Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Deon Cain’s Role, Mo Alie-Cox’s Development, Colin Kaepernick As A Backup?

021619_mailbag

INDIANAPOLIS — 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.

Let’s jump right into this week’s questions:

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» Tony K. (Milroy, Ind.):Hey Andrew I wanna say thanks for all your information I look forward to this. So here's my question do you think well see Deon cain next season or will we get other wide receivers in.”

Walker: Thanks Tony, and Milroy holds a special place in my heart because it’s one of the many small communities I always pass through on my drives to and from Cincinnati each year to go to Reds games. In fact, I’m hoping to pass through here in about a month and a half when the Redlegs open up the 2019 season. Anyway, I think the answer to your question is: both. Barring any setbacks, Deon Cain said he should be good to go by the start of training camp and heading into the preseason, which is an exciting prospect for this Colts offense. But because knee injuries/surgeries can be so tricky to completely come back from, and because he’s yet to catch a pass in an actual NFL game, it’s hard telling right now just what kind of impact Cain will (or can) actually make. So that’s why I think you continue bringing in other wide receivers, either through free agency or the draft, to continue adding competition to the position so that its in as good of shape as it can be heading into the regular season. But if Cain can somehow continue where he left off prior to suffering his knee injury last preseason, then there’s no reason to believe that he won’t eventually make a very positive impact on Indy’s offense, which is in need of a bigger receiver that can get separation off the line and then go up and make tough, contested catches.

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» Herb B. (Richmond, Va.):I have been a VCU basketball season ticket holder for over 30 years and everyone from my family are VCU graduates. We have been very excited to see the success of Mo Ali Cox. He was a fantastic basketball player at VCU and more importantly is even a better person. In fact you will see many Colt number 81 jerseys at our badketball games. How does the organization feel about Mo and his potential to be a Colt for the long term?

Walker: First off, Herb, I’ve spent tons of time in your neck of the woods when I was with the Redskins, and I’ve got to say: love the city of Richmond. Saying that, I know a lot of people, like you and your family, who are rooting for Mo Alie-Cox in his football endeavors. Simply put, Alie-Cox took a huge step forward in 2018. We all saw his spectacular one-handed touchdown catch against the Oakland Raiders, but the most impressive part about Alie-Cox’s development has been how quickly he has caught on as a blocker. When Jack Doyle went down with his season-ending kidney injury, that left a huge void at the tight end position as far as what Doyle offered as a run blocker, and while nobody could really completely fill that role, Alie-Cox had several quality snaps the second half of the season in which he was creating holes for the Colts’ running backs. Now, saying that, I think the competition at the tight end position will be as fierce as ever this offseason and heading into training camp and the preseason, but Alie-Cox, to me, has certainly earned the right to continue developing his game with the Colts and to get another shot at a roster spot come Week 1 of the 2019 regular season.

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» Jason R. (Kokomo, Ind.):Personally I think we could've had a Darious Leonard type player 2 years ago in Connor Harris (Cincy). Now being that we got a gem in Margus Hunt from there makes me think they don't know how to utilize players to their abilities. Connor is on their practice squad and holds the NCAA tackles record. How can on allow a tallent go to waist like him and why can't we persue him?

Walker: Hate to burst your bubble, Jason, but Connor Harris has been a free agent since he was waived by the Cincinnati Bengals back in late April. So he’s been available for the taking by all 32 teams for the better part of nine months now, and just hasn’t been picked up. Sometimes guys just don’t pan out in the NFL, and that can be for a variety of reasons. And that’s not to say Harris won’t eventually get another shot somewhere, but I think you can really fall into a trap when you start comparing him to the likes of Darius Leonard. In fact, with limited knowledge of Harris’ game, I think he’s actually more the opposite of Leonard as a linebacker. Leonard uses his speed and length to be able to make plays from sideline to sideline, while Harris seemed to be more of a thumper at the line of scrimmage during his college career at Lindenwood. I’ll keep my eyes open now to see if Harris can get a shot somewhere this offseason, though.

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» James H. (Estill, S.C.):Hey guys! I really enjoy reading the mail bags here every chance I get. My question is why cant teams keep coaches on board or better yet offer a long term deal. I would love to keep Matt Eberflus on for a long term after watching the D take a turnaround. A little fun fact - My first cousin Malcom is Darius Leonard line brother from college and his sister worked with Darius wife at the Y in Orangeburg, SC - so any player out of a Carolina school makes me proud.

Walker: Coaching isn’t unlike any other profession. If you have the desire to move up, and if your performance merits a promotion and/or someone sees something in you and thinks you’re the right fit in a higher position, then you’re going to do everything you can do to get to that point. A guy like Matt Eberflus not only has expressed his desire to one day become a head coach, but he has the results and the résumé to get interviews for those types of jobs. If you’re Frank Reich or Chris Ballard, you can’t usually justify keeping someone tied down to your staff if they have a better opportunity elsewhere. That’s not to say at times teams want their coordinators and assistants to finish out their contracts and therefore block other teams from interviewing them if its in the best interest of the organization, and it’s also not to say the Colts wouldn’t offer a guy like Eberflus a lucrative deal to stick around. But, again, for the most part, coaches and GMs just want to see their colleagues do well for themselves. The good news is Eberflus is returning as the Colts’ defensive coordinator for the 2019 season, so that’s that for now.

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» Henry J. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada):Who is lined-up to eventually replace Vinatieri?

Walker: Two questions from Toronto the past couple weeks — nice! Henry, I don’t think anybody can really answer that question, to be honest. You don’t really see teams using an extra roster spot just for a second kicker who’s being groomed to eventually take over the job. What you’ll probably see is a second kicker brought in this offseason to help split kicking duties to keep Adam Vinatieri’s leg fresh, and while it always adds an element of competition to the position, by no means should that player be considered an eventual replacement. I do know this: the Colts’ pro and college scouts are always ready to go with kickers to either bring in for workouts, sign on the spot or pursue in the draft (or as an undrafted free agent) should a need arise at the kicker position. Fortunately for the Colts, other than a couple minor injuries to Vinatieri here and there, they just haven’t really had any need to put those plans into action for the greater part of 13 seasons now.

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» Darius C. (Nashville, Tenn.):Do you think we will resign Geathers at safety or do you see that position being one of our top three picks? I think we need to go defense heavy in this draft I hear everyone talking about another receiver but I think Deon Cain is going to surprise people next year so I think he will lock up that second receiver spot. What do you think?

Walker: Darius, I think the answer to your question about Geathers is either/or. And that’s not a cop-out by any means. The Colts could very well decide to re-sign Clayton Geathers, and in doing so, have their top strong safety returning to the field for the 2019 season. But I don’t think that would deter Chris Ballard from then using one of the team’s top three picks, all within the first two rounds, on a safety. That’s because Ballard is very committed to his team’s big board and very rarely deters from it; if the Colts are on the clock in the second round and a safety is the top remaining player on their board — and there’s really no other player with a close enough grade at another “position of need” worth pursuing — then I think Indy would select that safety, and just allow him to compete for a job with the likes of Geathers. As for the defense, I do think that will be the recipient of a lot of attention from Ballard this offseason, whether it’s free agency or the draft. But the Colts tentatively have nine draft picks now, and could get more, so that still leaves room for plenty of opportunities to address both sides of the ball. And I’m not so sure Deon Cain can really surprise anybody at this point; the cat’s kind of out of the bag as far as what he could bring to the table after his standout performance in training camp last year. If he ends up winning the second wide receiver spot, then that, to me, is very good news for this Colts offense.

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» Manuel B. (Buenos Aires, Argentina):Hi Andrew, love your mailbag, big fan from Argentina right here My question is about our rookies Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis. I know Ballard and the coaching staff have great expectations about them, but we are still talking about upgrading the pass rush during the next draft (of course i know they are not elite, and its always good adding depth on that side of the ball, specially pass rushers as Ballard already said). So, as we've seen good flashes from both of them, i think they can grow into great football players. So now, how high do you think we can expect those two to grow? Do they have the potential to be, lets say, double digit sack players?

Walker: Manuel, thanks so much for reading all the way from Argentina! It really means a lot. I think with Kemoko Turay, he’s the kind of player that is more of a “high-ceiling” type of guy; a player who has all the traits needed to be a double-digit sack guy, but still needs some work here and there to get consistent production at the NFL level. Turay’s one guy I’ve already decided to keep a very close eye on this offseason, because one of the biggest parts of his development will be how he can work with the Colts’ strength and nutrition staffs to find the right balance in his workouts and also in his diet to be able to withstand the grind of an entire NFL season. Lewis, I think, is a much more polished piece as a defensive lineman, but the storyline for him moving forward is: where do you play him? It’s a good problem to have, because he can get you production both off the edge and inside, but Chris Ballard has said repeatedly that they envision Lewis being more of an inside guy moving forward. Lewis just needs to stay healthy and have a full offseason and training camp, as well as preseason games, to see just where he best fits into those plans.

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» Alan K. (Big Pine Key, Fla.):First, thanks for all the time you spend answering all the Colts fans questions. Mine might be a little crazy. Why not try to do a trade for a really good draft pick or a couple of good picks for Brissett and then go out and sign Collin Kaepernick to a one or two-year deal? It seems to me he wants back in the NFL, has talent, experience and should sign an inexpensive contract. He does have some baggage but I never heard that he was a problem in the clubhouse.

Walker: If Colts fans are going to take their time asking questions, then it’s only fair that I take time answering them. But I appreciate it, Alan. In my opinion, if the Colts were going to approach the idea of signing a guy like Colin Kaepernick to be a backup, they would’ve done it sometime in 2017, with Andrew Luck out for the year and Jacoby Brissett as their starter. But, for now, personally, I just don’t see Kaepernick’s strengths being an ideal fit for Frank Reich’s general offensive approach. Kaepernick has shown he can throw the ball effectively, but one of the reasons he's been so dangerous at times is because he can make big plays with his legs, as he's averaged almost 460 yards rushing in the five seasons in which he's started at least seven games. In Reich's five seasons as a playcaller — two each as the offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles, and the 2018 season with the Colts — his quarterbacks have averaged 146 rushing yards per year; a 68-percent difference. That's not to say Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni couldn't alter their approach to be successful with a quarterback like Kaepernick — after all, it's players, not plays, right? — and it's also not to say Kaepernick doesn't have the ability to get it done in a more "traditional" offense. But if your goal is to have your backup quarterback be best-suited to come in and run your offense as seamlessly as possible if Luck were to go down for any stretch of time, then I personally do not believe a quarterback like Kaepernick would be the perfect fit.

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» Antonio H. (Indianapolis):Let me come plat for yall we gone win i love the colts so much i will play for free if i could i would send uh pic of the colts tatt i got. Ik yall would love it

Walker: Where you gonna play, Antonio? I need a position so that I can open you up a spot on the roster. Also, any photos of your Colts tat can be sent to Matt Taylor on Twitter @MayTayColts.

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» Steve S. (New York):Colts fan since the 50's. Two questions: Since Brissett is clealy better than any QB available in the upcoming draft, why would it be considered such a stretch to expect a first round pick in a trade for him? I see that Ballard is set on having 10 offensive linemen going into the season. Considering that his starting 5 generally play 100% of the snaps, wouldn't it be more efficient to have maybe 3, or tops 4, versatile bench guys a la Haeg and Boehm? Lends to a bit more depth at RB or secondary.

Walker: Steve, I see what you’re getting at, but there are many, many factors that come into play when determining draft pick values in trades for current players. Take the money and contract angle, for example. Quarterback-needy teams likely aren’t going to give up the chance to select a QB in the first round and sign him to a relatively cheap rookie deal for four years in exchange for what would likely amount to one season with a veteran quarterback like Brissett who is in the last year of his rookie contract and is set to make some pretty good money in 2020. I’ll put this into perspective for you: Nick Foles, who led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl victory just last year, was reportedly being shopped by the Eagles here recently for a third-round pick, according to ESPN. If Foles could only fetch a third-round pick, then what would you expect you could get for a less-accomplished (but still very talented) quarterback like Brissett? Personally, if you’re going to trade Brissett at all this year, wait until his market is at its greatest; I don’t believe that will come before this year’s NFL Draft.

And real quick on your offensive line question: Chris Ballard values the offensive line position so much that he’s willing to give a little bit at other positions in order to have a little bit more depth up front. This is from Ballard’s Draft Room conversation with local reporters last May: “I just believe that you can’t win if you’re not good up front. It’s hard; it makes it hard. It makes it really hard in the winter months, when you get into December and January football and you’ve gotta go play outdoors. Big men, athletic men, up front — I mean, it wins.” That’s his philosophy, and he’s sticking to it.

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