Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Eric Ebron's Role, Hurricane Contingency Plans, Playcalling Duties

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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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» Dustin B. (Kokomo, Ind.): “We know TY will always be #1. With balls being spread everywhere, is Ebron going to be #2? Seems defenses lock TY and Doyle knowing they’re a security blanket.”

Walker: It’s always dangerous to judge a team’s plans based off of just one game, but I do think it’s fair to look at the boxscore from the Colts’ Week 1 matchup against the Bengals and take away some conclusions. And, offensively, I think it’s generally safe to say that, for the most part, what you saw in the opener is pretty similar to what the team showed during training camp. I’d say T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle, Ryan Grant and Nyheim Hines are each going to get a ton of targets and receptions in this offense, and while Eric Ebron is certainly on that list, as well, he’ll probably have more high-impact plays, due to the mismatches he creates (look no further than his touchdown catch against the Bengals in one-on-one coverage against a linebacker for a perfect example of this). My personal projection heading into the season for Ebron was about 50 to 60 receptions on the year, for what it’s worth.

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» Eric D. (Greenwood, Ind.): “Any chance Sunday’s game gets moved to Indianapolis because of Hurricane Florence?”

Walker: This is a very interesting “what if?” scenario. I’d say as of now it seems as though the major parts of the storm could pass to the south of the Washington, D.C., area, although that certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility of heavy winds and rains for Sunday’s game. But what if the storm gains steam and takes a turn towards Landover, Md., home of FedExField? I do know the two teams have been in contact with the league this week and I’m sure they have contingency plans in place if that does end up being the case. My personal feeling is that in the event the game had to be moved to a different venue, it would not be played at Lucas Oil Stadium because of the obvious advantage that would give the Colts. There have been a couple examples of teams using Detroit’s Ford Field as a neutral site in recent years due to weather — and the Lions are in San Francisco tomorrow afternoon. But it’s anybody’s guess (beyond the Colts, Redskins and league officials involved) what the plan would actually be if the weather situation did get that bad.

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» Kyler C. (Crozet, Va.): “Do you think the young LBs can handle Adrian Peterson?”

Walker: The Colts’ linebackers are kind of pinching themselves as they prepare for Sunday’s game, because they’re watching film of Week 1 and they’re seeing Adrian Peterson looking like a 23 year old — certainly not a 33 year old — in the Redskins’ Week 1 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Keep in mind, Darius Leonard (23), Skai Moore (23) and Zaire Franklin (22) probably loved to play with Peterson on the Madden video games growing up, and now they’re tasked with taking him down in the open field. That has to be surreal. But Chris Ballard wouldn’t have drafted or signed these guys if he didn’t think they could handle themselves early and often, and we saw just how well they responded, especially Leonard, in the season opener against the Bengals. Sunday’s game against the likes of Peterson will be a huge test, no doubt, but these young guns should be ready.

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» Willie B. (Indianapolis): “Why was Hassin Ridgeway inactive for Sunday's game after playing so well in the preseason?”

Walker: Good question, Willie B. Quite simply, it comes down to a numbers game. Teams can only dress 46 players on gameday, so that means there will automatically be seven players on the inactives list. While injured players can oftentimes take up spots on the inactives list each week, the rest of the spots are filled with healthy scratches. Ridgeway fit into the latter category against the Bengals. The Colts have committed to carrying a ton of defensive linemen on their 53-man roster, which is great for overall depth, but that can mean that oftentimes, just like along the offensive line, there will be an odd man out or two when it comes to gamedays. That just happened to be Ridgeway against the Bengals, as Margus Hunt, Denico Autry, Jabaal Sheard, Al Woods, Grover Stewart, Kemoko Turay, Al-Quadin Muhammad and Tarell Basham were active instead, which is more edge rusher-heavy.

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» Carter S. (Williamsburg, Va.): “What kind of role can we expect from Chester Rogers/Ryan Grant this year? Also were you surprised by Fountain getting cut?”

Walker: Last Sunday’s game against the Bengals appeared to indicate exactly how the Colts want to utilize Chester Rogers and Ryan Grant — at least here early on. Rogers is clearly Indy’s slot wide receiver, as 43 of his 48 total snaps in the game were taken from inside, according to Pro Football Focus. Grant, meanwhile, mostly was lined up wide, which is where 59 of his 65 total snaps came from; the other six were in the slot. The interesting thing is that despite Grant lining up wide most of the time, he’s likely going to be used more in the intermediate passing game; three of his team-best eight receptions resulted in first downs, but he averaged just 7.4 yards per reception. Rogers, meanwhile, finished with three catches for 18 yards, but I’d imagine he’s considered more of a deeper threat for this offense. As for Fountain, I think him being signed to the Colts’ practice squad is a terrific opportunity to show the coaching staff that he can bring the consistency they’re looking for at the position. He obviously has the skillset to play at this level, but oftentimes the decisions at a position like wide receiver come down to much more than just what the player can bring on offense, especially if decisions are being made about the fourth or fifth receiver on the depth chart. Zach Pascal, for example, is the Colts’ kickoff returner. Marcus Johnson, meanwhile, was acquired in a trade during roster cutdowns because he is a veteran with experience in head coach Frank Reich’s system who also can contribute in coverage on special teams. So there’s added value there — not that Fountain can’t get to that point, too. It’s just more of an immediate need.

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» Alex L. (Indianapolis): “Offense minded question here: Who’s call is it to push tempo (no huddle) or experiment with formation/packages? Obviously as a premier organization, I don’t expect anything crazy, but is that a Coach, coordinator, or playmaker type decision? We have a collection of some special minds!”

Walker: Hey Alex, thanks for the question. To put it simply: Frank Reich makes all the calls on offense. But offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who is on the sideline during games, and Andrew Luck are definitely part of the collaboration process when the offense is trying to figure out ways to dissect an opposing defense on the fly during a game. Having Sirianni around is huge for Reich, however, as Reich also has to be focused on the defense, special teams, clock management, when to challenge, etc., at other points of the ballgame. “Obviously his plate is very full on that sideline, so I’ll be down there to communicate with the other coaches, to communicate with the players anything that I need to communicate with them,” Sirianni said of his gameday role on Sept. 6. “Maybe a position coach up in the press box needs to communicate with him. But most importantly, anything that Frank needs to communicate with him that he may not be able to do at the time because he’s focused in on the game and his head coaching duties.”

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