Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: How Will Carson Wentz Change Offense in 2021?

In this week's Colts Mailbag, readers ask about Carson Wentz, offensive improvements, Jacob Eason and, of course, the Big Boat. 

Each week, Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out on the party this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Colts.com Forums and the Colts' Reddit. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

JJ Stankevitz: A lot to get to here!

Wentz, per NFL Next Get Stats, had the fourth-highest intended air yards among qualified quarterbacks in 2020 — meaning he frequently pushed the ball downfield. Philip Rivers had the 12th-lowest intended air yards average last year.

Also, Wentz rushed for 276 yards and five touchdowns in 2020; Rivers had three rushing touchdowns in his entire 17-year NFL career and rushed for 263 yards total between 2013-2020. So Wentz brings a certain level of mobility to the quarterback position in Indianapolis, too. 

As for the opponent? The wild card rematch against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park should be an awfully fun football game. 

And as for the food, seeing as I'm coming to Indianapolis from Chicago…I'll take any recommendations from Colts fans reading this about the best pizza joints, hot dog stands and burger shacks in the area!

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Matt Brown, Dallas, Texas: Will the Colts be moving forward with Jacob Eason as backup QB or will the team be in the market to bring someone else in be it through acquisition or draft?

JJ Stankevitz: It's a good question now that Carson Wentz is in the fold. Eason is the only other quarterback currently on the Colts' roster — Jacoby Brissett, an unrestricted free agent, signed with the Miami Dolphins — and he didn't play a single snap in 2020. 

But offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, who was the Colts' quarterbacks coach in 2020 and worked closely with Eason, talked about the fourth-round pick's development earlier this year.

"He is forever improving, he is hungry, he is always trying to get better in the classroom, he's trying to get better on the field with his mechanics, learning the offense," Brady said. "It's a shame that he was not able to get preseason work because that would've helped with his development, but he took advantage of what he was able to this past season. I did get to spend a lot of extra time with him and he continued to improve and I'm looking forward to how much he takes from year one to year two.

"… We would have talks on the side if he had any questions after the meeting. He didn't have to speak up in the meetings because he didn't want to slow the process down. But when we had some time on the field he would ask questions. I would quiz him a little bit and he was able to answer some. So it is a constant development and a constant process for him, but for next season he has to start over and go again."

We'll see how the Colts approach their backup spot in the coming weeks, whether it's through free agency or the NFL Draft — or by standing pat. 

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Bryce Pardew, Purvis, Miss.: In regards to last years events, how do you think the Colts will improve, specifically on the offensive side of the ball? What players will help will improving the weak spots? #ForTheShoe

JJ Stankevitz: Here's where I'm going to start:

Number of rookie WRs with 1,000-yard seasons, 2000-2020: 12

Number of second-year WRs with 1,000-yard seasons, 2000-2020: 49

You can probably see where I'm going with this. 

Michael Pittman Jr. averaged 14 yards per reception over the second half of last season, then had five catches for 90 yards against the Bills in the playoffs. And Pittman, like every other rookie last year, had to deal with an unprecedented offseason — no minicamps or OTAs, or even preseason games to get their feet wet before Week 1. 

There's a lot to like about what Pittman did last year, especially after he returned from an injury. He's already got some work in catching passes from Wentz, too. 

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JJ Stankevitz: I wrote a deeper dive into the Reich/Wentz relationship last week, which you can read here. I think the flippant answer here is hope nothing changes — Wentz was an MVP candidate and the Eagles won the Super Bowl the last time he and Reich were together. 

But it certainly will not be exactly the same, since Reich is now the head coach. And the structure around Wentz is different — he'll work with offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich and assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier — than it was in Philadelphia. But while Wentz has not worked with Brady/Milanovich/Frazier, Reich has (and Brady and Milanovich have a history dating back to their time in the CFL, too). 

All that points to a strong coaching structure around Wentz, with Reich as the main voice. 

"I think you want your quarterback to hear one voice," Milanovich said. "I think the fact that we all have inter-connected relationships — what you really don't want is me telling Carson something and Marcus telling him something different and Frank telling him something different. The fact that we have these inter-connected relationships, I think it'll keep that from happening because that can be confusing for a player." 

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JJ Stankevitz: The Colts' backfield is absolutely loaded: Jonathan Taylor, Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins — sure, it may be a challenge to get all of them the ball. 

But it's also a good challenge to take on, right? Having a bunch of good players is always a good thing. 

Here's what Mack said about it after he re-signed with the Colts earlier this week.

"I know coach Frank, those guys are going to cook something good for us," Mack said. "I know it is only one ball but those guys are going to take care of each one of us. We know we are going to make it work. As long as we get to that one thing, that one main goal – that Super Bowl – I think we are going to all be good and happy with it."

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JJ Stankevitz: In case you haven't heard, there's a Big Boat stuck in the Suez Canal. What does the Big Boat possibly have to do with the Colts? Glad you asked.

Here's how you get the Big Boat unstuck:

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Justin Dimett, McGuire AFB, N.J.: No question, but I wanted to take a moment to thank the Indianapolis Colts and the Irsay family for their Kicking the Stigma campaign during the 2020 My Cause My Cleats campaign.

There are many active duty service members who suffer from different mental health conditions. Seeing your ad last season nearly brought me to tears, because nobody knows how to handle mental illness, let alone are willing to take a stand for those who suffer.

Again, I want to say thank you for helping spread awareness for something people aren't able to help.

Signed,

Justin Dimett

New Jersey's biggest Colts fan

JJ Stankevitz: Thank you for the note, Justin, and for your service.

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