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Colts Mailbag - July 24, 2013

This week, mailbag readers ask about Andrew Luck and if he can have the same quick starts to seasons as Peyton Manning had, how the running backs, wide receivers and defensive line will shape up, along with the cornerbacks, and we reiterate the organization’s stance on behavior.


INDIANAPOLIS – Readers of 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.

DAVID H. (from Sebring, FL) I was flipping through Forbes and was very surprised to see they ranked Baltimore, Green Bay and Indianapolis as the most highly-valued NFL teams.  I thought it would have been Dallas with their billion dollar stadium.  It is great to know our team is worth its weight in gold and they're doing everything right to keep it that way.


A:  The reading in Forbes always is interesting.  Those of us who have been with the organization for years are pleased with how it has grown.  So much of that credit goes to Jim Irsay.  He is an outstanding steward for those who follow the team, and he takes great interest and care in maintaining every avenue of the operation on and off the field.  Though you aren't located near us, we are pleased that you feel so well about things.  We do set the bar high as an organization, and we're ready to get things started in camp in a couple of days.

CHUCK F. (from Ft. Wayne, IN) I am a return mail-bagger (LOL).  I am a father of two American soldiers!  Our oldest son has been in for ten years has earned a Purple Heart and is an Audie Murphy Award recipient!  He was raised a Colts fan, as was I.  As a parent, we understand that their pride in their work they don't want shown outwardly.  But I would like to do something special for him, Colts-related.  I will be going to training camp and I just got my ticket for the Bills game.  Any ideas?

A:  I want to commend you, your family and your sons for such wonderful service to our country.  You have every reason to be proud.  Your son who earned a Purple Heart and is an Audie Murphy Award recipient, in particular, should be cited.  All of us with the Colts have a deep regard for service personnel.  As you said, you'll be in training camp when it starts next week.  Do me a favor, look me up.  Have a security person on the field track me down.  I'll be in the media area.  I'd love to meet you.  Thank you for writing. 

WAYLON H. (from Kooskia, ID) Great piece on the linebackers, that should clear up a lot of people's understanding of the strength of the position.  I am back home and hear that the fans in Seattle think that they are louder than Colts fans.  Are we ready to challenge?

A:  I think the linebackers can be a really fun and productive group to watch.  As for any challenges with fans, I know the decibel level in Seattle can get up there.  Those are some great fans.  We have great fans, too.  With 87 straight sellouts and full houses in every game but one over the last 112 home dates, I'll stick with our fans.  No need to challenge the fans of anyone else.  Let's just challenge opponents on the field.

JOHN G. (from Centerville, IN) I'm looking for your thoughts on my feeling that Andrew (Luck) will show his genius by starting quick like Peyton Manning – by starting seasons going 6-0 or 7-0.  I feel he is so smart, it's going to take teams' defenses six or seven weeks to catch up (to him).  (I've) been a fan since a boy watching Jim Harbaugh.

A:  Whoa, calm down.  By watching the team for many years, I hope you grew to appreciate how special fast starts can be.  We were able to accomplish a number of them far more often than could ever be expected (4-0, 1996; 5-0, **2003 (see video)**; 13-0, **2005 (see video)**; 9-0, **2006 (see video)**; 7-0, 2007 (see video); 14-0, **2009 (see video)**).  When we went on a kick like that from 2005-07, we were the first franchise to do that since Green Bay did it around the 1929-31 seasons.  There's a reason it doesn't happen often – it's nearly impossible.  The fact we did that so frequently reflected more than the play of Peyton (though he was a ring-leader).  He often cautioned younger teammates who had done that in college and were doing that now in the NFL that it was not reality in this league.  Andrew is a marvelous talent, but don't measure him against great starts by another QB.  It's not an apples-to-apples comparison.  Defenses will have to contend with him.  Andrew stands every chance to have a wonderful career, but don't put a yardstick to him by remembering all those quick starts.  Of those great starts, we reached the Super Bowl in 2006 and 2009.  Andrew is one-for-one with his teams making the playoffs.  For now, feel good for that, and Andrew and the gang will focus only on going 1-0 when the season starts.  That's the only way to approach things.  

STEVE T. (from Indianapolis) How are we looking on the defensive line this year?

A:  We don't have a lineman under 300 pounds, so we're stout.  We have added components like Aubrayo Franklin and Ricky Jean Francois who are versed in our system from previous stops, and join Cory Redding as veteran players who have thrived in the system we have.  We have a great mixture of youth and experience (draft picks Montori Hughes (2013) and Josh Chapman (2012); Fili Moala, Drake Nevis, Ricardo Mathews, etc.).  I think we have the potential for a solid group.  Stocking the line was one of the off-season missions, and year two in our 3-4 should bear results.   

AUSTIN R. (from Fort Wayne, IN) Who's going to be our number one running back?

A:  Timely question with camp just ahead.  You're not far from us.  Hope you make it down to Anderson as we provide glimpses of our work in camp, but see below.

HUNTER W. (from New York) What will you guys be doing about the running back position this year and who will be replacing Austin Collie?

A:  We enter camp with a good situation at running back.  Vick Ballard was a real threat last year.  He should be able to build on that.  Ditton, Donald Brown.  I think he could be a great option in this offense, and I hope health stays on his side.  Ahmad Bradshaw's resume reads well, and he will be a person of interest in camp.  Long-time Colts fans have seen the days of Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James – workhorses who largely worked solo as ball-carriers.  Those days with us, and the league in general, have changed.  The committee approach is prevalent, and we have a good committee.  We also want to see something from Delone Carter, and how the roster is comprised of tight ends/fullbacks will be seen in the coming weeks.  As for replacing Austin, his injury last year was very tough for a great player, but it came early enough for the club to attack the issue.  We had a number of guys step up.  If you're referring to who the slot player will be, we'll see.

COLBY W. (from Martinsville, VA) With the arrival of Darrius Heyward-Bay, the presence of the great Reggie Wayne and T.Y Hilton and the chemistry of Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener formed in college the translated to the NFL, will we have potentially the best set of wide outs in the league?


A:  You cover a lot of ground, and we hope our defenders will have to do that this season with the passing game.  You never want to spit in the wind and claim you are loaded at any position.  Those things can change quickly.  Also, rating any roster group among those of other teams is a dicey thing to do, and it is based purely in opinion.  Do we have potential to be explosive?  Yep.  Let's hope potential turns into reality.  Jim Mora used to say, "Potential means you haven't done it yet."  The players you mention have 'done it,' but history counts for nothing at this point.  It could be a fun watch if we stay healthy and the players keep their heads on straight.

BRENT R. (from Westville, IN) I have more of a comment than a question, and I hope that maybe you can pass my concerns along, as many of my friends who are Colts fans feel the same.  My affinity for the Colts is not just geographical.  It is also rooted in the feeling that these Colts share my Midwestern values.  I've always felt that Jim Irsay has tried to do the right thing while still running a competitive business, and I applaud him for that because it is hard to do in this day and age.  My problem is with the rash of players this year getting into trouble, whether it is legal or NFL suspension-related.  In the past, the Colts seemed to have little patience for these things and as a result, we didn't have many players crossing that line.  It now feels like we're loosening the grip a little bit and at the same time, losing the Midwestern values that many of us identify with.  (We've had) three players in trouble in the span of a month.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

A:  It's unfortunate to have a repeat question like this in the mailbag, but we had another situation occur that the organization does not like.  I appreciate your compliments about how Jim Irsay has run the organization for years, and the Colts embrace the values you and many others hold.  I do want to assure you we have not let up one bit on what we expect from our players.  I know Chuck Pagano, Ryan Grigson and assistant coaches and our support staff (people like David Thornton) speak often to the players about program expectations and the big-time need to do the right things.  One instance is too many.  Three this off-season is beyond what we want.  I bet there will be some definite emphasis points driven home by Coach Pagano on Saturday when players arrive at training camp.  We have not loosened the reins, and we want to assure our fans and mailbag readers that we expect greatness from our players in every regard.  I am glad you wrote because it gives me a chance again to speak for the organization in which I have worked for 28 previous seasons.  We have had situations occur throughout the years.  I don't think any of our head coaches and general managers have escaped that.  It's not like we will "double-down" on our message because that insinuates we haven't been dutiful enough to this point.  We have.  We value tremendously winning games, but doing so the right way.  Thanks again for the chance to state our message, and thank you for your regular support and Midwestern values.  

BOB M. (from Milwaukee, WI) Lots of pre-camp/pre-season Colts hype these days, most of it about the familiar names.  How about some "inside stuff" for us, Josh Chapman, for example.  (Is he) healthy enough to be the brick he was for (Nick) Saban (at Alabama)?  That could be HUGE.  I thought Pat Angerer did a lot chasing as a rookie while he learned the position.  Now that he knows where to be, can he get there with the bad wheel?  And, please let Robert Mathis play with his hand on the ground.  We all know he's a beast – but not as a LB.  In golf they "drive for show but putt for dough." (Defense) is the putting, Andrew (Luck) will take care of the driving.

A:  Josh Chapman could be a pretty big story for us this year.  Jim Caldwell always used to say about Jerraud Powers that he "seemed beyond his years."  That's how Josh strikes me, and Ryan Grigson noted a year ago how often Josh was featured in pictures at Alabama holding the national championship trophy when his career ended.  The nose position will be huge in our defense.  There is no one working harder at returning to an impact level than Pat Angerer.  I have no inside scoop on him other than having seen him around here working hard daily.  We'll let camp answer that, but he's a pro's pro.  Point taken on Robert Mathis, but I think he can make some great contributions with how we have him lined up.  Remember Chuck Pagano's defensive pedigree.  He is about making every play possible as a defensive strategist.  You are right about the golf analogy.  Andrew will drive us, but I think our defense will have a great presence in 2013. 

DARRYL I. (from Port Perry (Ontario) Canada) (I was) just wondering what you think Bjoern Werner's impact will be this season.  I watch a lot of college football, and I saw him a lot at Florida State.  I think he will be a force on the pass rush.  Do you see him eventually overtaking (Erik) Walden?  Do you think Darrius Heyward-Bey will have a breakout season with us?

A:  I don't think any success Bjoern will have will come at Erik's expense.  I think we can be creative enough to feature all of our talents and as Bjoern learns the nuances of the game and gets his feet under him at this level, I think he can be a very good talent.  His drive and intellect are high, and he will be a great addition.  As for Darrius, why not?  I think he can.  He seems to really enjoy the organization and the culture in the locker room.  He has done fine so far, and it will pick up a notch here real soon.

*KEITH P. (from Bristol, CT) Why haven't the Colts picked up some of the cornerbacks on free agency (market)?  The Indianapolis cornerbacks corps are a little weak (my opinion).  There are some good corners left.  I think they should take a shot at them. *


A:  In unrestricted free agency, we signed Greg Toler.  We re-signed Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler during the off-season.  Last year, we traded to get Vontae Davis.  There are a number of other players from last year still in our pipeline, and we have 10 cornerbacks as we open camp this weekend.  I think we have covered a lot of ground in addressing matters on the corner.  Davis is bursting with talent, and still is quite youthful.  Toler had a great spring, and he could be in line for a very good season.  I don't know who you're referring to who are out there, but Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano have bolstered this area along with others.  I think you'll see that as we get going, and thanks for expressing your views.  That is exactly what this forum is for.

WAYNE M. (from Savannah, GA) I really like the additions this year.  We will be a lot deeper this season in many positions, but cornerback still has me worried.  Vontae Davis, Greg Toler and Darrius Butler are the only corners that I am really confident in.  I hope one of the CB's we picked up undrafted pans out.  I'm pushing for Dax Swanson to make this team.  What are your thoughts on Dax and how do you see the CB situation right now?

A:  We spoke just above in the mailbag about the position.  I think we have some capable veterans on hand, and Daxton is one of the young players making a push.  I think the secondary play will please fans this year.  Maybe Daxton is in the mix.  His career at Sam Houston State was pretty solid, and he seemed like a big-play type of corner.  He'll have chances in training camp to make an impact. 

JOE A. (from Zionsville, IN) Our grandson is an avid Colts fan at age 8 and is having a birthday July 27th.  We would like to buy him a membership in the Colts Kids Fan Club.  How do we sign him up?  Can he come to the training camp in Anderson to watch?  Please answer soon.  Thank you, Go Colts!!!

A:  Thanks for the note and call our office about the Colts Kids Fan Club.  You can be directed to the right person.  We hope it's a great birthday, and we hope to see you in camp.  Stay hydrated while watching practice and maybe your grandson can get an autograph when practices are over.  That's the best time for it to happen.  Our players are urged to accommodate fans daily at the end of practices.  Thanks for generational support of the Colts.

CHAD T. (from Indianapolis) I've noticed in recent years the Colts are always last team to report to camp.  Is that just a scheduling issue?  Does each team spend same amount of time in camp?

A:  Ever since the days of Tony Dungy, we've always been about the last team to go into camp, so, you're right.  Why?  Who knows?  When teams do go away from home, there is a great deal of negotiating that goes into it because you are on someone else's turf.  For us, it's Anderson University, and they must be able to maintain a course of normal business in addition to hosting us.  After Tony, we had Jim Caldwell and now Chuck Pagano.  The trend has just continued with them.  This year, we and Buffalo are the last teams to report, doing so on July 27.  There's a broad and hackneyed category called, "It is what it is."  I'll just go with that.  We're in camp for roughly the same duration as other teams.  The important thing is maximize the time you have there.  We always seem to do that.  Hope you visit us.

SCOTT B. (from Cincinnati, OH) In your article from 22 Jul 2013, you equate the size of the offensive line and their ability to run block.  This is a longstanding myth amongst media types around the NFL.  Some of the best rushing teams in the last 15 years had smaller than average offensive lines (Denver and San Francisco).  Being smaller ALSO is no help with run blocking.  What is helpful is explosive strength in drive blocking.  In theory, an already explosive run blocking lineman might be better if he increased his body mass in the form of muscle, but this is not always the case.  Often players are at their most explosive at a particular weight, and will become too slow or inflexible with increased mass.  When it comes to certain coaches preferring larger offensive lineman, this is usually more about scheme fit than a blanket declaration that larger is better.  There is one situation where the size of your lineman can be very important – pass blocking.  I could write this up a lot better than this, but I'm already starting to feel foolish to have wasted this much time on something that will be discarded.  If you truly care about knowing these things, I'd recommend tracking down a copy of "Finding the Winning Edge" by Bill Walsh and Brian Billick.  I am certain that both Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano have a copy (virtually every coach and GM has a copy).

A:  Scott, I am familiar with the book and have read parts of it.  Coaches Walsh and Billick both are gifted football minds, and I don't discount anything they would say and what you portrayed in your letter.  (Anecdote – I was the runner-up for a PR job with the 49ers in 1984.  I had breakfast with Walsh in 1989 when he was doing our Rams game for NBC, one of many of our games he ended up doing.  He remembered the instance and we had a great time going down memory lane.  **Mr. Walsh (see video)** was a classy guy.)   I have seen us thrive well as an organization for years with what many would call "undersized" players.  I did not like hearing the "soft" label thrown at us periodically, and we pointed to a lot of wins, a lot.  We do have a new era here.  We want to run the ball more effectively, though we were stronger last year than given credit for by some.  Our approach this year departs from the past, and there is more than one way to skin a cat.  It's what we'll do this year, and our fans should notice the size difference.  I hope it works.  Thanks for contributing to the mailbag.  I want this to be a legitimate visiting spot for readers, and you have helped with your contribution.  I hope you keep reading and contributing.  If you ever make it for a game here, let me know in advance.

TRAVIS H. (from Miledgeville, IL) Just have to say that I really enjoy the mailbag.  (It's) the first time I've ever wrote though.  I'm very excited about the upcoming season, can't wait.  It is the first year that I'm a season ticket holder.  Now a question, I'm getting married this year and I have the OK from the future wife for me and my groomsmen to wear Colts vests at the wedding. Just wondering if there is a company that produces Colts vest and ties and pocket squares?  I have a local lady who is willing to make them, but the only thing I have with that is that I can't find majority white Colts fabric.  She would like me to have mine majority white with the rest majority blue.  If there isn't a company that makes them, is there majority white fabric out there

A:  Thanks for the unique support.  Sounds like you have a great fiancée, and I wish you both many happy years together.  I must admit, you have me stumped.  I have no related experience on which to draw.  I've told readers I'd never snow them on X's-and-O's.  I'll adhere to that on this matter as well.

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