Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag Weekend Edition: How Close Is Donte Moncrief To Returning?

Intro: In Saturday’s mailbag, readers inquire about possibly moving T.J. Green to cornerback, the play of the offensive line and how much up-tempo should be expected going forward?


INDIANAPOLIS – Each week, readers of can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Wednesday or Saturday mailbag.

With the abundance of questions in recent weeks, we will have two mailbags each week. This one comes via a weekend edition (here’s the Wednesday version from this week).

Rick P. (Lexington, KY)

What is the status of Donte Moncrief and how soon will he be in the lineup?

Bowen: Sunday will be Moncrief's fourth game missed. He is about to embark on Week Five of a recovery that was originally scheduled to keep him out four-to-six weeks. At practice, we have only seen Moncrief observe (he has not done any rehab activity while the media has been present). It's looking like Moncrief has a good chance to use all six weeks of that first announced time frame. You have to think he needs to practice a bit to test out that shoulder injury in some sort of contact period before being cleared for a game setting. Chuck Pagano still lists Moncrief at week-to-week.

Matthew H. (Iowa)

I know you've had a lot of offensive line questions lately, but looking back to the Bears game the offensive line had more success in the first half. Do you think that was because they ran more up tempo in the first half? The up tempo keeps them from subbing players in and it keeps them on their heels.

I also read an article about TJ Green possibly playing cornerback. If TJ Green is able to play either corner or safety do you think that could lead to an Extention of mike Adams next offseason?

Bowen: 1. This is a good question. I know in talking to offensive linemen they feel like the no-huddle benefits them because defensive linemen are in more of a guessing game with snap counts. A little slower first step from the defensive linemen can be all the difference in a cleaner pocket for the offense. I do think there's truth to that, for sure. 2. The Colts will have a decision to make in the secondary next season. Do we see the Colts move on to a younger guy, and let a veteran hit free agency (like they did this year with Clayton Geathers now starting and Dwight Lowery going on the open market)? It's clear the future at safety is Geathers and Green. You don't draft a guy in the second round to not start for many seasons, so Green is going to be starting very soon. I think he starts at safety next season, but if Adams impresses then the Colts might have to juggle Green's role in 2017. I do think drafting a cornerback is a route for this team to take next offseason.

Martin G. (Toplcany, Slovakia)

Hey Kevin, your answers are great. I always like to read your mailbag.

I liked the game against Bears but those penalties are really bad. I hope our players will have less penalties against Texans.

My question is: Steelers just sign to a practice squad former Bills RB Karlos Williams. I remember that he is good RB. Could we sign him as our backup to Frank Gore. He is young player and I think he is better option as a backup like Josh Ferguson. Thank you for your brilliant work. Have a good day. GO COLTS!

Bowen: I think the running back depth is just fine behind Frank Gore. You have a little bit of a power option in Robert Turbin. Then you have speedier complements in Jordan Todman and Josh Ferguson. There's a reason why Karlos Williams hasn't been signed yet to an active roster. Clearly, he hasn't impressed enough to merit a 53-man roster spot. For now, I don't see the Colts messing with their running back depth. They want some change of pace behind Gore, and Williams isn't that.

Matthew V. (Zionsville, IN)

What are the pros and cons of using an additional lineman in place of TE for better pass protection and run blocking? I'm not saying this will work, but I'm afraid that Andrew will soon run out of luck and get injured again?

Bowen: The obvious part of using another lineman is that the protection should be stronger with having another big body, whose most common responsibility is to pass block/run block. But the problem with this, and why teams don't do it that often (outside of the goal line), is this takes away one skill player. If a defense knows you have six linemen in the game, then you toss in the quarterback, and that leaves just four skill guys. That's not enough to consistently have success on offense.

Matt W. (Gaithersburg, MD)

Thanks Mr . Bowen for answering my last question and taking time to do this. Love colts mailbag. Quick question how consistent do u think the offense and defense will be this week against the Texans? We hold I think a 23-5 record but last time we played them we lost 16-10 if I'm not mistaken. I know it's a division game and will be a tough 1 but do u see them playin more consistent and getting a W considering getting off to a rough start this year and losing there last match up against the Texans? Thank u for you're time Mr.Bowen. COLTS NATION!!

Bowen: For me, I think this game will be decided by which secondary can control the air the best. Both teams have tremendous weapons at the top of their wideout depth chart. Can the Colts limit DeAndre Hopkins and force Houston's offense to find production elsewhere (something the Texans haven't been able to do consistently in 2016)? Vice versa, can a banged up Houston secondary limit T.Y. Hilton's playmaking ability? Of course, both teams' running games will factor into this, but I really believe whichever receiver has the bigger game, that team will come out victorious. I'm anxious to see how the Colts try and eliminate Hopkins, with Vontae Davis not expected to shadow him for the entire game. A fast start for the Colts is also key. They've won three straight one-possession games down in Houston. An early 10-0 lead or so for the Colts could get the Texans thinking a bit "here we go again" as these teams battle for the top of the AFC South.

Michael M. (Indianapolis)

First, thank you for the work you do. I look forward to this every Wednesday. There may not be numbers to answer it but I'm curious as to which offensive lineman has given up (or at least has had a strong role in giving up) the most sacks. I hate to say it but the only specific person I've noticed is Castanzo which is scary given he's supposed to be "the man" on the line.

Bowen: My pleasure, Michael. I always enjoy hearing what is on the minds of fans. Actually, per the analytics, Anthony Castonzo played really, really well on Sunday. Castonzo didn't play well in London, but Pro Football Focus ranks him as the third best tackle in the league this season. Jack Mewhort and Ryan Kelly have been really sound in the interior (no sacks allowed). It's the right side of the offensive line where the struggles have been more prevalent. Right guard Denzelle Good has allowed three sacks. Joe Haeg at right tackle has allowed two sacks.

Nick B. (Camarillo, CA)

Why, why, why do we pass on third and short every time? It seems as if every third or fourth and short we go to a shotgun pass formation or simply pass and we have taken a number of sacks or dropped passes. We have Gore. We have the new and improved line. Why do we insist on passing???

Bowen: I recall a few times this year where the Colts have ran the football on third and short. A Robert Turbin fullback dive has been an option for a short yardage conversion. I was talking about this sort of scenario with Jim Sorgi a few weeks back. He was saying back in his days with the Colts, they loved to spread things out on third-and-short. They didn't want the defense packed in close to the line of scrimmage. There are multiple philosophies to this approach, and I think you will see the Colts still look to run it on some third-and-short situations.

Matt G. (Indianapolis)Hey Kevin,

You said in the Wednesday mailbag that you think the defensive line might just be the best unit in our defense. What does that say about the rest of our defense? We have a defensive line that ranks 27th in sacks per pass attempt through week 5, and hasn't been much better against the run either.

I am really hoping we draft an excellent pass rusher next year. Mathis has been shut down week after week with only 5 tackles on his stat sheet. Personally, I would imagine this year will be his last which is a shame because it would be nice to have his veteran presence around to teach and groom our next generation pass rusher. At least Erik Walden is doing some work out there. Do you think before the end of the season we might see an increase in play for guys like Ayers and Maggitt if Mathis continues to lack in production?

Bowen: When talking about the defensive line depth, it was in reference to the fact that the Colts have bodies who have started games there before and/or played a lot of snaps. That group has to play better, especially on early downs. Chuck Pagano spoke on Friday how the Colts have really struggled on first down, which isn't a recipe for defensive success. I do think the Colts have quality bodies up front, but they must play better. In terms of the reps at outside linebacker, I don't think the Colts will hesitate at all to shuffle playing time there if the lack of production continues. New coordinator Ted Monachino knows full well just how important a pass rush is to the defense's overall success.

Rico W. (Tulsa, OK)

Kevin, Will the team continue with the up tempo on offense?

They seem to play better.!

Thanks, Coltstrong

Bowen: I do think the Colts will continue to use an up-tempo look, but don't expect it for 60 minutes. This was Rob Chudzinski's answer to that specific question from Thursday: "We'll look at it again every game. There are times we'll get into it. Times we'll get out or not be in it. A lot of that is just game planning. I felt like last week that really presented some good opportunities for us." I wonder if playing on the road will have an impact on such usage.

Simon B. (Greenville, NC)Has the Indianapolis media experienced a sudden and precipitous i.q. drop ? There are commentators, writers and broadcasters actually prompting Luck to run the ball more frequently...have they not seen what has happened to Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Trevor Simeien, Tony Romo and others b/c of running the ball ? Is Chudzinski planning on endangering Andrew in this manner ? Secondly, when will Pagano begin starting Rashan Melvin at cornerback?. He was the only DB who actually stopped Chicago's receivers. Thanks guys for your response.

Bowen: 1. Andrew Luck's feet are a weapon. Let's not ignore that. There's a difference in running intelligently versus running and absorbing hit after hit. I really don't think Luck has taken any "big" hits when scrambling this season to run. Now, you can't completely avoid hits. That's impossible. But the Colts need for Luck to use his feet because it's a major asset, while also recognizing that his health is vital. 2. We could see Rashaan Melvin starting on Sunday. With Patrick Robinson questionable and having barely practiced this week, Melvin seems to be the guy to start. I do think Melvin has been a solid guy when called upon this season.

Marissa M. (Tampa, FL)

Kevin- thanks for answering my questions the last couple weeks- I (we all) appreciate it!

My questions is based on a fact I saw while watching the end of the game- The Bears, before coming to Indy last Sunday, had only 6 sacks in 4 games yet they piled up a 5 sack game against our colts. Pagano always says "we need to get better/ we'll fix it", but each game seems like a repeat when it comes to luck getting hit/sacked. Is coach philbin going to "stick to the process" as pagano always says or will he switch players/the protection scheme up for luck? I think the "process" we have currently has been proven ineffective and it only takes one bad hit to end a season. I'm starting to get worried!

Bowen: No problem at all, Marissa. I think when Pagano uses his phrase of "stick to the process" he's not totally abstaining himself from change week-to-week. This staff watches film. If improvements need to made, then they will try and make them. Pagano also mentioned the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again when the result isn't working. Take for example the offense going into the Chicago game. The Colts needed to get off to a better start. Insert some no-huddle and here comes 4-for-4 on first-half scoring drives. "Stick to the process" is more of a workmanlike attitude, 'not too high, not too low,' sort of mentality. It doesn't mean the Colts are going to ignore problems on either side of the ball.

Jacob H. (Fullerton, CA)

Kevin, Is it just me or does it seem like Andrew is holding on to the ball too long during a bunch of these plays? The ball is not coming out fast at all it seems, is this because of Andrew or are the receivers not getting open? Also, just my observation, but i think Reitz was the better choice for right tackle

Bowen: The numbers indicate that Luck does hold onto the ball longer than virtually every other quarterback in the league. At one end, this leads to more sacks (which Luck admitted earlier this week). On the other, it allows for the opportunity to hit on some big plays. Luck calls it a "double edged" sword. Sacks can be blamed at some degree on the offensive line, the quarterback and the receivers. Against Chicago, I think we saw a pretty good pocket for Luck on the vast majority of snaps. However, when the pressure came it usually led to sacks of No. 12. Does Luck hold it a tad too long? Sure. But I'm not going to fault him, because so many plays are made because of his willingness to take hits, yet still complete passes. Plus, let's not forget the sacks Luck does avoid thanks to his own elusiveness.

Luke R. (Rochester, NY)

Hey Kevin,
Now that week 5 is over,
1. Is it a possibility that we could be seeing more of Chester Rodgers in the coming weeks? Maybe in a 4-WR set during drives?
2. What do you suspect Monachino, and Pagano will be doing to improve pass rush? With Robert Mathis and Trent Cole looking like shells of their former selves, Erik Walden is the only real pass rusher that's moderately good.

Bowen: 1. I think we definitely could. With Donte Moncrief out, Rogers has showed an ability to be counted on and make plays. Andrew Luck isn't afraid to look for Rogers. And if Quan Bray is out this weekend, Rogers could do some returning, too. 2. The Colts will have to start committing more resources to the pass rush. If the individual guys cannot pick up the pressure, then the Colts will need to send more bodies. Of course, that leaves the back end more susceptible with guys having to play more man coverage. Remember, Trent Cole is on injured reserve. He's been there for a couple weeks now.

Zach W. (Bedford, VA)

Hey Kevin. With Adam Vinatieri winning his 16th AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award I decided to look at his career stats. Two things kind of blew my mind. Dude has attempted 600 some field goals but was only ever asked to punt twice! They weren't good so I'm not surprised he wasn't asked again. The other one was that in a 2004 game against the Rams Vinatieri threw a touch down pass from 4 yards out. I died when I saw that and wanted to find a clip online but fell short. Any chance you could point me in a direction to find one? This year I am more proud every week to dawn my only colt jersey. #4 the GOAT. thanks

Bowen: You are correct. Vinatieri threw a touchdown pass to Troy Brown on a fake field goal back on 11/7/04. He did earn AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors that week. Zach, unfortunately, I can't find the play anywhere. Searched multiple video channels and couldn't find the footage. We NEED that highlight.

John K. (Syracuse, NY)

Hello Kevin, I haven't seen you answer any of my questions lately, so I'll give you an easy one, Some of the other posters have asked why our OC doesn't have Andrew Luck roll out more to prevent sacks, well I disagree with that, why doesn't our OC provide more Bubble screens and quick slants? that would get the ball out of his hands faster. Also, why are we not able to block for cut back runs, I see other teams doing a good job of cut back blocking from a receiver or TE, then the RB can start one way and go back the other. Is this just because we have incorporated the old "Clevend Browns" offense, or is Philban just not that great at being a line coach. Also, how about getting Josh Fergeson in on 1st & 2nd downs and running him through some cracks in the line, or stretch play even. Sorry for Venting, just the play calling and Coaching is killing me. We should be doing much better.

Bowen: Sorry, John. You covered a lot here so I'll try and break it down. 1. We haven't seen as many shorter throws in the regular season like we witnessed in the preseason. With more talk around Andrew Luck holding the ball a bit longer this season, maybe Rob Chudzinski will start to implement some shorter throws to eliminate the extra hits on the quarterback. 2. Personally, I think the Colts are pretty pleased with the type of running they have gotten from Frank Gore in 2016. We've seen Gore at a 4.2 yards per carry clip and he is on pace for 1,000 yards. 3. Chud was talking earlier in the week about the role they have carved out specifically for Josh Ferguson. Chud said with rookies, he likes to have a smaller package/certain role for those guys. That way things don't get too big for them in their first seasons. As of now, I don't think Ferguson will start to eat up many first/second down reps.

Austin S. (Connersville, IN)

Watching the Colts growing up, I remember when our d-line was one of the most feared because Freeney and Mathis in the 4-3 defense. My question is, has the 3-4 defense been as good as the 4-3 defense was in the past? To me, I don't think it has been but would like your thoughts. I greatly enjoy reading your weekly mailbag.

Bowen: I don't think it's an either/or thing when comparing a 3-4 scheme directly to a 4-3. When the Colts transitioned to a 3-4 defense back in 2012, a major overhaul of the defensive personnel was required. What the Colts are really missing right now is a game-changing presence in that linebacker group. That's what we get into in the question below. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were built to fly off the edge in a 4-3. Now, the Colts need to find similar type of impact defenders for their 3-4 scheme.

Dexter A. (Indianapolis)

Hey Kevin, I've been a big fan of the mailbag for quite a while now. I believe that with an improved defense, the Colts could become a dynasty for many years to come with the offense we have already in place. What would you think of investing some of the money we could retain this off season from free agent older players (Mathis, Walden, Butler, Adams, Cole), and using it on a proven edge rusher in the league like Chandler Jones and an athletic ILB such as Zach Brown? By doing this, I believe it would allow us to be more flexible in the draft. Such as using a first round pick on best edge rusher available, second and third on a CB or another ILB, and maybe a fourth on a RB to develop behind Gore. I would like another OL, but I like the younger guys we've drafted and believe they just need more reps and time to develop. If another OL were to be obtained, I would prefer it be through free agency on a veteran player. What are your thoughts on this?

Bowen: Dexter, I really respect your thinking in coming up with this sort of scenario. The Colts should have some flexibility in free agency next year to acquire a starter-worthy talent on defense. I honestly really like your plan of attack for the draft. You hit on all my major needs and in an order I can get behind. The biggest thing this offseason is turning the page on the pass rush position in acquiring a young presence off the edge who can follow the career Robert Mathis has paved.

Roy E. (Marion, IN)

Why hasn't this defense went to a big 4 man front on early downs? McGill needs activated and we need to play to our strengths(the big fellas on the d-line). LB corps is thin, so adjust the scheme. What's your thoughts sir?

Bowen: If you go with four "big men" up front, then what does the rest of your defensive personnel look like up front. Where are your edge rushers? How many linebackers are on the field? To me, this sort of personnel grouping would lead to teams passing a lot against you. I understand that with the linebackers thin, you are looking for ways around that. Using Clayton Geathers more in the box and T.J. Green sliding into the safety role is more of my thinking.

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