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:
» Drake T. (Bradbury, Calif.): “Could Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay be the next Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney duo? ”
Walker: Could Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay, like Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, rack up a whole bunch of sacks together over the next few years? Yes, I think that’s very possible — and, quite frankly, it’s expected. But if Lewis eventually develops more into the role that Colts general manager Chris Ballard envisions, then he’ll be mostly playing from an entirely different position than the likes of Turay, Mathis and Freeney, who are/were edge rushers. While Lewis mostly flourished off the edge at Ohio State, the Colts see him eventually becoming a dominant force at the three technique spot in the interior of the defensive line, which is a critical position in this 4-3 defensive attack. There, Lewis will be expected to not only win his matchups and get to the quarterback, but he’ll also be counted on to make a ton of plays against the run. We’ll see how the Colts utilize Lewis on Sunday in his NFL debut. As for Turay, the belief is he absolutely has the pass-rushing traits of a Mathis and a Freeney. He’s extremely quick off the snap and seems to have a natural ability to know where he is in his rush to find a path to the quarterback. He’s done a solid job in more of a reserve role to this point of his rookie season — his 17 total hurries are second most on the team, according to Pro Football Focus — so one can only imagine what Turay can do with more solid coaching (from Mathis himself) and, simply, more NFL experience.
» Rich B. (New Orleans): “Can the Colts get healthy over the bye for the most part? ”
Walker: Hey Rich, got some good news for you: yes, the bye week seemed to be very beneficial for this Colts team from a health standpoint. Now, you’ll almost never hear a team not say, “Our bye week came at a perfect time,” but by splitting the season right down the middle, the Colts’ bye week this season, matched with their injury situation, really was pretty ideal. On Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts should see the returns of wide receiver Ryan Grant (ankle) and safety Malik Hooker (hip), while defensive tackle/end Tyquan Lewis took advantage of some valuable extra time over the bye week to get his injured toe to 100 percent so that he could return from IR. There are still some guys banged up who won’t play against the Jaguars — tight end Ryan Hewitt (ankle), safety Mike Mitchell (calf) and tight end Erik Swoope (knee) — but, for the most part, the Colts are undoubtedly as healthy as they’ve been all year.
» Mike W. (Velpen, Ind.): “I know we have a hall of fame kicker in Adam V., and it seems that both sides of the ball are really coming together, do we take a kicker in next year's draft to give Adam a year to mold him into the type kicker he is for the future?”
Walker: Thanks for the question, Mike. And really, in today’s NFL, with each and every roster spot being so incredibly valuable, I don’t foresee the Colts ever using two spots on kickers. Same goes for draft capital: if you’re going to utilize a draft pick on a kicker or a punter, they better be far and away the best at their position in the college game; and, as far as I can tell, while it looks like there are some solid kickers who could enter the 2019 NFL Draft, it doesn’t seem like one is just significantly better than the rest and could be a mid- to late-round pick for a team like the Colts. Also, Adam Vinatieri is incredibly competitive, and while he has no issue at all helping groom younger kickers during the offseason and into training camp and the preseason, there’s a reason why he’s been kicking as long as he has been. He’ll know when it’s time to call it quits, but until that happens, he’ll be the lone kicker for this franchise.
» Douglas B. (Reynolds, Ind.): “Why don't you start Inman in place of Rodgers ?”
Walker: Douglas: Dontrelle Inman has actually started both games he’s played with the Colts at the wide receiver position opposite of T.Y. Hilton. In this offense, especially at the wide receiver position, it doesn’t really matter who “starts,” though, because the ball is spread out pretty evenly. Eight players have at least 10 receptions on the season, and five of them have at least 26. Also, Inman (outside) and Rogers (slot) primarily play different roles for this receiving group. One thing I’m interested in seeing is how the Colts will handle the return of wide receiver Ryan Grant, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury. “Yeah, it’s a real good situation,” head coach Frank Reich said on Friday. “Obviously, Ryan (Grant) is our guy but Dontrelle (Inman) had stepped in and played well. So we just anticipate rolling those guys through. It really affords us the luxury of Ryan doesn’t have to come back in and play 70 plays. We can just kind of mix it up and designate plays. That’s kind of how we roll anyway. So it’s kind of a nice deal.”
» Edward M. (El Paso, Texas): “After our bye week, I assume a majority of our players will be healthy to play. I don't see one team, of the teams remaining on our schedule, that we cannot deafeat. With our running/ passing game and our constantly improving defense, I see all wins. What are your thoughts? Confident, Ed (a fan since Johnny Unitas)”
Walker: Edward, I love your confidence. And if you’re a fan of the Colts since Johnny Unitas, you certainly have seen quite a few really, really good teams come and go, so I’ll trust your opinion on the matter at hand. The formula for success for the Colts the second half of the season seems simple, but it’s true: with five division games remaining, you have to take care of those games — especially the ones at home (vs. Jaguars and Titans), and then steal at least one, if not two, on the road. Then you have to take care of your remaining home games against non-divisional opponents (Dolphins, Cowboys, Giants). If the Colts do that, then they’re looking at eight or nine wins, which could very well set them up for a spot in the postseason. Now, this is me talking here. We all know how Reich and his staff have this “week-to-week” focus, so, for now, the only actual goal the team has is to beat the Jaguars on Sunday. But we’ll see how this one pans out — it should be a fun ride.”
» Ryan F. (Mishawaka, Ind.): “Will we ever make a move to help out Andrew and our offensive big time WR and RB?”
Walker: Ryan, let me get this straight: the Colts have run for 200-plus yards on the ground in consecutive weeks for the first time since the 1985 season (Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai or Frank Gore never did that), and we’re wondering if the team needs help at the running back position? In the words of Chris Ballard, “we’re always looking to get better,” but I think, for now, the team is very happy with not only the talent at the running back position, but the potential in its three young guys: Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins. The wide receiver position? Maybe that’s a different story, so we’ll see how Ballard and Co. attack that this next offseason. Don’t forget, though, Deon Cain should be back by the start of next season, so he could be a nice addition, and a guy like Reece Fountain keeps on developing on the practice squad and could also be a factor down the road. So there are some possible built-in options to add at that position, although the team could very well utilize free agency and the draft to add more talent and depth.
» Max C. (Camby, Ind.): “The colts offense has seem to be more in sync lately. Why and what do you think made this happen?”
Walker: Max, I think there are a couple primary factors at play here. In no particular order, I think the overall health of the Colts’ offensive unit is just much, much better. Slowly but surely, we’ve seen the return of several key players who have missed time — some who have missed significant time. I mean, look at these names: T.Y. Hilton, Anthony Castonzo, Jack Doyle and Marlon Mack. Starter, starter, starter, starter — all have returned to the lineup in the last two or three games. So that obviously plays a huge role. And then I think the cohesion of the offensive line the last two to three weeks just can’t be overlooked. When you’re creating clean pockets for the quarterback (no sacks allowed since the first series of the team’s Week 5 game against the New England Patriots) and you’re opening huge holes for the run game (two straight 200-yard rushing performances), then that generally translates into success, obviously. Those two factors, matched with an elite quarterback in Andrew Luck, some young pieces around him flashing their talent and making plays and some timely and creative play calls, and it’s no wonder why Indy has had such a potent offensive attack in recent weeks.
» Michael B. (Kokomo, Ind.): “Who was the most winningest coach in Indianapolis”
Walker: The answer to that question, Michael, is Hall of Famer Tony Dungy, who went 85-27 (.759) during his seven years as the Colts’ head coach from 2002 through 2008.
» Dav N. (Lawrenceville, Ga.): “What are we doing? Our players are ageing TY isn't getting any bigger faster or better. AC is getting older. Aren't you supposed to trade a year or two early? to get something good back of value. Why are we still holding on to Margus Hunt and AL Woods. Isn't this a business? Other teams are getting better and we are sitting still. I have been a Volts fan for 15 years and never seen us like this. So my question is when are the moves going to be made”
Walker: OK, Dav, what do you suggest the Colts do? Dump their entire roster and give up the rest of the season? A majority of moves are made in the offseason. This is the season. Chris Ballard is building something here — are you not satisfied with the 2018 draft class? — and the veterans that have stuck around are here for a reason. Maybe they won’t be here for the long haul (heck, maybe some will), but they’re playing important roles on this current team. I guess I don’t get the dire nature of your question(s).
» Kenisha J. (Macon, Ga.): “What are your plans for Andrew Luck next season?”
Walker: I can’t say I’ve seen the Colts’ 2019 master plan yet, but I’d guess the team’s plans for Andrew Luck next season are for him to be its starting quarterback.
» Joe W. (Horseheads, N.Y.): “Has Braden Smith won the starting RT job?”
Walker: Hey Joe (great Jimi Hendrix song, by the way), I think it’s fair to say Braden Smith has won the starting right tackle job. Unfortunate circumstances led to him getting the chance to start, but he’s taken the opportunity and run with it. He’ll have his issues, just like any other rookie, but the team is very, very happy with the way Smith has blossomed a bit at a major position of need so far.
» Zack C. (San Diego): “Mo! One of the best catches this my dude! Keep it up! Anyway, I am pretty sure Ray Lewis got into a time machine back in 2000, time traveled to 2014 to play 4 years of college ball at SC State under the assumed name "Darius Leonard" who is now a rookie MLB for the Colts. Would you care to comment?”
Walker: Sure, Zack, I’d love to comment. I mean it is the Colts.com Mailbag.
On Mo Alie-Cox’s one-handed touchdown grab against the Raiders: rarely does something cause me to jump out of my seat in the press box during games. Robert Griffin III had a couple of those moments back in 2012 when I worked for the Redskins, but that’s been about it. But I can certainly add Alie-Cox’s catch to that list. It was spectacular. And, perhaps because it was a guy like Alie-Cox who is so new to the game of football in general, the surprise factor likely played a major role in my reaction, as well. Kudos to a guy taking advantage of his opportunities.
As for the Ray Lewis/Darius Leonard remark: I’ve never really been one to heap those kinds of comparisons on a young player. I think you can oftentimes set a guy up to fail if you compare him to one of the best to ever play the game. I thought the same thing when Malik Hooker was being compared to Ed Reed coming out of Ohio State last season. Why can’t these guys forge their own career paths? But I think I definitely get the spirit of your enthusiasm, which is very understandable. I’ve been fortunate to be around some pretty good rookies during my time covering the NFL, and what Darius Leonard has been able to do the first half of this season has been better than all of them. He not only is a tackling machine, but he seemingly makes at least one high-impact play each and every week. That’s what I think sets him apart from the rest of what’s been a really good rookie class to be the leading candidate for the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award.