INDIANAPOLIS – Readers of Colts.com may submit questions during the week and have a chance to have them answered during the middle of each week. Submit your question here.
Here are responses to some of the questions received recently. We thank you for your interest in the Colts.
GILBERT M. (from Salt Lake City, UT) Andrew Luck has been taking too many big hits in the pocket his first two seasons, while Peyton Manning was afforded good protection for years. Is it Peyton's quick release, or poor play by the Colts' current offensive line that is causing Luck to be taking all these big hits
A: Andrew alluded during his first year that a portion of his hits were due to himself. You saw fewer sacks during his second year (it dropped from 41 to 32) and you saw growth in other areas from him. I don't want to draw comparisons with Andrew and Peyton, though the sack levels during Peyton's career were impressive. Andrew will have that same type of presence, and he already does in many regards. We've had some injury matters on the line the last two years, but I think you'll see improvement going forward. It's been a mixture of youth, injuries and meshing things together with a program in its first two years. The overwhelming results have been good, but we do want to eliminate the hits and pressures as often as we can.
ENRIQUE H. (from Bakersfield, CA) Since we have two inside LBs that will be FAs, what are the chances that we draft Chris Borland in the second round? He's kind of underrated because of his height but he can play, and he's pretty fast.
A: You're referring to Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner, who are scheduled to be unrestricted FAs in March. As for Borland, he played pretty well and started 28 games over his final three seasons at Wisconsin. You always look at guys who perform consistently in major conferences like he did, but I'm not privy to our thinking (nor should I be). I would guarantee you he was seen by our personnel staff during his career. You'll have to wait for an answer later, just like other mailbag contributors who ask about specific players. I do like the chatter coming in from regulars like you. It makes for interesting reading.
BRYAN J. (from Newport, CT) The Colts need another reliable WR besides Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. Instead of getting a WR receiver from the draft or another team for more money, wouldn't it be better to use Deion Branch? They signed him two months ago, and he's an experienced receiver. He could help Andrew like he did with Tom Brady.
A: You sound like a fan of Deion from his former playing years in your area. We haven't seen much of Deion yet since he joined us during the playoffs, but he's an easy guy to pull for (at least he is now). We haven't tipped our hand yet on him, and Deion's experience can only be a benefit if we choose to have him factor into the mix. At the moment, he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. You'll have to stay tuned.
PAUL M. (from Pittston, PA) They define insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That describes the Colts' running game. Either fix the offensive line or turn Andrew Luck loose. Thoughts?
A: Over the last 29 years, I've never known our club to stand pat as the off-season progresses. We always use this time to improve in areas we target for upgrades. You and others feel the offensive line is such a unit on the club. If Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano feel that way, they will address it. We know the consistent results were not what we wanted, yet anyone could see we were able to be proficient at times. We'll measure everything and try to match it up to the philosophy we have for rushing the ball.
ISAK H. (from Mexico City, Mexico) If prospects like Shayne Skov, Gabe Ikard and John Urschel fell through to the Colts' picks, would the team be interested? I refer specifically to these players because they seem to meet team's needs beside positions (intellect, versatility and system knowledge).
A: I would not be in a position to know any specifics on our thought process, but I don't think anyone could quibble with the respective careers the players you mentioned had at Stanford, Oklahoma and Penn State. They play in areas some perceive as needs for us, but that's all I can really contribute to your answer. All are combine invitees, and I'll keep an eye on them for you.
BRUCE C. (from East Hampton, NY) The following is from an ESPN ranking of NFL head coaches: Chuck Pagano – ranked 22nd (22-10, .688). Pretty hard to argue with (that). Your thoughts? This ranking may seem harsh – or stupid – but ask yourself: Have the Colts succeeded because of Pagano, or in spite of him? Pagano's work on defense has been fine, but that's to be expected of a former defensive coordinator. It's the negative impact he's had on offense that's thus far defined his tenure. With Pep Hamilton, Pagano has insisted on a run-heavy scheme that highlights the Colts' weaknesses and obscures their strengths. Andrew Luck attempted fewer passes than Ryan Tannehill and Andy Dalton last season. Meanwhile, Trent Richardson was allowed to slam into a brick wall 157 times. Running the ball and stopping the run is a formula that still works (just ask Seattle and San Francisco), but Indy did neither in 2013. That didn't stop Pagano from sticking with his plan until the very end, or at least until Indy fell behind 38-10 to the Chiefs (click here). Only then was Luck was fully unleashed and the full brunt of Indy's offensive firepower felt. Pagano has the best passing prospect since Peyton Manning at his disposal. Until/if he realizes that, he won't be maximizing his team's chance to win. That's a cardinal sin for any head coach.
A: I can tell which way you're leaning on this, but Chuck has been a huge part of the success we've enjoyed and for how much players have bought into the program the past two seasons. For us to win the number of games we've won (23, including a playoff win) points to a lot of things – one of them being the head coach. Chuck's program was in place in 2012 when he spent time away while ill, and players really rallied for his cause. This year, the club backed up 2012 by winning 11 games again and advancing one round deeper in the playoffs. Some people wrote off 2012's accomplishments by saying they were done purely on the emotion of Chuck's illness. This past season should have dispelled those naysayers. The team thrived in 2013 despite tremendously burdensome injuries on offense, of which I am sure you are aware. When you say we didn't run well, we had to do so with two backs injured for the season, with the losses of Dwayne Allen, Reggie Wayne and Donald Thomas and with Trent Richardson, who didn't have any grace period to learn the offense. Still, we overcame obstacles and were efficient enough to get the job done. Could we be better? Sure, but I think any specific criticism of Chuck (and Pep Hamilton) is misguided. Polls and rankings like you cite are done largely for filler content and to drive discussion. If you poll our players, you would get a real indication of Chuck's value to our process. We wanted to be more balanced in 2013, and we were (I don't give any thought to the number of Andrew's attempts compared to other QBs). We'll be better in year three under him. If you want to use numbers, Chuck is closing in on the longest streak of games without consecutive losses in franchise history, and he is one of eight coaches in NFL history to open a career with consecutive 11-plus victory seasons. We've been able to win close games (14-2 in games decided by seven points or less) under Chuck. Last year, we became just the second team in 26 years to lead the NFL in fewest penalties and turnovers. We also beat three of the four NFL finalists and hope to get to that level ourselves. The cardinal sin for any head coach is not winning games. With a .688 regular-season winning percentage, Chuck has not committed that sin (click here).
COLTS COACHES MOST GAMES PLAYED WITHOUT CONSECUTIVE LOSSES
Coach (*Start of career)
NFL Coaches Starting Career with 11-Plus Wins in Consecutive Seasons
Team Record Before Hired
*Made Playoffs #Won Super Bowl
MITCH G. (from Austin, TX) Trent Richardson did not do much for the Colts last season. Will this year be different for him, or are the Colts regretting trading their first-round pick?
A: I think you will see a much different player in Trent this year. We've spoken before about the value of the spring and summer work, and we expect Trent to be like the majority of his teammates and participate in it from start-to-finish. The growth potential during this time is critical, and it was something he did not have with us last year. There is no regret from us on him in any regard. Having Trent last year was like having this year's number one pick already playing. With our commitment to running well, Trent should be a big part of the puzzle.
RYAN S. (from North Dakota) I'm still kind of curious about the signing of Deion Branch. Was that a move we had to do to fill a roster spot, or did they actually think that he would have been ready for the New England game? We signed him and didn't even dress him, just curious? Also, I wrote in last summer excited about a 6-6-ish WR we drafted or brought in. What happened to him? Thanks for the updates. The football guy in me is already bored with the off-season.**
A: We signed Deion with the idea that he could be ready to go. As you know, it didn't quite work that way. The receiver you are asking about was Jeremy Kelley, who was a free agent signee from Maine. Jeremy was with us during training camp, but was released in the final cut to 53 players. You have a good memory and nailed his height perfectly. Jeremy had stints in the CFL and AFL, but I don't know of any activity for him after leaving us. The combine this week will stoke your passions, and I know a lot of fans like you already are getting the NFL itch. The combine should help scratch it.
BOB M. (from Milwaukee, WI) I used to joke about how to start an NFL team: draft all offensive and defensive linemen and a quarterback. If the QB has time and the backs have holes and the opposition can't run...you see where I'm going with this. A boring draft and free agent journey of top-rated linemen would be just fine. Start a culture in Indy of the best linemen and Andrew. The fans might complain until the wins started accumulating. Oversimplified? Of course. Does it have merit? Some. Many times the front office makes it too complicated. "Baseball is a simple game...they throw it, I hit it." – Willie Mays
A: It's a formula to which Chuck Pagano has referred on more than one occasion – run and stop the run. There's no doubt this has trended toward a passing league, but running the ball well does not necessarily mean ignoring the pass. We know games are decided largely in the trenches, so it's no really oversimplification on your part. We have a blueprint and hope to fill it to our specifications and with long-range vision. The wins have been coming so far, and we want them to continue.
ALEX R. (from Anderson, IN) Do you think the Colts plan on keeping Darrius Heyward-Bey, even though he didn't become the WR they though he would be? Or will they get a WR in the draft or keep Deion Branch?
A: I don't really know how we're thinking at this point, and you join others in wondering how we are heading. DHB didn't have quite the season he wished. I believe it was a one-year deal that he signed. There seem to be a number of options in the draft, if that's our thinking. We do have a number of young players on hand who could develop. You can see my comments on Deion in other answers in the mailbag. Along with RB and the offensive line, this position is getting a great deal of action from contributors.
SAM G. (from Toronto, Canada) Do you think the Colts have intentions to re-sign Antoine Bethea and Vontae Davis, or maybe even use the franchise tag one of them?
A: It's been quiet on the franchise tag front, and I'm not sure we would opt to use it on Antoine or Vontae. We've not given any indications on how we are heading as unrestricted free agency starts in about three weeks. We know the outstanding character and contributions of Antoine. He is a true Horseshoe guy. We know the price we paid to get Vontae, and he has a number of solid years ahead of him. Both are good locker room guys, and it's easy to see why fans like them and want to know the future. It will develop soon, but I have nothing beyond that for you. I wish I knew, too.