of "covering all the bases" at the position? Thanks."
Walker: While this can certainly change over the next few weeks, one would have to imagine Carter O'Donnell will remain on the Colts' practice squad the rest of the year. With the various injuries the Colts have faced at left and right tackle throughout the season, the team is yet to elevate Carter to its active roster to help serve as depth behind guys like Le'Raven Clark or Chaz Green — and, now, Will Holden, who was signed to the active roster this week from the Ravens' practice squad to take Clark's roster spot. Now, that's certainly not a knock on O'Donnell — there's nothing wrong with an undrafted rookie spending the year developing on the practice squad and seeing where he's at entering Year 2. But, yeah, to your point, I just make sure to cover all bases when listing various options at each position (including O'Donnell at tackle) on a weekly basis; this year especially has proven just how important it is to expect the unexpected.