OAKLAND, Calif. — 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 Oakland, Calif., area, where the Colts are taking on the Oakland Raiders Sunday at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium.
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:
» Dylan M. (Marshall, Ill.): “Should the Andrew Luck doubters be silenced? I think with him having the most passing attempts, second most completions, second most passing touchdowns behind only Patrick Mahomes he's proven he's the Andrew Luck of old. Him running out of bounds at the one yard line on that one scramble shows he's making safer veteran decisions concerning his own health as well.”
Walker: Dylan, you bring up a great point. In fact, I don’t think enough people are talking about the season Andrew Luck has been able to put together to this point. Look at all the major statistical categories for quarterbacks, and Andrew Luck is darn near the top, if not at the top, of all of them: completions (203; 2nd in the NFL); attempts (311; first in the NFL); passing yards (1,948, 10th in the NFL) and passing touchdowns (20; 2nd in the NFL). Luck is also doing this after missing an entire season and he’s still learning all the nuances of a brand new offense run by a brand new playcaller in Frank Reich. I think some people have pointed at the Week 3 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, when Reich elected to bring in Jacoby Brissett for a final Hail Mary heave, as some sort of sign that Luck’s shoulder wasn’t completely healed, but how’d Luck respond? An average of almost 55 pass attempts, 377 yards and more than three touchdowns a game over the next three weeks. Yeah, I’d say he’s just fine.
» Roy R. (Gas City, Ind.): “Bravo Boys in The Shoe. Go Colts. That is all.”
Walker: Bravo, indeed, Roy. Thanks for writing in. I’m still made the Gas City water tower along Interstate 69 uses Comic Sans font, but I won’t hold it against you personally.
» Jeremy W. (Fort Wayne, Ind.): “Hey thanks for the time! Im wondering who looks better on the practice squad at wr out of ishmael and fountain? I saw ishmaels college highlights and have been a big fan since, im hoping one of them can pan out long term and am wondering ur thoughts? ”
Walker: Thanks for your time, Jeremy. What’s interesting is that Steve Ishmael, along with Skai Moore, might’ve been the players I got asked the most about on the entire roster after they were signed as undrafted free agents — more than all the guys the team drafted or any of the new free agents. That theme definitely carried over into training camp and the preseason. Both guys had just wonderful, productive college careers, so I definitely get it that fans are intrigued by what they might be able to do at the professional level. I think Ishmael just needed a little more polishing by the time the regular season rolled around, but as the Reece Fountain hype train has really gained steam over the last few weeks, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and Reich have typically made sure to also include Ishmael when discussing the work being put in by the practice squad wide receivers. On Friday, it was Ishmael that got the call up to the Colts’ active roster, but this might be a situation where it’s less about one player (Ishmael) being better than the other (Fountain), as Fountain this week has been dealing with the death of his grandmother. All our thoughts are with Fountain and his family during this difficult time.
» Ed K. (Beloit, Wisc.): “Andrew, I have been a Colts fan since 1954. Live thru the good and bad. I just hope the Colts can produce a team that will contend for a SB while Andrew Luck is our QB. I have always wondered what the Colts work on in practice during the week. Everybody who is interviewed after the games we have lost say they have to correct the mistakes or we have to fix this or that. Every game the Colts have lost the same mistakes come into play.To me nothing gets fixed if the same mistakes happen every game. Do you have any input on that? Your doing a good job with the mailbox.”
Walker: Thanks for not only being a dedicated fan of the Colts, Ed, but for checking out the mailbox. Now that’s dedication, and it’s much appreciated. I guess I’ll say this: the issues that have plagued the Colts at times this season, to me, aren’t really things you can fix in practice. How do you simulate getting off to a fast start and not allowing the opposing team to get up by double digits by halftime? That’s really only something a real, live game situation can present. How do you ensure your receivers don’t drop multiple passes in a game? Well, you can throw ball after ball after ball their way during practice, but if they make all, or most, of those plays but then end up dropping a few during the game, what can you really do about that? Prior to defeating the Buffalo Bills, when the Colts were 1-5, Reich was actually asked if he planned on changing anything up to see if it could lead to better results. He said: “No, I feel good about the schedule and the process. I mean, it’s one that’s stood the test of time with a lot of good teams that I have been on – very similar. Most teams keep a similar schedule. Really, what we are trying to improve is just the finer details – just play good football and don’t beat ourselves. That’s been the focus.”
» John P. (Garrett, Ind.): “How bad is venateri's injury it's not a career ending thing is it”
Walker: Nah, Adam Vinatieri’s injury doesn’t seem like anything that serious. Nagging groin injuries in your primary leg are just something that come along with being a kicker sometimes — it’s not like it’s a hamstring or a quad where it’s pretty easy to stretch and maintain. In fact, this first popped up for Vinatieri back in practice leading up to the Week 5 game against the New England Patriots, but hadn’t really been an issue again up until he re-aggravated it on that first extra-point attempt last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. So one would think the best-case scenario for Vinatieri and the Colts is that he’s good enough to go Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, and then he can use the bye week as an opportunity to really rest up and get fully ready to go for the second half of the season.
» John K. (South Haven, Mich.): “What is the status of Dion Cain?”
Walker: It’s probably been kind of easy to put Deon Cain in the “afterthought” category for the season after he suffered his season-ending knee injury in the very first preseason game on Aug. 9. A little update: Cain is recovering well from surgery, and he’s a constant presence inside the team locker room the few times a week the media is in there. Other than that, there’s not much else to report. Perhaps the positive you can take away from his injury is the timing; Cain can enter training camp next year about 10 or 11 months removed from surgery, and general manager Chris Ballard has said it’s typically about the nine-month mark where many players can start to get back onto the field. Cain certainly showed a ton of playmaking ability throughout his first offseason workout program and training camp, so it’s certainly not out of line to be very excited about his return next year.
» Joseph M. (Stephens City, Va.): “Why doesn't Pierre Desir start? He plays as a starter after the third play from scrimmage so it makes no sense that he is not the actual starter. Just curious.”
Walker: This is just one of those things where everything depends upon what defensive alignment the Colts decide to start the game with each week. That’s why I’m not a big fan of using “starts” as a stat for some positions on the field, particularly with this defense, where so many players are going in and out the entire game. Pierre Desir, according to his snap counts and where he lines up, is essentially a “starter;” he just has been on the first for the first snap of the game — and, thus, “earning” a “start” — four out of the team’s seven games so far. Desir has been in on almost 73 percent of the team’s defensive snaps; Nate Hairston (80 percent) and Kenny Moore II (74 percent) are in more, but this tells me Desir is utilized mostly as an outside corner in the nickel formation, when Moore II typically moves to the inside. So I wouldn’t fret too much about how many starts Desir has; he’s getting starter’s snaps, per se, the team just isn’t always using its nickel formation to start games each and evert week.
» Gavin M. (Charlotte, N.C.): “With the outstanding play of Mitchell, do we ride the hot hand at safety when Geathers comes back? I love how Geathers plays but with the way Mitchell is playing how do you bench that? Maybe Geathers in on sub packages with they need an extra man in the box/coverage?”
Walker: Reich was actually asked about this very same topic earlier this week. “Yeah, we are working through that right now. We are going to work through it as we go and just keep talking about it. We’ve talked about a lot of different scenarios and a lot of different things in terms of who, what, where and when and situational normal downs. We are trying to find the best combination for that right now. That’s certainly an ongoing conversation that we are having right now with the coaches.” He also said there are possibilities to get both Geathers and Mitchell on the field together: “Yeah, having different players in different spots. We are trying to put the playmakers in there where they enhance their skillset in terms of what they are good at and go from there.” Not a whole lot of information there from Reich, but, let’s remember, he’s typically very big on having as big of a competitive advantage from week to week as possible, so he’s not going to say too, too much about personnel and specific plans.
» Cody S. (Hope, Ind.): “Hello, long time fan and first time writer (if you don't count twitter).
So my question is, are we going to see more zone blitz play calls on 3rd down this week? We seem to be giving opposing quarterbacks too much time. We can't run the same plays with backup d linemen as we do with our starters, so maybe some added pressure would help? Really vexing as a fan to see us killed the same way by average to above average offenses! Thanks!”
Walker: Hey Cody, thanks for taking the time to write in. Here’s the basic way I can explain this one: we’re about to see the Colts play their eighth game of the season — the halfway point. The Indy defense has utilized the blitz less than just about every other team week in and week out, and, other than slightly tweaking some gameplans from week to week, I just think this is what this defense is going to be. The unit is going to mostly depend on the four guys up front to generate tons of pressure, and rely on the linebackers and the defensive backs to cover their zones and not allow big plays over the top. And Indy has done well with this approach so far, for the most part, as they’re among the league leaders in sacks and tackles for loss, while they are among the best at limiting pass plays of 20 yards or more. So, yeah, opposing offenses are occasionally going to get their 10- to 15-yard pass plays week after week, and sometimes the four big men up front aren’t going to be able to get into the backfield, but, to me, it’s tough to really complain about the job this defense has done about halfway through the season because of all the other successes I have seen across the board.
» Steven G. (Jonesville, Va.): “Please pass this one on to D.L. aka maniac. Please don't get hurt dancing in the locker room. It is so wonderful to have a great defensive player. Always a colt fan don't care about wins and losses. Yes there is a true fan out here. P.S. would love to see wins but always a fan. If I lived in indy I would go to the games come on colt fans.”
Walker: I’ll pass that along.