Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Sticking With Zone Defense, Luck vs. Manning Protection, Playoff Chances

111718_mailbag

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:

» Daniel G. (Indianapolis):Why, after all of the failure of prevent D, do we not go man to man?

Walker: Hey Daniel. Just for consistency’s sake, the Colts aren’t playing a “prevent defense” (well, save for maybe at the end of a game where they’re trying to let the opposing offense run out the clock). They are in a zone defense, but I think I know what you’re getting at. I’ll let defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus take over from here. This was his answer this week when asked how he would evaluate the play of his defensive backs: “I mean, when you play zone you’re going to get a higher completion rate. I think as we’ve said, once the rush gets going and the ball gets pumped out a little bit faster the zone players are able to set up and break a little bit faster. We just have to learn to trust the rush. So once we get that – we are working hard on that because that’s part of the system, being able to set up and being able to break in the no cover zone, which we call zero to five. So, it’s a work in progress. We are not there by any stretch of the imagination so we are working at it.”

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» Eduardo C. (San Juan, Puerto Rico): “My, how I suffered seeing the game euth Jacksonville!! Great team win. Great having the Mailbag back!! How does the work being done by our OL compare with the great lines that protected Peyton Manning as far as sacks go?? Is it stacking up as one of the least sacks given up in one season??

Walker: Hey Eduardo! The Colts definitely didn’t make it easy on themselves at the end of that Jaguars game, but a win’s a win. Great question about the current Colts offensive line vs. what the Peyton Manning-era lines were able to do. So, as of now, Andrew Luck has been sacked 10 times on the year. At this pace, by season’s end, that number will be exactly 17.777777777777778 sacks. What’s ironic? That is pretty much the same as the sack numbers Peyton Manning had during his 13 years playing with the Colts. From 1998 through 2010, Manning was sacked, on average, 17.769230769230769 times per season. I can’t make this stuff up. But it just goes to show just how well the current group is doing so far.

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» Barry B. (Dallas):It seemed like there was a lack of touches for Mack Sunday against the Jags. Was there a concern for the foot injury? Or was the Jags defense posing a threat to stopping the run early on? It did seem like Calais was in the backfield early and often.

Walker: Thanks for the question, Barry. And I don’t think there were any sort of lingering effects when it came to the foot issue listed on the injury report last week for Marlon Mack. I think you can just chalk it up to a really good defensive front doing what it needed to against the run. Jacksonville knew Indianapolis was coming off of back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances as a team, and obviously saw that as a primary focus when preparing for the game. What the Jaguars might’ve been better suited preparing for, however, was covering the Colts’ tight ends, as Eric Ebron and Mo Alie-Cox, especially, were the beneficiaries of wide-open pass plays on multiple occasions. So, in the first half, the Colts were having so much success passing the ball that they didn’t really need to go to their run game all that much. And in the second half, the Jaguars were ready to defend against the run because, obviously, Indy was going to try to milk as much clock as possible. I think the main point here is: the Colts won’t fun for 200 yards every game, and they won’t be limited on the ground every game like they were against the Jaguars. If it’s something in the middle of the two, then they’re doing something right.

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» Tyler S. (Coggon, Iowa):Are we ready to start thinking of this team as a playoff contender?

Walker: Thank you, Coach Mora. But I think we better, Tyler. I mean, it all comes down to that loss column (for the most part), and as of now, at 4-5, the Colts are just one game out for a potential wildcard spot in the AFC (tiebreakers not pending). If the regular season ended today, the Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) would be the sixth seed in the playoffs, with the Tennessee Titans (5-4), Miami Dolphins (5-5), the Colts and the Baltimore Ravens (4-5) right behind them. So while the Colts themselves will continue to take a week-by-week approach, we’ve reached the point where you totally can’t ignore Indianapolis when it comes to the potential playoff picture down the road.

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» Drake T. (Bradbury, Calif.):After the Jaguars game, are the Colts more inclined to keep Tyquan Lewis as an Edge Rusher over a Three Technique? Also, do the Colts' brass think Deon Cain could develop into a star WR?

Walker: I think, for now, Tyquan Lewis will mostly be utilized as a defensive end, and then at times he’ll slide inside when the Colts want to really get after the passer. My big clue for this came Tuesday, when Lewis was listed as a starting defensive end on the team’s Week 11 unofficial depth chart. Sometimes you don’t want to read too much into the team’s unofficial depth chart, but in this instance, this is the first time Lewis has been listed all season, and there he is, starting opposite Jabaal Sheard at defensive end. I think this is a good problem to have, however, and the Colts were very encouraged by the way Lewis got after it in his NFL debut last Sunday against the Jaguars.

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» Cornelius B. (Fort Wayne, Ind.):Just happen to be a Colts fan and proud of the team that second-half something that just happened we found a way to win proud of you guys

Walker: Thanks for writing in, Cornelius. I’ll pass this along.

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» Dylan M. (Marshall, Ill.):How do you think the Colts offense will fair against the Titans D that just held the Pats to 10 points? I'm also excited to say I'm sitting 3rd row at this game by the entrance tunnel! Ready to watch the AFC South battle and see Reggie Wayne get recognized for his great career, one of my favorite Colts ever!

Walker: The Colts’ offense vs. the Titans’ defense is definitely going to be the matchup to watch throughout Sunday’s game. Something has to give, right? Because both units are playing very, very well here in the third quarter of the season. To me, if the Titans can continue to shut down opposing tight ends — they haven’t allowed a touchdown to a tight end all season — then that could be an issue for the Indy offense, which leads the league in touchdowns scored by tight ends (15). That means the Colts might need to look elsewhere in the red zone, where the Titans are better than anybody else in the league (teams score a touchdown just 34.78 percent of their trips there). So, to me, you counter with a T.Y. Hilton, who has four red zone touchdowns already this season — or maybe you factor in your running backs more into the pass game down there. Also, as the Colts showed in Oakland, don’t be afraid to run the ball in more obvious passing situations when you get inside the 20.

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