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:
» Jim H. (Indianapolis): “As much as Mike Mitchell taught the young db's, wouldn't you think the Colts should give him a chance to have a full season with them? I know he wants a big contract, but he's certainly earned it. Plus a high character guy.”
Walker: You know what? This is like the third time I’ve heard someone say that Mike Mitchell “wants a big contract,” and, to my knowledge, that isn’t necessarily the case. Sure, every player wants to maximize their earnings, but Mitchell in June is turning 32 years old, and 2019 would be his 11th NFL season. Guys at that age who are not necessarily guaranteed starters simply just don’t typically command big contracts. For that very reason, however, I would definitely explore the possibility of bringing Mitchell back to the Colts for this upcoming season. Mitchell proved to be very valuable on the field as a spot starter, with Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers each dealing with various injuries throughout the year, but his value as a veteran off the field — in the locker room, in the meeting room, etc. — is perhaps even greater. So, to me, while there is no reason not to explore other options at the safety position, either through free agency or the draft, Mitchell would be a perfect player to bring in for the offseason and into training camp and the preseason, letting him continue to rub off on the younger players, and then see if he can compete for a spot on the final 53-man roster come September. We’ll see how it plays out.
» Michael C. (Lenexa, Kan.): “How do we plan to our defensive line,especially when it comes to stopping the run?”
Walker: Not sure what you’re getting at, Michael, considering the Colts in 2018 had one of the best run defenses in the entire National Football League. Indy allowed 101.6 rushing yards per game, which ranked eighth in the league, while its 3.9 yards-per-carry-allowed average ranked sixth. If you’ll recall, the Colts didn’t allow a single 100-yard rusher the entire regular season, a streak that extended into their Wild Card Round victory against the Houston Texans. So, to me, any changes made to the defensive line this offseason and heading into 2019 will just be (or should be) gravy when it comes to the Colts’ run defense.
» Keenyn L. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada): “How would describe coach Mudd for new fans? What does this mean for the Oline?”
Walker: Let me tell you: I was absolutely pumped when I was driving into work the other morning and learned that Howard Mudd was being brought back to the Colts’ coaching staff. Not only will Mudd be a tremendous asset to new offensive line coach Chris Strausser and assistant O-line coach Klayton Adams, but his knowledge and experience with various offensive approaches in general will be huge for Frank Reich’s entire staff. To put it in perspective, while many people had their hand in the great Colts offenses of the first decade of the 2000s, three men, perhaps more than any others, were largely responsible for their success: quarterback Peyton Manning, offensive coordinator Tom Moore and Mudd. Colts.com’s Matt Taylor this week actually caught up with former Colts offensive lineman Ryan Diem, who played for Mudd for nine seasons and gave this perspective on his former offensive line coach:
“Back in our prime — you know, the 2000s — Howard, Tom Moore (and) Peyton Manning were essentially our kind of trifecta of offensive coordinators. I mean, they essentially worked together on the gameplan every single day of every single week. And Howard and Tom got along great, and just their understanding of each others knowledge, and obviously Peyton’s ability to (translate it to the game), really made us a pretty powerful force offensively. So that’s kind of where I assume Howard’s going to fit in, just as kind of an offensive consultant who’s got a ton of experience with different systems, and just his vision of defenses and how to attack them, should really add to the Colts offense. … I think its just his experience and his depth of knowledge. He will most certainly bring a lot of that to the table. He’s a guy who’s been around the NFL for, gosh, he’s got to be going on 50 years now. As a player, as a coach, as a consultant, he has been around the league a long time. He knows how to work with players, he knows how to fit in with the staff and he certainly has such a great knowledge of the game. He’ll be able to add a lot to Frank’s offense and just maybe see little nuances here and there that they can tweak or change or do a little bit differently to throw off the defense.”
» Gary C. (Franklin, Ind.): “I have a simple question as a BIG TIME FAVOR
PlLEASE SINCE i’m A AVID DIE HARD #1 COLTS FAN OK, ALL I WANTED TO DO IS WELCOME HOWARD MUDD BACK WHERE HE’s BELONG BACK TO HOME SWEET HOME IN INDIANAPOLIS INDIANA PLEASE.”
Walker: Great timing, Gary. Happy to oblige.
» Alex G. (Osgood, Ind.): “Hello Andrew. I have thoroughly enjoyed your writing on Colts.com as well as the mail bag. I have posted a couple questions on the mailbag in the past although I have to admit it’s been a while since posting my last question. First off, congratulations to Andrew luck and Darius Leonard for receiving well-deserved award’s this evening although I wish Frank Reich would have been named Coach of the year. I think this is indicative of the bright future our young team has moving forward and it will be great to believe we can win year in and year out again. With the newly minted AAF (Alliance of American Football) set to kick off it’s season next weekend, what are your thoughts in regards to Chris Ballard and his staff utilizing the new league to find and scout talent In addition to free agency and the NFL draft process? My final question is about Edgerrin James coming up just short in his third bid to make the Pro football Hall of Fame. Even if he fell just short next season, how about a Hall of Fame class consisting of Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James in 2021 much like Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison being inducted in 2016? ”
Walker: Thanks for continuing to read and for submitting your questions, Alex. As for the Alliance of American Football, I do think this will be an opportunity for all 32 NFL teams to get a look at a “minor league” of sorts just as their own offseasons are just getting underway. There’s usually no better way to evaluate a player than in real game settings, which is what the AAF is obviously providing. The feeling I’m getting is the AAF and the NFL have had, in general, a pretty good working relationship so far, and already several players taken by AAF teams have been plucked by NFL franchises (Josh Johnson, who filled in at quarterback down the stretch for the Washington Redskins in 2018, immediately comes to mind). The challenge for the AAF is maintaining a quality product on the field so that it can keep drawing eyeballs from fans and sponsors alike; we’ll see if it can get that done.
As for Edgerrin James and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I really think that 2020, or next year’s class, is his best shot for a while. Outside of Pittsburgh Steelers legendary safety Troy Polamalu and, of course, Colts legend Reggie Wayne, there really aren’t any notable first-ballot guys next year, so that alone helps bump up James, who this year was a finalist for the third time in four years, and advanced to the final round of 10 for the first time ever. The Class of 2021 that you mentioned, meanwhile, will be extremely difficult to get into due to the clear-cut first-ballot guys that year like Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson. James is very deserving to be in, and I very much hope that he gets the call at this time next year.
» Bill V. (Rohnert Park, Calif.): “What did the Colts get from the Patriots when they traded Dwayne Allen to them.”
Walker: You know what, Bill? Nat Newell of The Indianapolis Star actually just recently did a little bit of a deep dive into this trade, specifically, which you can find by clicking here. Basically, the backstory is Chris Ballard has just been hired as the Colts’ general manager, and one of his first moves is to sign Jack Doyle to a decent contract extension to essentially make him the team’s No. 1 tight end. Ballard could then save money and cap space by trading Dwayne Allen, who had signed a reported four-year, $29 million deal the previous year, but Indy could also get a decent draft pick in return. So the Colts sent Allen and a 2017 sixth-round pick to the Patriots for a 2017 fourth-round pick. Indy would end up using that fourth-round pick on tackle Zach Banner, but he was waived during final cuts heading into the regular season. Banner has since spent time with the Cleveland Browns and the Carolina Panthers before being signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ active roster last August, which is where he remains. But I suggest reading Newell’s piece to check out the deep dive he does tracking what happened to the two draft picks involved in this deal, specifically.
» Marvin R. (Necedah, Wisc.): “Thanks for your fine job of keeping us fans up on things. I see that Christianson is no longer the QB's coach. Why? Marv”
Walker: Marv, thanks for the kind words. And please don’t take offense, as this is not intending to sound rude, but it’s been a minute since Clyde Christensen was the Colts’ quarterbacks coach. His last year in that role in Indy was 2015. Since that time, Brian Schottenheimer spent the 2016 and 2017 season in that role with the Colts, and in 2018, with former NFL quarterback Frank Reich brought on as the team’s head coach, he hired Marcus Brady as assistant quarterbacks coach. Just this week, however, Brady was promoted and the “assistant” part of his title was removed. Christensen, meanwhile, spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons as the Miami Dolphins’ offensive coordinator before taking on a new role as Miami’s Director of Football & Player Development in 2018. He was just recently hired on as Bruce Arians’ new quarterbacks coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
» H.J. C. (Norfolk, Va.): “Thanks 🙏 for taking my question all the way on east coast my brother. I have read your mailbag a lot,and you really do a great job of answering all the questions. I look at how the patriots run the ball 🏈 and run blocking scemes with Gronk in the backfield blocking.Our offensive coordinator Siriani ever consider that element to our run 🏃 game with Mack and the other Colts running backs?We talk so much about our offensive line improvements this season?What happened to our run game,and most of all our dicipline in K.C.playoff game?Your Thoughts? I will right again 👍Thanks a lot.Take care my brother 👍🏈👍🏈”
Walker: Thank you kindly, H.J. Let me just say this about the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs: I chalk it up to simply just a bad game. The Chiefs executed and the Colts didn’t. Sometimes, there’s not much else you can say other than that. Had Indy not gotten off to such a slow start and found itself down by double digits so early, then the run game very well could’ve been utilized much, much more. But that wasn’t the case. How quickly we forget: the Colts were coming off a performance in which they ran for a franchise playoff record 200 rushing yards against the Houston Texans, who had arguably the best rush defense in the NFL during the regular season. So I think the Indy run game, with good health, will be just fine moving forward. Chris Ballard has indicated he likes the pieces he currently has at the position, so there might not be a whole lot of moving and shaking on the depth chart from year to year, but Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni will use this time of the year to make adjustments to their approaches and see where it takes them in 2019.
» Dan B. (Richville, N.Y.): “Andrew Walker What would you think of a trade Landon Collins for Jacoby Brissett”
Walker: Dan B.: it ain’t happening. Landon Collins is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins at 4 p.m. March 13. So unless the New York Giants decide to sign Collins to a long-term deal with the intention of then trading him to the Colts for Brissett in the next month or so, you don’t have to worry about this scenario ever playing out. I like your creativity, though.
» Richie P. (Winnemucca, Nev.): “How does the whole team feel about making it so far and even though you guys lost and made it to the pro bowl.”
Walker: The 2018 season was a special one for the Colts — no doubt about it. It had such a rocky start with Josh McDaniels backing out to be the team’s head coach in early-February, but it’s so obvious now why Frank Reich was the right man for the job all along. Reich’s control of the team, matched with Chris Ballard’s control of the roster, seem like it could be a terrific duo for years. To go from a 1-5 start to 10-6 and a first playoff appearance in four seasons? Magical. To see Andrew Luck come all the way back and play like an MVP candidate once again? Terrific. To have two rookies, Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson, named First-Team All-Pro? Special. But, to me, the page has been officially turned. The most relevant part of your question, Richie, is the “even though you guys lost” part. This franchise is not satisfied at all. Not one bit. The single-season turnaround from 4-12 to 10-6 is great, don’t get me wrong, but this thing is being built for championships, and that’s the only satisfactory end result. Team owner Jim Irsay put it all out there recently on Twitter, in fact: