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Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag - March 5, 2014 (Part Two)

This week, mailbag readers ask or talk about the possible return of blue facemasks, if Bjoern Werner is suited for a position change, how the club will proceed in free agency, how the team looks to improve its defense, if the “stretch” play could return to the offense, on Andrew Luck and how he will handle the mental side of playoff competition, who the club intends to target around the league in free agency, if getting more draft picks is possible, Deion Branch and if a WR will be targeted in the draft or free agency and how to compete in the AFC South. This is part two of two. Check for the first half of the mailbag.





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.  Please make an effort to be concise when submitting a question.

CLAYTON L. (from Melbourne, Australia) After two straight seasons 11-5 seasons, do you think Andrew Luck will really understand what it takes to become like a Tom Brady?  Tom was exceptional in his first five years, and that is where he won his Super Bowls.  As much as I idolize Peyton, he didn't capitalize on all those playoff appearances.  This year Andrew needs to put the team on his back and get to the ultimate stage.  If he doesn't, it may psychologically stunt his opportunity at greatness.

A:  Andrew is fully aware of what it takes to win, and he's uniquely gifted to do so.  The numbers he's accomplished – the most yards and fifth-most TD passes in the first two seasons of a career since 1970 – have resulted in 22 wins, and only one QB since 1950 has won more than Andrew in the first two years of a career.  To think he is lacking anything is erroneous.  To think he can put more on his shoulders, it's not possible.  Tom Brady was very talented at his outset, too, and he had some pretty complete teams with which he played.  We're striving to have the same model (see the 2004 Patriots), and Andrew is the one to help drive it.  We all wish our previous run from 1999-2010 included more titles, but it didn't.  Still, one title is more than some achieve and outside of 2001, we were playoff-relevant annually – something a lot of teams can't say.  That we didn't win more than one Super Bowl is not an indictment of Peyton or any individual player (**click here for SB-winning season**).  We'll take our shots again, and Andrew is wired physically and emotionally for that grind.  You have no worries about his ability to compete and handle all rigors that come his way.  A playoff setback is rough, but it would not stunt him in any regard.

RYAN J. (from Indianapolis) How do the Colts intend to compete with the Texans, Jacksonville and Titans?   They are going to have new coaches and players.

A:  We've been 10-2 in the division the last two years, including 6-0 last year – the third time we went unbeaten in AFC South play.  As you said, there are changes.  Jacksonville changed its head coach and GM a year ago, so we have a bit of feel for them.  Tennessee and Houston changed coaches this year but retained its GMs.  We're curious the draft/free agency directions everyone will take so we will know how to start approaching 2014.  You could be looking at a new QB or two in the division with Houston drafting first, Jacksonville third and Tennessee 11th.  Should they go in that direction or draft to counteract us will be **very interesting (click and see)**.  As for us, we should focus on being the best we can at what we do.  We've proven to be a handful in the division.  We're one of only seven NFL teams to make the playoffs each of the last two seasons.  When you consider 14-of-24 playoff spots have been taken by the same teams, it's impressive.  We know the best way to keep that going is to beat the division.  Chuck is the dean of its coaches.  We're in year three of our program.  Amazingly, that leads the pack in the South, and we aim to keep leading it.

SAMUEL J. (from Santa Claus, IN) I have a couple of players I have questions about.  I looked at Cassius Vaughn and saw how productive he was compared to Vontae Davis.  Also, Deion Branch.  He used to be a Patriot and was signed after several receivers went down.  Do the Colts have any interest in re-signing them (Branch and Davis).

A:  Cassius did a very good job for us last year, and he and Darius Butler were able to split starting time opposite Vontae when Greg Toler was hurt.  Cassius is a heady guy, and we'll have to see what the plans are for him going forward.  Right now, though, it seems like Vontae is the top priority for us (not to the franchise tag level) in free agency, and he could really be hitting his stride this year.  We paid a good price for him in 2012, and his play is key to our growth.  As for Deion, a number of people join you in asking about him.  He's local and has been very productive for years.  It remains to be seen if he is part of our plan.  We'll find out answers on him pretty soon.

LAURENCE B. (from Texas) Do you think the Colts would ever consider using Bjoern Werner at DE?  When do you think Daniel Adongo will be ready to play?

A:  We want to see some physical maturation from Bjoern, and that typically happens with a young player.  You saw some bursts from him last year, and I think the coaches have him where they're comfortable having him.  I wouldn't rule anything out, but I wouldn't look for it.  As far as Daniel goes, he filled out nicely last year (an addition of 30 pounds of good weight to 270) and was able to get on the field for special teams.  He'll be poised for more contributions this year and like a number of players, spring and summer work could reap dividends.  The game should be a little more natural to Daniel.  Bjoern and Daniel will get their share of attention this year, and it will be fun to see them grow.  I think they'll please people just on the basis of their intelligence and ethic.

GEORGE K. (from Saddle River, NJ) I started to follow the Colts in my early childhood shortly after 'The Greatest Game Ever Played' (in 1958).  I was fortunate to attend both AFC Championship games we won in Indianapolis but unfortunately sat in the rain during the recent defeat in New England.  Over the years the biggest change is the game is not just a sport.  It is now truly a business.  Arguably, the Colts have had the greatest QBs in the game, and I do believe that Andrew will continue that legacy.  The simple fact is no matter how good your QB is, the game is won or lost on the scrimmage line.  I continue to be so encouraged with the selection of Ryan Grigson.  I am convinced that in time his first draft will go down as one of the best ever.  I do believe that bringing in Trent Richardson was right, given the fact that Vick Ballard went down.  Hopefully, Trent will prove his critics wrong.  Ryan's second draft was not nearly as impressive as the first, but I will not be too quick to judge. Where I am concerned is what he did in the FA market.  We spent a significant amount of money, but we really did not land an impact player.  Where I thought Grigson could make a difference in building an offensive line, we fell short.  I know that Donald Thomas went down but we still under-achieved.  We have close to $40 million in cap money.  I understand we need to be prudent, (but) we have money to work with and the time is now.  The fact we are not drafting until late in the second round gives us all the more reason to use that money.  I am not nearly as concerned with the WR position as others.  A priority is to sign Davis and Bethea, but I do hope Ryan makes a concentrated effort to improve the interior OL, and what better way than to pursue Alex Mack?  I know how one can be second-guessed on decisions. Those who criticize typically don't have all the facts.  I choose not to second-guess Ryan for the FA signings in his second year.  Now that he has seen first-hand where we faltered, I hope that he aggressively addresses those areas.

A:  Thanks for a lengthy letter I had to edit down and for the many years of support.  **You’re a true fan with a lifetime of memories (click here)**.  Thanks also for tactfully laying out your case.  Ryan has done a tremendous job in a short time.  The fact we've won 23 games with an almost totally-restructured program is something every Colts fan appreciates.  Where we drafted (near the top of each round and at certain positions) his first year provided a chance for a quick impact, and the contributions that class made were used sometimes to gauge last year's bunch.  That's not an accurate barometer.  Over time, I think they'll be fine, too, and you really wouldn't have expected the same type of impact from a rookie class in year two of a program.  Ryan and Chuck Pagano have done a great job in free agency getting players who buy into the system.  I don't share the same feelings of underachievement as you do for last year's FA class.  I think we did well enough, and I think people will see it this year in the play of many of those guys.  I think so in Erik Walden in particular, and I bet we can get big things from a couple of others.  If Ryan shares the same sentiment as you and others about the offensive line, he will act.  We certainly will see in the coming days.  We're not saying we won't be active in free agency, but I don't think you'll see the quantity of activity as last year.  In no way have we reduced our focus to win.  Our bar is set high, and I'm sure you and all Colts fans know that.  I know you'll stay tuned in.  Again, thanks for writing.  Sorry I had to edit your question down.  In forums like this, brevity is beautiful (others can take note, too).  I look forward to your next letter.  Don't take so long.


DAVID H. (from Louisville, IL) I read the Colts are interested in Eric Decker for the right price.  Is there a plan on what they will do with DHB, such as not re-signing him since he didn't pan out as thought?  Will Deion Branch be back next season (alongside) Reggie and T.Y.?**

A:  What you likely read was a story done by a writer covering the team.   We have not made any public comments to this point on our direction, though our plans are in place when free agency heats up next week.  DHB didn't have the type of season offensively that he would have wished, but he did make some in-roads on special teams – a very unselfish move for a team he enjoyed playing with.  We'll have to see what the future holds for him, and for Deion.  Again, we'll know more shortly.

* *

GILBERT M. (from Salt Lake City, UT) NFL free agents, are they worth the cost?  Bill Walsh once said, "I would rather sign 20 college players than two FAs."  Can the Colts trade for more draft picks?  Sign more college players after the seventh round?

A:  It's hard to refute anything Bill Walsh said.  The word 'brilliant' is over-used, but not as it related to him.  Walsh was like many others (Ryan Grigson included) who know an organization's true lifeblood is the draft.  It's the best way to develop players and likely have them play the duration of a contract.  Free agency shopping can be a viable supplement, and we've benefited from it before.  It's better in a few regards to hit on younger guys and watch them grow.  The Colts historically have been a team that has prospered with young talent gleaned after the draft.  Some of our biggest names – Mike Vanderjagt, Jeff Saturday, Melvin Bullitt, Gary Brackett – came that way, and there are a number of them on hand now who can continue that heritage.  We have five picks this year.  While it's possible that could grow, you never know.  You do know we'll keep our eyes peeled for every avenue to land a player.  Count on it.  Ryan Grigson rarely sleeps.

CHRIS M. (from Sioux Falls, SD) With commentators talking about the Colts making another big splash in free agency this year, at first I was against doing that but now its warming up to me.  In your eyes what do you think about Eric Decker, Jonathon Martin and Alterraun Verner?  We need a good solid WR with Reggie getting close to retirement.  Also, Martin could be solid playing on the O-line that has struggled for the past few years.  Verner is a solid corner which we need due to some injuries to Toler and Davis.  It's always good to have a backup plan.

A:  I would not look for as big a splash as 2013, and don't believe everything you hear.  There is a great amount of chatter this time of year.  None of it truly is informed, and some of it grossly is misinformed.  As for any comments on possible free agents, I'll wait, plus Jonathan Martin is under contract.  We've talked about WRs earlier in the mailbag.  We think Reggie will be back full force, and we do have some talent on hand.  Vontae was able to start every game last year, and Greg made an impact when he was healthy.  Let's hope those corners are intact this year.  That may be the plan.  If not, Ryan and Chuck are at the controls.

MICHAEL L. (from Columbus, IN) I know the Colts will save money for 2015, but I would bet it'd be hard not to sign a top player that we could use.  I wish the Colts would go after Jimmy Graham.  With Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and him, it gets you excited!  We have the money.  Either that or (teaming) Demarcus Ware with Robert Mathis.  I say show him the money!!  We need help on the D-line and also sign Eric Decker, because we don't know if Reggie Wayne will even be the same.  If you could pick a couple players out of FA to sign cheap but good, who are they?

A:  You have quite a shopping list, and I feel for Santa and your family around Christmas time.  You made the rounds at almost every position with your letter.  I'll just let it stand as it is.  I think we'll show a little more restraint than you've outlined, and I'll let Chuck's and Ryan's lead suffice for my remarks.  I'm having fun with you.  I hope you know that, but it sounds like you've watched **Jerry Maguire a few too many times (click here)**.  Remember, this ain't Hollywood or Fantasy Football.  We have to stick with a plan.  It's always good to hear from you, so keep it up.

ALEX M. (from Tri Cities, WA) Do you think that we will offer Alex Mack a contract even though he has been transition tagged and if we do, would we add a poison pill to it?  I remember the Seahawks and Vikings doing that to each other with Steve Hutchinson and Nate Burleson.  I personally would love to see Mack with a horseshoe, and I strongly believe that Luck, Richardson, Chudzinski and ALL of us fans at home would love it if we acquired Mack.

A:  Thanks for making your feelings known, and we'll let our actions speak instead.  As for the matter you detailed from 2006 with Seattle and Minnesota, the process has evolved since then.  With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011, the "poison pill" no longer is permissible.  There's nothing like history being a teacher.

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