Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag Weekend Edition: How Many Touchdowns Will Andrew Luck Throw For In 2016?

Intro: In Saturday’s mailbag, readers inquire about the Colts needing to improve their offensive line, how the practice squad is assembled and how much longer Adam Vinatieri will play in his Hall of Fame career.

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INDIANAPOLIS – Each week, readers of Colts.com 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).

Matthew S. (Muncie, IN)

After seeing the offensive line perform this preseason...i am still sitting here scratching my head wandering what is going on. My question is are the colts allowed to use a guy or several from the Defensive line along the offensive line? We need BIGGER...HEAVIER...STRONGER guys along the offensive line. Just think of a wall of Zack Kerrs protecting luck. You cant push a guy like that around that easily.

Another question is why have the colts not tried shopping around some of the extra talent we have on the team. Why not trade Chester Rogers or someone away for a better offensive line guy?

Bowen: Sure, the Colts are allowed to use a guy from the defensive line, but don't expect that anytime soon. This isn't high school where guys are playing both ways. The Colts need those defensive linemen, especially when you are only dressing 46 guys each week. In terms of trades, what are the Colts realistically going to get for Chester Rogers? Maybe a late-round pick? I think the best bet for the Colts right now is to explore the waiver wire following final cut downs on Saturday to see if they can bolster some position groups via that route.

Curt H. (Fort Wayne, IN)

Hi Kevin. Thanks for all your hard work. It seems like this year the media is putting a lot of weight into the preseason games. I keep seeing all this doom and gloom for the Colts out there in the media. Granted the O-line didn't look good in the preseason game against the Eagles, but I remember seeing the Colts drop all four preseason games when Peyton Manning was playing only to start the season 13-0. As a Colts fan how much stock should I put into the preseason games and all the naysayers in the media?

Bowen: You can manipulate preseason stats however you want to. There's virtually zero correlation to preseason records and postseason success though. Just look at the Colts' run with Peyton Manning. Andrew Luck was on the field for seven series/three quarters this preseason. There are 16 quarters in the preseason. So Luck played less than 25 percent of the action across four games. Now, did the Colts have the success they wanted to with Luck in there? No. The inability to finish off drives cannot carry over to the regular season. Chuck Pagano wanted to see better play this preseason, but I don't think that's an automatic precursor to what we are going to see in the regular season, especially on defense with how many injuries the Colts had last month.

Michael W. (Jacksonville, FL)

Kevin... Outside of Tarik Glenn, Ryan Diem, Jeff Saturday and sure a few others I can't remember finding good offensive lineman seem to be a consistent challenge for the Colts every year. My question-Are the Colts evaluating the process we use for scouting, evaluating and selecting offensive lineman? (Rookies and Veterans) and Is there any comparative analysis,metrics of how some of the other teams (Dallas, New England, Cardinals etc. have done to address their offensive lines?

Bowen: Rest assured, this staff has exhausted resources in trying to improve their offensive line. The three names you mentioned above could not be further from the same mold. Glenn was a first rounder. Diem was a fourth rounder. And Saturday was an undrafted free agent, having been cut by the Ravens. I don't think there has been a specific blueprint that leads to offensive line success. The Cowboys spent some major resources on the line, whereas New England hasn't. A cookie cutter type of answer to the offensive line has yet to be found. The Colts committed strong resources to the line this season and brought in Joe Philbin to coach that group. We will find out in a few weeks if what we saw in Week Three of the preseason is going to continue this season, or if the line play can improve with a change of approach within that group this season.

Jacob H. (Fullerton, CA)

Kevin, two part question. Part one, what on Earth has happened to Anthony Castonzo? At the end of the 2014 season he was nearly a pro bowl nod, but ever since the beginning of last season it seems he has been regressing in terms of skills and production. Should Colts fans be concerned? Part two, its hard not to notice that all three of our division rivals have gotten better this offseason/preseason and all three arguably have more NFL talent on their rosters than the Colts do. Do you think its reasonable for us to believe we will win the division still? What do you think?

Bowen: Anthony Castonzo was not the player we are used to seeing in Week Three of the preseason. Castonzo wasn't pleased with his effort against the Eagles. The Colts need Castonzo to fortify that left side because they just don't have any other option there. While Castonzo didn't play up to his normal standards in 2015, the offense struggled even more when he was out of the lineup for three weeks. Frank Gore's numbers went down and the sacks went up against Colts' quarterbacks when Castonzo missed three games late in 2015. Chuck Pagano had this to say about Castonzo earlier in the week, when asked what the Colts are looking for in his improvement: "Here's how they lined up, here's what you did, here was the breakdown and this is how we fix it. Go to work on that, be deliberate and be intentional. Go out today and work on whether it's your steps in the run game, your footwork in pass protection or communication, whatever it was. You point out the breakdowns and then you go to work to fix it. AC is going to be fine. He will play winning football for us."

Luke R. (Rochester, NY)

Hey Kevin,

With the regular season to begin soon, I have questions

  1. Over the course of the preseason, Andrew Luck played like he was playing in 2014 (only better), but the Colts couldn't manage to score touchdowns at the end of drives. How will Chudzinski tackle this? Passing or running?
  1. We heard from Vinatieri himself, that he wants to play for 3 seasons max. If he only wants to do it for 2, who do you see us trying to get? (His retirement is closer than you think)
  1. What are your regular season stats predictions for Andrew Luck?

Bowen: 1. The red-zone dilemma has to be high on Chud's focus list this week. The Colts' starting offense had seven drives in the preseason. They had five drive past midfield, but scored just six points. Some threat of a run/pass balance has to be used inside the red zone. You can't forget about options like Frank Gore/Dwayne Allen in the passing game either. 2. In my opinion, Adam Vinatieri is going to play in this league until he breaks Morten Andersen's career records for most points and field goals made. For Vinny to do that, he likely needs three years. Predicting a kicking replacement two-to-three years down the road is impossible. 3. Let's go with 4,400 passing yards for Luck, 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. I see a completion percentage right around 65, which would be a big improvement for Luck.

Harvest P. (Muncie, IN)

Kevin my question this week is with Terrance Knighton being available on the wavier will that be a great pick up for the Colts? I know the season is a week away, but is to early to say that the Colts will be a contender for the Superbowl as a sleeper team this year?

Bowen: I think the Colts are okay with a duo of David Parry and T.Y. McGill manning the nose position for this team. Parry playing on run downs and then you bring in a guy like McGill, who can excel in pass rushing situations. There's a reason Knighton was let go before the first cut down to 75 players. Sure, the Colts are a sleeper Super Bowl pick, in the sense of I haven't seen a single pundit pick the Colts as a team playing in Houston this February. Right now, given the injury situation, no one is going to be choosing the Colts to make a bunch of noise in January. This team has to get healthy first, before any Super Bowl talk begins to build.

Richard W. (Winamac, IN)

Hi Kevin,how many players can we keep on the practice squad,do they have to clear the waiver wire first and are there other options for inactive players beside injured reserve? Thanks

Bowen: We had a few practice squad questions this week. Remember, teams can sign guys off your practice squad at any time. You can keep 10 players on the practice squad and they do have to clear waivers first. In terms of injured reserve, the only option is the short-term IR. Only one player can be used as a short-term IR guy. The Colts used it on D'Joun Smith after Week One of last season. For this year, safety Clayton Geathers could stay on the non-football injury list, which means he would be sidelined for the first six weeks of the regular season. So there are not a lot of options outside of injured reserve when you look at how banged up the Colts are right now. The Colts will go into next week with more than a handful of guys having not practiced in over a week. That complicates things.

Ryan L. (Des Moines, IA)

where does austin blythe fits in offensive line ?

Bowen: The preseason injuries to Jack Mewhort and Joe Haeg, plus Hugh Thornton still in a boot, has really improved Blythe's chances to make this team's 53-man roster. When Mewhort went out last week against the Eagles, it was Blythe sliding into the left guard spot (at the same time, Ryan Kelly also left the game, so Jonotthan Harrison took over at center). I currently see Blythe being an interior reserve early in the season. Things might get a little crowded once Mewhort/Haeg return, but right now those two are in jeopardy to miss the start of 2016.

Bryce H. (Madison, IN)

I still have a lot of confidence that this offensive line can get the job done even though it'll be slightly patchwork come next Sunday. Luckily we did draft four offensive lineman in this years draft. I realize the intention wasn't to have to start plugging them before season but thats the NFL. I do think we'll need to get the run game going if only to protect our defense while key components are healing on that side of the ball.

Do you think that chudzinski will use gore and turbin as a change of pace to each other?

Bowen: I do believe Robert Turbin is the backup to Frank Gore this season. However, they really aren't change of pace backs. That's more of the role for Jordan Todman, who is known for his speed. Turbin is a thick runner that isn't afraid to be a between the tackle guy. So look for Turbin to be the early backup in 2016, with Gore the obvious feature ball carrier.

Leonardo D. (Mexico)Hi Kevin,

I was just wonder how the Colts choose the players they pick off of waiver. Are they players the colts couldn't get their hands on before? If not, did the colts changed thier minds only from watching them play on the preseason or do they have staff watching them practice?

Bowen: Leonardo, I think it's a little bit of everything you mentioned. You can't sign every undrafted free agent. Plus, there are guys that impress elsewhere during the preseason (T.Y. McGill last year in Seattle) but their teams can't keep them come roster cut down time. There are so many different scenarios involved in weighing how to acquire waiver wire guys. But looking at players who have produced in the preseason, at positions of need, is a good place to start for the Colts.

Ross B. (Noblesville, IN)

Hey Kevin. Long time listener, first time caller. I was wondering if you might be able to shed some light on the reasons behind NFL roster regulations. It seems all teams wrestle with a 53 man roster, especially given the physical nature of the game, frequency of injuries, and harsh injury rules (most players, when put on IR are automatically done for the season). This forces teams to cut or IR slightly injured players (Boom Herron last year, for example) because they can't afford to carry injured backups. The expansion of the practice squads has helped a bit, but why not just expand active rosters, or allow for more fluidity of IR-to-active-roster? Is this the owners trying to control costs, or are there other factors/concerns? It seems that even moving active rosters to 55 would really make a difference, and I'm not sure what the downside is as they would likely be min salary guys and the owners are making good money....

Bowen: Ross, you bring up some great, compelling points. I've always wondered why the NFL doesn't have a "disabled list"---like Major League Baseball. Things get really, really complicated every season when teams are trying to balance a seven-man inactive list amongst a 53-man roster, with just 46 guys dressing on game days. This isn't college football with 85 scholarship players and if one five-star recruit goes out, another subs into the lineup. NFL teams are only allowed to have one player go on injured reserve in a season and have the opportunity to revert back to the active roster before the end of the season. For me, I think a disabled list should be used. I understand the NFL wanting to keep 53 guys on an active roster from a strategic standpoint. However, I think the current system involves too much of an element of luck in needing to stay very, very healthy to make a deep playoff run. A disabled list would allow for more healthy bodies on a 53-man roster and not totally eliminate teams who have been hit especially hard with injuries.

Chad C. (Arcadia, CA)

Hey Kevin. I went to the very first Colts game in 1984 and we had season tickets. My next door neighbor was Ray Donaldson and he always had players like Nesby Glasgow and Ron Stark at his house. My question is are there any staff left who are still with the team who made the move from Baltimore on the Mayflower?

Bowen: You've got four people still left from the move in 1984: Owner/CEO-Jim Irsay, Chief Operating Officer-Pete Ward, Assistant Video Director-John Starliper and Vice President of Equipment Operations-Jon Scott.

Pedro K. (Brio Horizonte, Brazil)

Hey, Kevin, how are you doing this week? Thanks again for answering our questions. By the time this one gets to you maybe it'll have been answered already by the cuts on Saturday, but here's what I've been thinking: with the injuries we currently have to deal, and the difficulty it brings to reducing the roster to 53 players, do you think maybe we could cut Matt Overton and assign the long snapping duties to someone else (maybe one of the backup o-linemen). This is not a knock on Matt (can't remember a bad snap his had since he's been in Indy) but it could be a valuable roster spot. In a related question: is there a backup or emergency LS for games, just in case? Thanks again and GO COLTS!!

Bowen: Pedro, I understand what you are getting at, but Matt Overton is going to be on this 53-man roster. When you think about this sort of question, it is kind of interesting no team has elected to have some backup tight end become the long snapper (remember you need that person to go down and cover punts, so you can't really have an offensive lineman do it). But teams are steadfast in having a long snapper on the 53-man roster. Matt Overton will be that guy for a fifth season here in Indianapolis. I know in years past Coby Fleener was the backup long snapper. I'm not sure who will be filling that role in 2016.

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