*FOXBORO, Mass. — *Each week, Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.
This week’s edition is coming at you from the Foxboro, Mass., area, where the Colts are taking on the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football.
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:
» Scott N. (Indianapolis): “Seems like Houston found some open holes about 15-20 yards in the middle. What happened there and how do we correct that gap in defense against the Pats and Gronk? ”
Walker: There’s no doubt that at times throughout Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans, Deshaun Watson was able to find some of his receivers in the more intermediate parts of the field. But the Colts’ defense’s approach, in a way, leaves some of those options available for quarterbacks at times. Because there’s such an emphasis on the front four getting to the quarterback — and it’s paid off with 17 sacks so far, good enough for second in the NFL — this 4-3, Cover 2 scheme oftentimes has zones that QBs will be able to find at times in those aforementioned areas. So as long as the defense is applying pressure up front and the defensive backs are covering anything super deep down the field, those plays are just going to happen from time to time. Then, as the opposing offense gets closer and closer to the end zone, those opportunities should decrease significantly. See: Dungy, Tony from the great Colts teams of that era.
» Pedro K. (Belo Horizonte, Brazil): “_I’ve been a long time fan of the Colts and I’m glad the mailbag is back! My question is about our receiving corps: I thought Pascal and Rodgers really stepped up against the Texans, but the drop by Johnson on 3rd down in our first drive in OT is still bugging me. Do we have any news on the progress by the rookie Fountain on the practice squad? I was wondering if there is a chance we’ll see him elevated to the active roster this season. _
Thanks, and GO COLTS!”
Walker: Thanks for writing all the way from Brazil, Pedro. The Colts truly have awesome fans all over the world. I thought there would be a small possibility the Colts would consider elevating Reece Fountain to the active roster for Thursday’s game against the Patriots due to T.Y. Hilton’s injury status, but with the team so banged up in other areas — and with the possibility the team brings running back Robert Turbin, who was suspended the first four weeks of the season, back to the active roster — there are just too many needs at other positions. Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni did say Fountain has been popping on the practice film. “Every time that I look at the practice squad tape, because there are a lot of times when the practice squad guys are going and I am talking to Andrew (Luck) about something, but every time I seem to look over and put the tape on, I see Reece making plays,” Sirianni told reporters on Sept. 25. “He’s excited and he brings a sense of juice, a sense of excitement to the team. It’s nice to see a guy go up and pluck the ball out of the air like that. So, that’s an invaluable thing for his development to work through reps on the scout team and get reps against a good – obviously our defense is playing well – and get good reps against a good quality defense like our own.”
» Dave L. (Camby, Ind.): “I may have missed it but when is Robert Turbin able to rejoin the team? I thought he was out for only 4 weeks?”
Walker: Good timing on this one, Dave. So, this one is kind of tricky to explain, but I’ll give it a shot. Turbin was indeed suspended the first four weeks of the regular season after testing positive for a banned substance. During that time, a suspended player can have virtually no contact with the team — he can’t go to the facility, he can’t go to any NFL games, he can’t contact teammates and he can’t be present for team- or NFL-related press conferences. So Turbin said he’s spent the past month working out on his own in California, trying to stay in the best football shape he can be in without actually, you know, playing football. But once a player is off that suspended list, the team is usually given an exemption that allows them to have a few days in which the returning player can come back to the facility and take part in meetings and practices, but the team faces a deadline later in the week to eventually decide whether or not to release/waive another player off its current 53-man roster and officially bring the returning player back. The deadline for the Colts to decide to bring Turbin back this week is at 4 p.m. ET Thursday. With the short week coming into play — that means fewer practices and meetings to potentially get ready for game action than if the team was playing on a Sunday like usual — the Colts are currently trying to figure out if Turbin would play a big enough role in Thursday’s game against the Patriots to consider bringing him back to the active roster.
» Brandon H. (East Oakland, Calif.): “What do u think is going on with the Quincy Wilson situation I feel like if he’s healthy he should play ”
Walker: Quite simply, Quincy Wilson isn’t healthy, so he can’t play. Wilson suffered a concussion Week 2 against the Washington Redskins and has been working his way through the league’s concussion protocol since that time; he is yet to actually practice, either. Concussions can be fickle like that — some guys return almost immediately, while it takes a while for other guys to get rid of the symptoms and gain clearance (the latter happened to center Ryan Kelly late last season). Reich said this about Wilson on Sept. 28, when asked if the second-year cornerback was OK and moving in the right direction: “I believe so. I believe so. Sometimes, my experience just in general with players with this is that it can just hang on for a couple days. We all want to be safe. We all want to do the right thing for the player and I really appreciate that about our organization. We are going to try to do the right thing for the player.”
» Jeanne E. (Speedway, Ind.): “Hello I am pleased to say I went to my very first colts game, I have been a colts fan for years and my plans are to start coming to colts games. Sincerely colts fan forever”
Walker: That sounds awesome, Jeanne! I remember my very first Colts game: Oct. 6, 1996. I was 7 years old. My dad and I got seats at the very top of one of the end zones at the RCA Dome and watched on as the Colts defeated the Buffalo Bills, 13-10, to move to 7-6 on the season. I vividly remember Jim Harbaugh not playing that day; instead, a look at the boxscore shows Paul Justin filled in and completed 22-of-40 passes for 228 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Marshall Faulk had a Marshall Faulk day: 46 yards rushing and a touchdown, and 10 receptions for 78 yards. But, man, I guess I didn’t realize it at the time, but I got to see the likes of Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, Marvin Harrison and Faulk — not bad for a first NFL game. Hope you enjoy many, many more days at Lucas Oil Stadium, Jeanne.
» Robert S. (Windfall, Ind.): “I have great admiration for Frank and am glad that he's the head coach rather than the other option the Colts could have had and I agree with not playing for a tie at home,but why couldn't he have gone for the T.D. on the first possession instead of having Adam kick a FG? A touchdown would have won the game right then!”
Walker: We did have many, many questions about Reich’s decision to go for it on 4th and 4 inside his own territory late in overtime on Sunday against the Texans. The gamble didn’t pay off, as Andrew Luck’s pass attempt was off-target, and Houston took advantage of the field position to kick a game-winning field goal two plays later. But this question was very unique, so I thought it needed a little attention: if you can get points of any kind during overtime the way the rules are currently set up, you have to do it. Unless the Colts were maybe facing a 4th and Goal from the 1-yard line, I can’t see any scenario in which they wouldn’t just kick the field goal on their opening possession. That’s my logic, anyway.
» Keondre M. (Indianapolis): “Is Leveon Bell of any interest to the Indianapolis Colts?”
Walker: We continue to get flooded with questions about this Pittsburgh Steelers running back, so I’ll do two things: one, I’ll point you here to see our answer about this last week. Two, I’ll bring you Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s answer from earlier this week when asked specifically about the chances of the team acquiring a guy like Bell: “I’m not going to comment on players that aren’t on our team right now. We’re always looking — we’re always looking to upgrade. I think you can see, just since the season’s started at the cutdown we claimed a couple, and then we’ve picked up some that have hit the waiver wire here in the last week. So we’ll always be looking at players around the league.”
» Michael N. (Peoria, Ariz.): “What is more of a focus to improve? The defense or the run game?”
Walker: The Colts’ defense has plenty of areas in which it can improve, but I think all things considered — this is a very young group overall playing in a brand new system under coordinator Matt Eberflus — the group is doing a pretty good job and has been able to keep the team in every game so far this season. Being ranked second in the NFL in sacks so far isn’t a fluke, so now the defense just needs the young talent to continue growing and learning, and it could be a pretty formidable group down the stretch. The Colts’ running game, in my mind, by far needs the most improvement, however. The team’s 72.0 rushing yards per game average ranks 29th in the league, and it has seemed as though it’s been a real struggle the past couple weeks, specifically. Now, Sunday’s game against the Texans is a little bit different, because the Colts were down most of the second half and had to utilize a pass-heavy approach to get back into the game, but there’s no doubt, from Reich, to Sirianni to the offensive line and to the running backs, that they all want to see major improvement moving forward. “We need to get better at the run game for sure,” Reich said. “It has not been – some of it has been situationally but some of it has just been we are not executing well enough and we just have to be patient with it. I think it is a combination of all three of those things.”
» Travis P. (Kendallville, Ind.): “Can we afford la'veon bell? He was the first pick in my fantasy league... I love the Colts... so I'm pretty sure we should just go ahead and make that happen...? Lol”
Walker: I’ll let Chris know.
» Jeff S. (Indianapolis): “Does having the roof open work against the Colts as on a sunny day they stand in the glaring sun most of the first half as our opponents are in the shade?”
Walker: I don’t think this is much of an issue at all, Jeff, to be honest. And, if I remember right, the Texans won the opening coin toss, so the Colts would’ve picked what side they wanted to defend for the first half of the game. The captains at midfield are told which decisions to make depending on the outcome of the coin clip, so I’m certain the coaching staff would’ve factored in the sun when deciding which end they were going to be driving down.
» Starla B. (Columbus, Ohio): “When can I meet Blue!”
Walker: Blue is everywhere, Starla. When he’s not entertaining the crowd at Colts home games, he’s literally all over the state brightening people’s days. If you have a specific event in mind for Blue, even if it’s just a quick surprise, you can request an appearance by clicking here.
» Koel C. (Paris, Ill.): “When does the Stadium open up on Oct 21 and when is the perfect time to get Adam Vinitari’s autograph???”
Walker: From an earlier Mailbag: the earliest the Lucas Oil Stadium gates tend to open is two hours before kickoff — so 11 a.m. ET, in this instance. Always stay tuned to @Colts and @LucasOilStadium on Twitter for all the latest news heading into that game, however. And it seems as though fans like to hang out around the tunnel leading to the Colts’ locker room before the game — that’d be around Sections 129, 132 and 135. Best of luck, Koel!
» Mike M. (Danbury, Conn.): “To beat the Patriots we need to run a lot of trick plays”
Walker: Nah fam.