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Colts Mailbag: Dissecting The Antonio Morrison Trade, Braden Smith's Role, Ryan Delaire's Roster Chances

In this week’s Colts Mailbag, readers inquire about the Colts’ run game heading into the season, Braden Smith’s role along the offensive line, the reasons behind the trade of Antonio Morrison and more.


INDIANAPOLIS — Each week, 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:

» Matt N. (Woodstock, Ga.): First off, huge fan!! Been bleeding white and blue since 92. Been in the Army for 8 years and always find time to watch my boys play. Speaking of the boys, how do you think the run game will look after seeing not much productivity (negative yards and fumbles) from our two rookie running backs? Will Turbin come back and start again week 5? Also, what do you think the strongest position is right now? I personally believe the secondary. Thank you for your time!!

Walker: Thank you for your support, Matt — but most importantly, thank you for your service. I wouldn't worry too much about what the run game looked like in the preseason. It's been said many times before, but head coach Frank Reich is absolutely keeping the real important parts of his playbook close to the vest until the regular season rolls around, so while you certainly would've liked to have better overall production on the basic run plays they did throw out there during the preseason, I'm just much more inclined to wait until Sept. 9 in the regular season opener against the Bengals to really start evaluating that specific part of this offense. As for Turbin, I think he'll definitely be welcomed back into the fold coming off his suspension Week 5; will he be the "starter," though? I'm not so sure. I've believed that if Marlon Mack is healthy, that he will usually be out there to start the game for the Colts' offense, and a guy like Turbin will continue to play that valuable third-down role that he's been so good at the past couple seasons in Indy. That's not to say Turbin won't see an expanded role as far as number of snaps and carries — this coaching staff really likes what he brings to the table — but I just don't know if he'll be the primary back immediately when he returns.


» Jim J. (Indianapolis): Could Braden Smith end up starting at RT to begin the season? I know its just pre-season but Austin Howard has looked really disappointing so far. Is there anyone else that could win the job? Also do you think Anthony Castonzo will be back for week one?

Walker: Could Braden Smith start at right tackle to start the season? Yes. Will he be the starter there, though? It really seems unlikely at this point. While Smith showed some promise at right tackle as he got his feet wet at the position during training camp — and even starting there for the second preseason game — it's hard to overlook the fact that his natural position is at guard, and that is where the Colts and general manager Chris Ballard saw him having the most impact coming out of Auburn in the second round of this year's NFL Draft. And while veteran Matt Slauson has had the upper hand on the starting job at right guard since the start of the offseason program, head coach Frank Reich said Smith is absolutely still battling for that spot; Smith, and not Slauson, got the start for the Colts at right guard in the No. 1 offense's preseason finale last Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers. That's not to say Smith is your starter at right guard Week 1 against the Bengals, but it's a good indicator of what the coaching staff feels about the rookie's role on this team. Many, many others are in line to compete for the starting job at right tackle, and just because final cuts are looming, not to mention the regular season, that doesn't mean the competition stops there.

And, yes, as far as there are no setbacks with his hamstring, I believe Anthony Castonzo will be at left tackle for the Colts in their 2018 opener against Cincinnati.


» Justin T. (Anna, Ill.): First off it's nice to see the return of the Colts mailbag! I've been a long time Colts fan (most of my life) and I've contributed a few questions to the mailbag. I just kind of was wondering after seeing that Antonio Morrison was just traded for Pipkins from Green Bay, is a trade such as this purely just for the need of DB depth? Because it seems to me like we got the worst end of that trade. I've witnessed these types of trades throughout the years and I've just always wondered why you'd trade a player who has plenty of logged game action for a former UDFA with next to no game experience in the NFL I'm not sure it matters in the long run, Morrison wasn't exactly a world beater,. I do apologise for the lengthy question, but just wanted to add one more, what are your thoughts on Delaire possibly making the roster and even bigger than that possibly running with first or second team pass rushers? He's lit it up in the preseason, same could be said about Ridgeway. Go Colts!

Walker: Good questions, Justin, and thanks for sticking with us. The Morrison-Pipkins trade, to me, was all about fit and future roles — for both sides. Antonio Morrison obviously showed he could be a thumper as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 system — he even led the Colts in tackles last season — but with the change to the 4-3 this year, those kinds of traits, while still valuable, just aren't as important as just overall speed and quickness. By the time Morrison was traded to the Packers, he was primarily working with the second and third team at SAM linebacker, which is a position that will have limited snaps during the game, anyway. So the Colts decided to make a move to fill a position of need at cornerback, which had been hit hard by some bumps and bruises of late (particularly to Nate Hairston and Quincy Wilson). And in Lenzy Pipkins, they get a guy who impressed in his opportunities as an undrafted rookie last season in Green Bay (don't forget about special teams, too), but because of some moves made by the Packers this offseason, he, too, had been working with the second and third teams during training camp and the preseason. Green Bay had a need at inside linebacker, and Morrison seems to be a better fit for what they're doing. So because there was a chance Morrison wasn't even going to make the 53-man roster for the Colts, why not try to get something in return for him at a position of need — temporarily or not?

And I have also been very impressed with the instant impact Ryan Delaire has made on the Colts' defense during his very brief time on the roster. Signed more than halfway through training camp, it would've been easy to just assume he was being brought in as another camp body who would fill a role as a second-half edge defender during preseason games — and that's it. But he's displayed an intensity and a playmaking ability during both practices and preseason games that has been impossible to miss. The difficulty for Ballard now is to try to find that balance between judging what perhaps another candidate along the defensive line has done over a much longer period of time, going back as far as the start of the offseason workout program, versus the impact a guy like Delaire has been able to make in such a short amount of time. But with another solid performance in tonight's preseason finale against the Bengals, Delaire will certainly be in the mix for one of those spots on the final 53-man roster.


» David F. (Lebanon, Ind.): Why haven't we played Tyqaun Lewis

Walker: Well, David, the Colts haven't played Tyquan Lewis because he is injured. Lewis has been out with a foot injury since Aug. 6. It was a bit of bad timing for the second-round pick, because at the time he was injured he was really starting to see his reps, and his roles, increase along the defensive line during training camp practices. Reich said this week Lewis has not undergone surgery, but he "just hasn't been coming along as fast as we would've liked." Reich remains "hopeful" the Colts will have Lewis back for the start of the regular season, and at this point doesn't believe he will be a candidate to go on Injured Reserve.



Walker: THANKS, SKIP. And I'd get ready to see multiple two-back sets when the Colts open up the regular season — I just don't think it's necessarily to protect Andrew Luck. While we haven't seen it during the preseason as the Colts try to protect the more in-depth parts of their playbook, we did see lots of scenarios during training camp practices in which the team utilized two running backs on the field at the same time. Oftentimes it would be rookie Nyheim Hines mixed in with another back, as Hines would be lined up — and placed into motion — all over the field, with the other running back lined up more in a traditional role. Also, don't be surprised if the Colts utilize an old-fashioned I-formation at times, just with a tight end playing the role of the fullback. This could definitely be a way in which Reich not only helps try to spring the run game, but adds an extra blocker in the backfield to try to protect the quarterback.


» Scott O. (Elizabethtown, Ky.): I'm going to the November 11 game and want to get autographs how early should I get there and which side should I go to .to have my best chance

Walker: The earliest the Lucas Oil Stadium gates tend to open is two hours before kickoff — so 11 a.m. ET, in this instance. Always stay tuned to @Colts and @LucasOilStadium on Twitter for all the latest news heading into that game, however. And it seems as though fans like to hang out around the tunnel leading to the Colts' locker room before the game — that'd be around Sections 129, 132 and 135.


» Cory B. (Dayton, Ohio): If there is anyone from your current roster to go to the hall of fame, who do you think it would be?

Walker: I'm going to take the easy way out here: Adam Vinatieri. By the time the 2018 season is through, he should be the NFL's all-time leader in points scored and made field goals. He is an undisputed future Hall of Famer, and should go in on the first ballot.

If I'm not taking the easy way out, I'd say T.Y. Hilton is certainly on the right track when it comes to putting up those kinds of all-time numbers. Already a four-time Pro Bowler, Hilton has totaled 431 receptions for 6,827 yards and 34 touchdowns in his first six seasons; he became the second fastest Colts player to reach 5,000 career receiving yards, accomplishing that feat in 69 games. Only Marvin Harrison got to 5,000 yards quicker, and he needed just one fewer game — and we all know he's a Hall of Famer. So if Hilton can stay at his current level for another few seasons, that's when he'll really begin to climb up some of the all-time statistical lists and possibly get into that type of conversation.

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