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:
» Doug S. (Shingle Springs, Calif.): “Hello Andrew, Being a displaced Colts fan And past season ticket owner until 2003 when made a move to Denver, moved again before the Payton years, I have always been a Colts fan even here in central California and enjoy your insight and expertise in answering all our questions. Question: Will Wilson (cb) become the every down back or a work in progress? Sophomore year was good in a new system I understand, defense is tough, would like a complete grade on all db’s as individuals and in 1st, 2nd, 3rd down stats. Going forward my non-existent vote is 1st round corner in draft and unless a DE MVP is available in the free agency I also vote no on spending much in FA. Two years our FA’s will need the love and money ...thanks again- Doug”
Walker: Doug, thanks for your continued fandom and support. I think the Colts hit on something the second half of the season with Quincy Wilson, who found success in sort of a hybrid cornerback-safety-linebacker role. Now, don’t get things confused: Wilson’s best position is still cornerback, and he’ll compete once again for a starting job this offseason and into the regular season. But by showing off some versatility, and having some success with it, Wilson could be a nifty little weapon in Matt Eberflus’ defensive subpackages — the kind of stuff you throw at an offense two, three times a game to really try to confuse the opposition. But before I really take a deep dive into the cornerback situation, I’m going to let free agency and the draft have their effect on the roster, because you know Wilson’s going to be back, you know Kenny Moore II and Nate Hairston are going to be back, but will the team try to bring back Pierre Desir? Can Jalen Collins get into the fold this offseason? Unlike last offseason, will the team select a defensive back somewhere in the draft? Will the team strike on a free agency possibility at the position that it just couldn’t resist? Still way too many questions to be answered here.
» Lorenzo B. (Atlanta): “Hey Andrew thank you guys for all the hard work you do...My question is due to marlon mack injury history do you thank the organization see him as a number one back?”
Walker: Hardly workin’ over here, but I’ll pass your kind words along. The short answer to your question: yes, the Colts consider Marlon Mack a No. 1 running back. And, yes, he’s been banged up from time to time in his first couple seasons in the NFL, but consider this: Mack played through a torn labrum in his shoulder his entire rookie season with the Colts, and then, after missing four of the first five games of the 2018 season, Mack was able to close out the year as the team’s top back in its final 13 games, including the playoffs. Stretched out over a whole season, Mack’s production in 2018 wouldn’ve netted him almost 1,260 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground — those sound like No. 1 numbers to me.
» Scott A. (Orlando, Fla.): “HUGE Colts fan here from FL! Do you think Jacoby could be used as position trade in the first roundof the draft? Somebody that needs a QB but still wants to keep a first round pick but at a lower position? I don’t see a ton of talent coming out in QB. I would like to see us do this to get a stellar EDGE like Josh Allen. I know that’s a stretch but I’m a UK fan as well and would love to seen him as a Colt! Also heard rumors we might go for Snell later, thoughts?”
Walker: I’d be shocked if Jacoby Brissett netted a first-round pick in a trade. As I’ve alluded to in a recent Mailbag, take this into consideration: the Philadelphia Eagles were said to be shopping Nick Foles — the quarterback that won them the Super Bowl, if you remember — for a third-round pick. The Baltimore Ravens, meanwhile, are reportedly going to send Joe Flacco — another Super Bowl-winning quarterback, albeit with less success recently — to the Denver Broncos for a fourth-round pick. Jacoby Brissett is a very talented quarterback, and a terrific teammate to have in the locker room, but he really has just about one year of starting experience in the NFL, which shies in comparison to guys like Foles and Flacco. My logic tells me that a team needing a quarterback would probably rather use their first-round pick on a player at that position and let him develop at a relatively cheap rate over the course of his first contract, instead of trading their first-round pick for a quarterback like Jacoby who will be in a contract year in 2019. And while Chris Ballard has said the team really liked what it got out of the running back position in 2018 — particularly with Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins — I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the team grabbed another back in the later rounds to add competition to the room. I just don’t know if a player like Benny Snell Jr. will still be around at that point?
» Paul S. (Carmel, Ind.): “Colts”
Walker: Darn tootin’.
» Jeremy C. (Beaverton, Ore.): “First things first. Hello and thank you for the mailbag, I enjoy your insight on some questions that dont get asked enough. I sent a few letters last season about concerns with our running game, d-line and our safeties. I have since realized, eventhough Mack is not a top tier power back, his tallents make up for not desperately needing a P-back. My concern on offense is probably over zealous, but with the upgrade on the o-line last season, I still feel like our tackles are the weak point on that group. Do you see any other attempts at more o-line in this draft? Realating to the d-line and the draft class full of them, we may need to find a gem again or do you think Ballard will switch and trade up for one, because I don't foresee any d-line, better than what we have, making it to the end of the first round. As far as our safeties go.... I'm not sure if still being injured played into both of our safeties looking very slow on the field. If it wasn't injury, then is there a top teir safety who could slip to us in the rounds? Thank you, Bleeding blue since birth ”
Walker: Thanks for the kind words and for your questions, Jeremy. As it pertains to the team’s tackle position, I’d say we’re probably getting a little nitpicky. That’s not to say the team doesn’t have its weaker points, and that Chris Ballard and his staff, as well as Frank Reich and his staff, aren’t working to fix them. But a lot of teams would love to have guys like Anthony Castonzo and Braden Smith starting for them on the edge of their offensive line. Let’s see what effect new offensive line coaches Chris Strausser and Klayton Adams, as well as the return of Howard Mudd, will have on this group moving forward, and then see where we stand. All that being said, however, I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that the Colts won’t shy away from targeting offensive linemen in every round of this upcoming draft, as Anthony Castonzo, Joe Haeg and Le’Raven Clark are all entering contract years in 2019, and Ballard continues to want as many as 10 offensive linemen ready to go at all times on his active roster.
As for the defensive line, in order for the Colts to trade up, particularly in the first round, they’re more than likely going to have to give up picks, which isn’t something I believe Ballard will want to do. It’s still my full belief that when all is said and done, the Colts will once again have 10 or more selections in this upcoming draft, just like they did last year with 11. So if a huge target (or targets) on their board along the defensive line falls before they pick at No. 26, I’d imagine Ballard & Co. will just have to move on and pick the next best available player.
And I’ve said all along that I think the Colts will have to do something to address the safety position this year, either in free agency or the draft, after having not really done that last year. But don’t count out an in-house guy like Malik Hooker, who will be having a fully-healthy offseason to train for the first time in his three seasons now with the Colts.
» Rodger H. (Jacksonville, Ill.): “Will the Colts focus more on offense or defense in the first round or take the best athlete available?”
Walker: I think if recent history serves as an example, then one would think the Colts’ board would be leaning towards defense for their first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Reason being: last year at this time, Chris Ballard was talking about how he needed to do more to address the team’s offensive line, and what does he eventually do? He selects guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth-overall pick. And what’s Ballard saying this time around? Overall defensive improvements, particularly to the pass rush, are tops on his to-do list. So if we follow that path, then, sure, I’d go with defense. But as we know, it’s really a crapshoot. The first 25 picks could really throw the Colts’ board for a loop, so then they decide to go wide receiver at No. 26, for example.
» Nathan J. (Augusta, Ga.): “Should colts consider trading back with a team wanting to get back into the 1st to grab a QB?”
Walker: This is a very, very interesting question, Nathan. To me, yes, the Colts should at least consider trading back and giving up the No. 26 pick to a team desperate to get a pick towards the end of the first round, but only if Indy gets some decent picks in return. I’d say, at the very least, a second- and a fourth-round pick would be appropriate for the 26th pick, but in 2010, for example, the Baltimore Ravens traded the 25th-overall pick to the Denver Broncos and got a second-, third- and fourth-round pick out of the deal. The Colts having the 34th-overall pick thanks to their deal with the New York Jets last year makes this scenario even more enticing, I’d imagine. We’ll see if any teams get jumpy enough to try to entice Chris Ballard into such a swap.
» Kyle C. (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada): “If Clemson's Dexter Lawrence is still available at #26, should the colts take him even after his suspension for banned substance ? He's Big and nasty and can make our D-line better”
Walker: I think next week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis will be a huge opportunity for Dexter Lawrence to prove his case to every team willing to hear him out. For those unaware, Lawrence was one of three Clemson players to test positive for a performance-enhancing substance late last season. He has said he has no idea how the substance got into his body, but says he’ll be honest if and when it comes up in interviews with NFL teams. “Just tell the truth,” Lawrence said, via The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C. “That’s all I can do. It was heartbreaking when I heard about it, but it’s just life. You’ve got to be tested sometimes just to bring out your character, and that’s how I’m going about it.” One failed PED test, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t seem like a huge deal, especially when multiple players on Lawrence’s team had the same result. But considering the value attached to each and every draft pick, NFL teams are completely within their right to try to get to the bottom of the matter and then decide from there whether or not that specific player, if picked, would be a risk moving forward.
» Jeff H. (Fishers, Ind.): “No questions at the moment.”
Walker: Please let us know if and when that changes, Jeff.
» Kevin B. (Connersville, Ind.): “Why was Erik Swoope not able to stay on the roster? When he was on the field he certainly provided a big target for Luck, and although he didn't get a lot of passes thrown his way, he seemed to play well. He scored a touchdown on MNF against the Patriots, then was released and resigned to the practice squad for the umpteenth time. Any insight into why so frequently he was one or two steps too low on the depth chart?”
Walker: First off, I have a question for you, Kevin: why is the Connersville basketball gym just an exact replica, only to a smaller scale, of the New Castle Fieldhouse? That’s always bugged me. How about a little creativity? Anyways, when it comes to Erik Swoope, he fell victim to a nagging knee injury that just never really went away throughout 2018. You’re right, though: Swoope did take advantage of the few opportunities he got during the season, with three touchdowns among his eight receptions on the year. But the emergence of Mo Alie-Cox, especially as a blocker, coupled with Swoope’s injury situation oftentimes put him on the outside looking in the second half of the season.
» Danny A. (Carmel, Ind.): “Will admission to this years training camp be free? And what free agents if any are we planning to acquire?”
Walker: Good news, Danny: this year’s Colts training camp, which is once again being held at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., will absolutely be free to attend. But, like last year, free digital tickets will be required for entry. Stay tuned down the road for more info on that. As for the free agents the Colts are going after, I’ll ask Chris Ballard and get back to you.
» Jaren F. (Marion, Ind.): “What happened to Robert Turbin he played a little then never seen him again the rest of the year”
Walker: Robert Turbin had a tough go in 2018. He had to sit out the first four games of the season due to a suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, and then, in just his second game back, he suffered a shoulder injury Week 6 against the New York Jets. He missed the next two games, and then, just prior to the Indy’s Week 10 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts, needing to open up a couple roster spots on the defensive side of the ball, waived Turbin and wide receiver Steve Ishmael. So there you have it. The fact of the matter was the team had gotten really comfortable with their top three running backs — Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins — and there wasn’t a strong likelihood the team would even have a fourth running back (a la Turbin) active on gamedays past a certain point, anyway.
» Max B. (Tell City, Ind.): “Hi Andrew, love the mailbag and am thankful that you keep us updated during the off-season. I have three questions today. 1. Do you thank Ballard is not going after the big name free agents to save room to resign his own picks. 2. What do you think the top four receiver will be next year. 3. Do you thank Landon Collins will resign in New York, personally he is the big name that I want the most. Thanks for all you do.”
Walker: Thanks so much, Max. I’ll be quick here. 1. Yes, I think a good chunk of the abundance of cap money the Colts currently have will go towards contract extensions for players currently on their roster, as I’ve alluded to a few times in the past. 2. If I had to guess right now, before free agency or the draft even happened, I’d say the top four Colts receivers in 2019 by Week 1 will be T.Y. Hilton, Dontrelle Inman, Deon Cain and Chester Rogers. But, hey, lots can happen between now and then. 3. I personally believe the New York Giants will apply the franchise tag to Landon Collins; whether or not he signs it and plays for them for the year is a completely different story. It is clear that, at this time, they aren’t going to commit a longer-term deal to him, however. But I was a huge fan of Collins’ coming out of the college ranks, and he’s done nothing to change that in his first four NFL seasons.
» Greg J. (Zionsville, Ind.): “I would like your thoughts on something that seems obvious to me. When I look at very successful offenses - Colts during the Manning years and Patriots during the Brady years - I see a common thread. Rather than using 2 tight ends, these teams made use of one tight end and a very effective slot receiver. The slot guy was not the biggest, fastest guy on the field, but would always get open on 3rd down. Think Collie or Stokley for the Colts and Walker or Edelman for the Pats. Why don't our current Colts go in that direction?”
Walker: Greg, have you ever heard of the phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” The Colts in 2018 led the entire NFL in third-down conversion percentage at 47.7 percent. The next closest team? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 46 percent; when it comes to these numbers, that’s a huge difference. So, at least in 2018, Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni were content with utilizing Chester Rogers as their primary slot receiver, and his 53 catches for 485 yards and two touchdowns in that role really wasn’t all that bad. Plus, consider this: when healthy, why wouldn’t you have Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron on the field together as much as possible? My two cents, anyway.
» Jesse G. (Largo, Fla.): “Do you know if J'Marcus Webb will be healthy coming into the 2019 season? I'm curious to see what his role will be on an O line that was very impressive last year. I like Webb's size and have heard good things about him but have not had a chance to see him play.”
Walker: Couple things about J’Marcus Webb: if you’ll remember, he was signed during training camp last year when the team just couldn’t seem to shake the injury bug at the tackle position, but then Webb earned the start at right tackle by Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He played pretty well in that game, but at the very end, with the Colts trying to mount a late comeback, he suffered a nasty hamstring injury running down the field as Cincinnati took a fumble to the house for a game-sealing touchdown. Webb was placed on injured reserve, but was considered a possible option to be one of the team’s two return-from-IR candidates down the road. The Colts used their first return-from-IR spot on defensive tackle/end Tyquan Lewis, and then a few weeks later, the team had to decide between bringing back guard/tackle Joe Haeg, who was placed on IR after Week 3 with an ankle injury, or Webb; the Colts ultimately decided to bring back Haeg, keeping Webb on IR for the remainder of the season. So what’s Webb’s status now? He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 13. He’ll be 31 by the time Week 1 of the 2019 season rolls around, but he proved he can still play at a high level before suffering his injury last season. We’ll see if the Colts have any interest in bringing Webb back as a key piece of depth for the line.