Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Finding 'Dogs' At Receiver, Nyheim Hines In The Slot, A Surprise Pick In The First Round?

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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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» Tom P. (Fishers, Ind.):Nyheim Hines showed flashes of being a game breaker last season. He looks like he could become a Tyreek Hill/Julian Edleman type game breaker at slot receiver. Any chance he might get some work there this off-season?

Walker: To take it even further, Tom, Frank Reich said earlier this week that Nyheim Hines exceeded expectations in his rookie year, so I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see his role expanded even further in 2019. But here’s a little context to the whole “Nyheim Hines slot receiver” angle: it’s not like he didn’t get opportunities in the slot in 2018. According to Pro Football Focus, Hines had 43 total snaps lined up as a slot receiver in the Colts’ 18 games (16 regular season plus two postseason contests), which was an average of a little less than three per game. So my best guess is that we might see a slight increase in those figures moving forward, but let’s not get things twisted: Hines is still considered a running back first and foremost. With Marlon Mack running the ball the way he did, especially the second half of the season last year, throwing Hines on the field, with or without another running back in the formation, can really confuse an opposing defense. I look forward to seeing how Reich and Nick Sirianni continue to evolve Hines’ role in his second NFL season.

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» Vic B. (Indianapolis):What type of trade offer would have to be on the table for Chris Ballard to start to consider giving up Jacoby Brissett?

Walker: Given the fact Chris Ballard has said he has a value in mind for Jacoby Brissett, but he never actually said what that value is (and rightfully so), all I can do is put on my own GM hat and take a guess. If I’m the Colts, I wouldn’t take anything less than a third-round pick for Brissett — and I say this knowing that another team probably isn’t going to make that type of offer. The fact is the Colts sleep well at night knowing they has such a capable backup in Brissett at the quarterback position, but the guy is also just a terrific presence and leader in the locker room and on the sideline. So you add those factors on top of whatever the “market value” might be for him. Given all that, I just wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts played out the 2019 season with Brissett on their roster, and then probably let him test the open market in free agency (and likely field some very lucrative offers) for the first time in his career next offseason.

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» Ryan B. (Cheshire, United Kingdom):Hi guys, loving the work you’re doing at the moment! Excellent work across the board, keep it up! My questions this week are: Does Phillip Walker have the potential to be the long-term back-up at QB as Jacoby Brissett is out of contract next year? Is Skai Moore still with us? Can he kick on next year as I saw promising things in college from him. Really rooting for him in the league! Thanks again - really good to follow the Colts from across the pond!

Walker: I think the fact the Colts have been so intent on keeping Phillip Walker around is a pretty clear indicator of what they think of him. I’m really interested in seeing how Walker progresses now in his third offseason in Indianapolis, and his second under Frank Reich, Nick Sirianni and quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady. If he can build upon the solid preseason he put in last year — he finished 10th among all quarterbacks in passing yards (446), was tied for third in touchdown passes (three) and had a 101.2 quarterback rating — then, in my mind, there’s no reason to think he won’t, at the very least, get serious consideration to be the team’s backup quarterback if Jacoby Brissett does, indeed, leave in free agency after 2019. So stay tuned on that one.

And, yes, Skai Moore remains on the team’s offseason roster after finishing his rookie season on injured reserve with a neck injury. I think he’s well aware how crowded that linebacker room can be once the regular season starts, so he’ll put in the work this offseason to try to make a big jump in Year 2 and force his way into the rotation.

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» Alfred A. (Spokane, Wash.):Will Deon Cain and fountain be ready for training camp? And if they are able to fill the void of wr.. Why don't we go after Bell and brown and have focus on the defense in the draft!?. We can afford em!

Walker: The expectation right now is that Deon Cain should be good to go by training camp. His comeback and development is obviously one of the more obvious key storylines that we’ll be keeping an eye on moving forward. As it pertains to Daurice Fountain, he never had any injury issues that I’m aware of, so, yes, he should be good to go.

And just because you can “afford” certain players, doesn’t mean you should sign them. Chris Ballard and Frank Reich want major playmakers on the field, but they also want guys who are good fits in the locker room and in the community. We know the Colts have likely already made their determinations about if they would consider pursuing guys like Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown, but, of course, those feelings will remain internal.

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» Marco M. (Mexico City, Mexico):Dontrelle Inman loves Indy and he was an important player last season Do you think that Ballard will give him a contract?

Walker: Quick answer for you: Dontrelle Inman was one of a couple free agents-to-be, as well as cornerback Pierre Desir, that Chris Ballard specifically said he’d like to see return to the team, but that might be allowed to first test the market. So stay tuned.

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» Larry L. (Muncie, Ind.):Hope I haven't missed the news. Is there any update on the progress of Jack Doyle. I enjoyed the contribution Jack made for making the team successful.

Walker: We do have a Jack Doyle update for you, Larry. Do you want the good or the bad news first? The good news is that the scary-looking kidney injury he suffered Week 12 against the Miami Dolphins — the one that required emergency surgery and was responsible for him being placed on injured reserve — seems good to go. The bad news, if you want to call it that, is that Doyle has since had surgery to his hip, and it looks as if he likely won’t get back into the fold until training camp. Doyle originally suffered, and played through, the injury Week 2 against the Washington Redskins, and then missed the next five games.

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» Barbara C. (Crawfordsville, Ind.):Love your mailbag and love the Colts I was curious to know why Jordan Wilkins wasn't given more opportunities to showcase his talent? I think Mack and Hines are are excellent backs and I think Wilkins will be also if given the chance Thank you for all the great things you do for us Colts fans I can hardly wait for the next season of football to start up GO COLTS🏈”

Walker: Thanks for the love, Barbara. We love you, too. When it comes to Jordan Wilkins and his playing time in 2018, there were a couple key factors at play. First, not to be cliché, but there’s only one ball to go around. When you’re third on the depth chart at a position like running back in the NFL, your touches are just simply going to be limited. Behind the scenes, Wilkins was also being tasked with improving the finer points of ball security with Tom Rathman, his position coach. WIlkins’ 5.3 yards-per-carry average is a clear indicator that he can get yards in big chunks, so with Marlon Mack the clear starter moving forward, Wilkins looks to continue pushing for opportunities to show what he can do as a more-than-capable piece of depth at the running back position.

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» Cole K. (New Castle, Ind.):This is my 4th mailbag entry with 0 answers...so maybe this will be the one. Do you think that with our pass rusher needs and also a big offensive playmaker need, which one will we take? And what do you think of Clemson's player Christian Wilkins? I think we will be able to get him at 26, is it worth it?

Walker: I can only find one other instance that you’ve submitted a question to the Mailbag, Cole, but my apologies; unfortunately, we can’t get to every question every week, especially if a lot of them tend to touch on the same general topic. Unfortunately, though, I’m going to have to go the cop-out route on your first question, because I think it all depends upon who is left with the best grade on the Colts’ board when they go on the clock with the 26th pick in the first round. If I had to choose at this point, though, I’d say pass rusher simply because Chris Ballard has specifically mentioned that area as a need this offseason, while wide receiver, he’s acknowledged, is popular among the fans, but not necessarily super high up on the team’s list at this point. And I definitely think the Colts would give serious thought to taking Christian Wilkins if he’s available. He’s a bruiser in the interior of the defensive line, but has the versatility and experience to play off the edge if needed, but having watched his session with reporters today at the Combine, he also just seems to have the attitude and demeanor that would mesh well in the Indy locker room. I’ll be keeping my eye on Wilkins moving forward.

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» Michael F. (Terre Haute, Ind.): "Which WR characteristic do you think we will try to target more in the draft. Height and catch radius or speed?"

Walker: If you were listening to Frank Reich this week at the Combine, it's less about speed and more about breed. The Colts want someone opposite T.Y. Hilton that not only strikes fear in opposing defenses, but, like Hilton, can be counted on as a grinder to make key plays in key situations — or, as Reich said, be a "dog." “We have other players that did a really good job for us that we can count on in very specific situations and played winning football for us, but obviously when you’ve got two guys that are in the category of a T.Y. Hilton, they can’t just roll the coverage to one guy," Reich said. "Hey, I can put him over there one-on-one and it’s 3rd and 5, and I know we’ve gotta throw a slant route or a stop route, and he’s gotta win a very high percentage of the time." So it's really less about the physical characteristics and more about what the player has inside of him, if that makes sense.

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» James H. (South Bend, Ind.): "What postition could be a potential shocker first round pick for the Colts?"

Walker: Try this one on for size, James: what about tight end? What? You mean the spot where the Colts have two Pro Bowlers in Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle, and two up-and-comers — and, really, tremendous pieces of depth — in Mo Alie-Cox and Ross Travis? Yes, that spot. First off, hear me out: Doyle AND Ebron are in contract years in 2019. Consider that for a moment; while the Colts would probably love to lock in both guys long-term, is it feasible to have two larger contracts at that position? Perhaps; but, then again, perhaps not. So what if you're the Colts and you go on the clock with the 26th-overall pick, and the top guy on your board left is a guy like, say, Iowa tight end Noah Fant? Colts.com's Jake Arthur did a great job breaking down Fant's game yesterday (check that out here), and today at the Combine, Fant ran a blazing 4.51-second 40-yard dash, the best among all players at his position. Yes, this is considered a pretty deep draft class in terms of the tight end position, and yes, that means you can probably find another option later on if need be. But considering the contract situation for both Doyle and Ebron, I certainly wouldn't rule it out in the first round.

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