Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Generating Pass Rush, The Future At Cornerback, Going Into ‘Win-Now Mode,’ Early Mock Drafts

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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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» Joe A. (North Vernon, Ind.):Hey Andrew! I am intrigued by the question of whether or not the Colts should trade Jacoby Brissett. But it bothers me that a couple of writers have suggested that the Colts could expect to get a third round pick for him. To me, Jacoby is better prepared to be an NFL starter than anyone available in the draft. I would think that makes him worth a first round pick. Any thoughts?

Walker: Hey Joe! This is a very intriguing topic to me, too, because Jacoby Brissett is entering the final year of his rookie contract, so if the Colts were going to move him, you’d think they’d do it sometime in the next few months. But Brissett is legitimately a super valuable part of the Colts’ roster, too; he’s a tremendous teammate, of course, but the team also feels very comfortable having Brissett run the show if something were to happen to Andrew Luck. Colts general manager Chris Ballard on Friday said he has a value in his mind for what he’d want in exchange for Brissett, but didn’t share it, so we can only guess what that would be. So I can understand why you think Brissett would be worth a first-round pick, but on the other end of the spectrum, I can also see media members trying to remain a little bit more, in their minds, realistic, using prior deals as a starting point, would suggest Brissett might be worth a third-round pick. So we’ll see.

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» William W. (Rockport, Ind.): “Eberflus has stated his desire to become a head coach. Will the Colts bring in a coach with the same philosophy, or try an adapt and draft/sign players to fit a new coach? While we will agree to disagree on some points (who doesn't?), I appreciate your point of view.

Walker: Great question, William, and I appreciate you appreciating my point of view. First off, I’ll just say: Matt Eberflus is still the Colts’ defensive coordinator, and it appears that will be the case for at least the 2019 season. So let’s not just assume he’s out the door yet. But this is a good hypothetical situation to explore. To me, for now, I think the Colts are married to the 4-3 system, regardless of who the defensive coordinator is. Chris Ballard has invested a lot of assets into making sure his roster has what it needs to run that particular system efficiently, such as speedy linebackers, three-techniques, defensive ends, etc. But saying that, every coach has his own points of emphasis, so perhaps a different coordinator would want to run more man-to-man coverages, or maybe another guy would want to blitz more, etc. But, to answer your question, I think Indy, if Eberflus were to ever leave for another opportunity, would stick to the same general defensive philosophy.

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» Larry C. (Indianapolis):Wondering if the head coach or offensive coordinator has put any thought in using both jack doyle and ebron in some sort of 2 tight end offensive formation next season? Could make it hard for defense to defend with the options it could provide with mack, hines, ebron and doyle.... Just a thought thats ran through my mind through the last season. Thanks.

Walker: I think because Jack Doyle was so banged up throughout the 2018 season, we tend to forget the games he actually did play, because the Colts employed quite a few two-tight end sets when both Doyle and Ebron were able to play together. What was telling, however, was that while Doyle was used for 80 to 90 percent of the offensive snaps during those games, Ebron was typically used more in the 20-40-percent range (numbers we saw shoot up considerably when Doyle did not play). Perhaps that speaks more to just how valuable Doyle is as a blocker, but there is something to be said about Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni continuing to tweak their offensive approach heading into 2019, which could very well include more opportunities to get both playmaking tight ends on the field at the same time.

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» Kent L. (Carmel, Ind.): “Andrew, Thanks for taking the time to answer questions. My question is about how the compensatory picks work? I keep reading we should be a getting a pick for WR Donte Moncrief leaving, that we are not getting anything for Frank Gore (Grant and he are a wash), but why are we getting anything for CB Rashaan Melvin.

Walker: Kent, I hate to give you a “roundabout” answer (get it? Because you’re from Carmel?), but I’m yet to find somebody who can give really solid insight into how the NFL determines compensatory draft picks. The best resource I’ve seen is OverTheCap.com, which offers this explanation.

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» Mitchell H. (Indianapolis):Everyone can agree that the Colts need a pass rusher. The NFL has shown that interior pressure is just as important as edge pressure. Arguably, the Colts need both. The question is if you are picking and you had your pick of equal players, one as a DE and one as a DT, which would you choose and why? Also, do you have a favorite, not necessarily the best, defensive lineman in the draft and what makes them your favorite?

Walker: Top-notch question, Mitchell. What’s interesting to me is the fact that Aaron Donald next Sunday is looking to become just the fourth player since 1982 (when it became an official NFL statistic) to lead the league in sacks and win the Super Bowl in the same season, joining Richard Dent (Chicago Bears, 1985), Lawrence Taylor (New York Giants, 1986) and Kevin Carter (St. Louis Rams, 1999). But if the Los Angeles Rams can top the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, Donald would be the first interior pass rusher on this list. So I’m not saying edge rush is automatically the answer over interior rush — I just wanted to provide a proper historical perspective. Personally, me and my beliefs, the answer is edge rush. I grew up watching Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis close out games by dominating off the edge, but perhaps the one major missing piece from those Colts defenses was a major force in the middle of that defensive line. Denico Autry and his 10.0 total sacks throughout the 2018 regular season and postseason, mostly from the interior, is good enough at the defensive tackle position; I’d go for more “oomph” off the edge, myself.

As for my favorite defensive lineman in the draft, I’ll say that my “evaluation” so far is pretty much limited to the research I did immediately leading up to and during this week’s Senior Bowl. But there’s nothing better than getting the chance to see these guys get after it in person, so saying that, my early personal favorite right now is Western Illinois defensive tackle Khalen Saunders. Despite being from a small school, Saunders had no issues matching up all week with the offensive linemen across from him who come from the bigger programs.

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» Rachel C. (Plymouth, Ind.):I am trying to play a surprise birthday celebration for my husband's 40th birthday. He is a MAJOR COLTS FAN! Do you know where the training camp will be held in August yet? His birthday is the 16th of August and I would love to take him to training camp. Thanks, Rachel

Walker: Rachel, are you telling me your husband doesn’t read the Colts Mailbag? Anyway, training camp will return to Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., for a second year in 2019. Good luck with your surprise!

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» Jake C. (Dallas):What’s the biggest thing you’re focusing on improving with your game this offseason?

Walker: Spelling, punctuation and grammar.

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» Michael A. (East Orange, N.J.):Hey andrew tell all the other scouts to overlook Montez sweat so we can get him plz I'll pay u

Walker: Deal. I’ll send you my Venmo information.

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» Brandon H. (East Oakland, Calif.):Do you think with the development Quincy has made that u go after a corner in the draft and is Nate Hairston in the dog house because his rookie season he was a surprising talent but now he doesn’t play

Walker: My overall thought about the cornerback position is this: regardless of who you currently have there, or who you might try to re-sign this offseason, the team didn’t use a single draft pick on the position a year ago, and other than bringing back Pierre Desir, there wasn’t much in the way of free agent action there, either. So I just think Chris Ballard and the Colts will have to seriously consider addressing the position at some point with one of their picks this year, or perhaps there’s a free agent or two they’ll have their eyes on. And I’d say because Kenny Moore II developed so well in that nickel cornerback role, and because Quincy Wilson started to become much more well-rounded on the outside, that the Colts just became much more comfortable the second half of the season with a primary cornerback trio consisting of Desir, Moore II and Wilson. Nate Hairston will get an opportunity to continue growing and earn a spot this offseason going into 2019, however.

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» Ronald H. (Indianapolis):Hey.. do u think Colts will play KC at season opener or during the season?? Will they play New England again next season?? If Colts and Adam Vinatieri decide resign, is it one or two or three years deal?? I know Colts fans want him back for sure?? Why not bring Jeff Saturday as offensive line coach?? It would be great!!

Walker: Ronald coming in hot with the questions! I happen to think a Colts-Chiefs season opener at Arrowhead Stadium in primetime would be one heck of a way to open up 2019, but the NFL schedule makers are yet to ask for my opinion, so stay tuned on that.

The Colts will not play the Patriots in the regular season in 2019, so if they do play, it would have to be in the postseason.

The Colts and Adam Vinatieri have agreed to terms on a new contract — those terms just haven’t been announced yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s another one-year deal, but we’ll have to wait until the contract is signed to really know for sure.

And Jeff Saturday as an offensive line coach would be awesome. But here’s the deal: Saturday is really enjoying himself as the head football coach at Hebron Christian Academy in Georgia, where he is getting the opportunity to influence a younger pool of players (and spend plenty of time with his family) while continuing to pursue his opportunities working on TV and radio. So he’d have to consider giving all of that up if he were to ever want to pursue being an NFL offensive line coach.

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» Robert E. (Tampa, Fla.):Andrew, Thanks for your work on the mailbag.

2 Questions:

1: During the KC game, at what point do you blame coaching for all the offsides penalties our D linemen had? I understand 1 or maybe 2 before saying something to the players, but having them do it 4-5 times makes me think the Defensive coaches were to blame in that weeks preparation. Do you agree?

2: I understand the approach Ballard uses for “locker room personalities” in Free agency, but at what point do you go into Win Now mode? Andrew Luck is turning 30 in the beginning of the season, with some serious past injuries under his belt. I intially didn’t like all the moves the rams made with their trades and high priced free agents, but it looks like the personalities didn’t affect them getting to the Super Bowl. What’s your thoughts?”

Walker: Robert, thanks for reading and for submitting some great questions.

The offsides penalties against the Chiefs in that Divisional Round loss were certainly frustrating (to say the least). But I look at this the same way I look at the issues the Colts’ wide receivers were having with drops around Weeks 4-6, and that is: the coaches can only do so much. Just like with the drops issues, where you can pepper your receivers with as many passes as possible during practice and ensure they’re hitting the JUGS machine for extra catches afterwards, the Colts’ defensive coaches assuredly prepared their players for the Chiefs’ tendencies as far as cadences and snap counts at the line. But jumping offsides, to me, is something that is really solely on the player. And what are you going to do during a playoff game, take out somebody as a punishment for jumping offsides? That’s not likely when you need your best personnel out on the field at all times. So, in this instance, in my opinion, the coaches aren’t really to blame. It was just an unfortunate development and something these guys will continue to work on.

And as for your “win-now” question, I give you this: Jared Goff is still on his rookie contract. That gives the Rams much more flexibility to spend money in other areas, and that’s exactly what they’ve done on the defensive side of the ball. What it comes down to, I guess, is the age-old question: would you rather have one guaranteed Super Bowl victory, or build your roster to compete for Super Bowl titles each and every season for the next few years? And the whole “Andrew Luck is turning 30” point, to me, is moot, considering what guys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers have been able to do as they hit their mid-30s and even into their 40s. With health — and, of course, if he wants to play that long — Luck could conceivably play another 10-plus years and still be just about as effective. So the Rams, yes, are in the Super Bowl, but the Colts were just two wins away from getting there, themselves. I think you continue building on the foundation already there and figure out how to get from good to great to have a shot at winning the title every season.

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» Tim H. (Lafayette, Ind.):Every year we have questions about FA and draft. Does it make a difference in age of players in FA. Chris talks about getting draft players and training them. Would a young player off first contract still be in this discussion? Even though they will cost more. We talk about our WR and other than Hilton and Inman we haven't seen much. Also people talk about our CBs. Do we really have much talent? I have heard maybe we won't sign Mitchell? Will his contract demands be out of reason for a few years. Thanks. Go Colts

Walker: Tim, I’ll address a couple points you made. A younger player coming off their first contract, actually, has been Chris Ballard’s M.O. when it comes to free agency so far in his first couple of seasons as the Colts’ general manager. Look at guys like Jabaal Sheard, Eric Ebron, Denico Autry, Ryan Grant and Margus Hunt, all of whom signed with the team in the last two years after spending their first four NFL seasons elsewhere. So I would say it’s a safe bet that trend will continue again going into 2019. And if the Colts want to re-sign Mike Mitchell, I don’t see his “contract demands” being too out of line considering the fact he’s turning 32 years old in June, and that while Mitchell played an important role as a veteran leader the second half of the season, he still was more of a piece of depth at the safety position when both Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker were healthy. Hope that all helps.

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» Jose B. (Winnsboro, S.C.):What college player is Indianapolis wanting to draft and why?

Walker: Well, actually, the team is yet to start building its draft board. With the Senior Bowl being played today, the personnel staff will all reconvene back at the Colts’ facility this upcoming week to spend about a week pouring over the 2018 season and what the team wants to do moving forward with its current players (and free agents to be), and then, the following week, they will begin almost three weeks of nothing but draft meetings, which is where the board is initially formed. So before I dive too deep into the pool of talent available in this year’s NFL Draft, I’m going to give myself a little more time to do a little research.

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» James C. (North West England):Hi all the way from England! Huge colts fan and need to say first how proud I am to be a fan of the team. Good to write to you Andrew I enjoy your work on Twitter too. My question is about the draft. WHY ARE PEOPLE CONSTANTLY MOCK DRAFTING A WR IN THE FIRST ROUND!!!!!!! We need to go defence first two picks surely???? One needs to be on a corner and the other needs to be on a Dlineman. I understand the need for a receiver who can catch however Cain comes back, resign Inman (who was a great pick up) and draft one with the other second round pick (one will be available). Luck can throw to just about anyone he’s that good so let’s take one of the Clemson lineman and then a corner (hopefully Byron Murphy is available). Let’s not forget we can go get a receiver in Free Agency too we have that much cash but we need to focus on defence in the draft for sure. Many thanks Andrew and GO COLTS (Darius Leonard for DROY and it’s not even close lol)

Walker: James, your passion for the Colts is awesome. Appreciate you following all the way in England. I’m sure your question about mock drafts is somewhat rhetorical, but those on the outside are looking at the Colts’ roster and their stats from 2018 and knowing that they need a No. 2 wide receiver to complement T.Y. Hilton. But I will say this, James: don’t just count out the possibility of the Colts taking a wideout at No. 26-overall in April. I watched three Senior Bowl practices this week in Mobile, Ala., where I came away impressed by probably four or five different wide receivers, each of whom brought a little something different to the table. Does that mean the Colts are interested in these guys, and they’re possible first-round targets? No, not necessarily. But just putting that out there. Considering the fact the Colts are picking at 26th, one would imagine that means Chris Ballard will be taking the best player available from their board, so positional fit might have little to do with the selection when all is said and done. And, yes, Darius Leonard is the clear DROY choice. Thanks for fighting the good fight.

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» Brett M. (Bushnell, Fla.):Andrew love your inside insights. Thanks. I might be fuzzy on this but I thought Matt Taylor started his assignment as the radio voice of the Colts as interim. Is that correct? Has he been made permanent? I haven’t seen anything about this subject. He has done a tremendous job this year, particularly as the youngest of his 31 other colleagues.

Walker: Thanks, Brett. So, yes, after starting as the “interim” Voice of the Colts back in August, Matt Taylor was officially handed the “full-time” reigns a couple weeks back. I couldn’t be happier for the guy, who is a good friend and one of the hardest-working individuals I have ever come across in any industry. He also happens to be a Cincinnati Reds fan, which works in his favor, too.

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» Al O. (Ocala, Fla.):I have been a Colts fan for 50 years and seen some amazing players each with different personalities. I guess I'm kind of old fashion, but do enjoy a certain amount of excitement after a good play or touch down. However sometimes I think the celebration goes a bit too far. Whatever happened to be penalized for "over" celebrating? I remember Vince Lombardi saying "if you score a touchdown act as if you have been there before". What's your opinion?

Walker: Al, there’s certainly nothing wrong with being old-fashioned. And many current players certainly still live up to the “act like you’ve been there before” approach when it comes to celebrations. But me, personally? I say have fun. Live it up. These guys are playing a game for a living, and thousands of fans are coming to the games and paying good money to be entertained. So entertain away. Now, if the celebration pushes the boundaries and ends up being costly for your team, then that’s not OK in my book. I’ll also say that I believe players should always keep in mind what the situation is on the scoreboard. But celebrating within the rules, however you want to do it, is fine to me.

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» Charlie S. (Miller, Mo.):My son and I live over 7 hours from Indy, but we traveled to almost every home game this year. We also were in KC for that game. I believe the acquisition of Dontrelle Inman was a major reason for the winning streak during the season and the win in the playoffs against Houston. Dontrelle made a spectacular catch in the KC game early - but then when we were so hoping for a Colts comeback, every time I looked for him - he was on the bench. TY was obviously hurt but I would not expect him to come out of the game. But Paschal and Rogers were getting all the snaps. Did Inman get hurt? I can't find any explanation as to why he did not finish that game. Can you fill me in?

Thanks!

Walker: Charlie, I’ve got to commend you. Some of my fondest memories are going to Reds games with my dad when I was a kid, and him passing his passion for the team on to me. So to see you doing the same with your son is just awesome, let alone the fact you’re seven-plus hours (!) from Indianapolis. Just terrific. And while I can’t give you a direct answer about Dontrelle Inman’s role in that Chiefs playoff game, I can tell you that Inman had been very limited the last few weeks of the season as he dealt with a shoulder injury. I can’t tell you that’s the reason for sure, but maybe that was a factor?

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