Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag Weekend Edition: How Productive Will The Colts Offense Be In 2016?

Intro: In Saturday’s mailbag, readers inquire about the wide receiver group, the undrafted free agents impressing and the playoff potential for the Colts.

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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).

Alex V. (Mexico City)

Hello Kevin, I am very grateful for keeping us informed about what's going on in the team and answering our questions. On that note these are my questions:

Because Heyward-Bey, Nicks and Johnson didn't met the team expectations, is it possible that the Colts are willing to sign a new veteran receptor for the next season? or Hilton is now the man for this role and keep the young WRs that they already have?, I was reading about Tevaun Smith is doing a great job in OTAs, his athletic ability is obvious on tapes. I want to know too, what is the status of Tyler Varga's concussion injuries? and Finally, a plus doubt: I will go to the Bears vs Colts game, after this match, the team open the doors for fans to watch their practice, hoping to got a sign or pic with some players?

Thank a lot...

Bowen: Alex, I answer your first inquiry below in another question so I'll concentrate on your others here. Tyler Varga participated in the team's offseason program. He even received some first-team reps late in minicamp with Frank Gore sidelined. Varga will be in the mix for playing time behind Gore this preseason. For autographs, I would make sure you get to the Bears/Colts game right when the gates open at Lucas Oil Stadium. When players head out for warmups early on game day, they typically sign a few autographs over by the team's tunnel (southwest corner of the stadium). After the game, the guys are spending time with their families.

Bill G. (Noblesville)

As a new season ticket holder, I have an increased interest in the team's success. I Was glad to see the emphasis on linemen in the recent draft, but I'm concerned about the Colts not addressing the pass rushing positions in the draft. I'm not sure how much Robert Mathis has left, and I don't see anyone else on the roster who can pressure opposing QBs consistently. With a much tougher division, at least on paper, do you think the team has done enough to contend for the playoffs this year?

Bowen: Bill, if you have explored the mailbag before you know that I do think the Colts have done enough to get back into the postseason. They contended for a playoff spot last year without Andrew Luck for nine games. With Luck back healthy and the improvement of the offensive line, I see this offense taking a 180 from last season. In terms of the pass rush, Robert Mathis is now going to see his normal playing time, something that didn't happen until about halfway through last season. If the secondary's addition of Patrick Robinson allows for more consistent cornerback play, that's really going to assist Mathis and the pass rush. The AFC South has made some noise in the offseason. Of course, offseason noise is just that. We will see if that translates to a big uptick in wins come fall. I expect the Colts to be back in the playoffs this season.

Anthony O. (Springfield, MO)

Hey Kevin thanks for all your hard work, I'm sure you get tons of questions every week and I can only imagine how you pick which to answer. I just read the article published on Mike Miller, aka "Big Mike" and I was wondering what you thought of the TE's potential to make the team or if anything be kept on the practice squad? I understand he has some learning to do, which shouldn't be a problem with how supportive the team is, but at 6'6 and 250 and good experience in the passing game,along with the new offensive scheme being tight end friendly, he's not someone I would think the Colts would just wanna let him walk away. What's your view on Miller?

Bowen: A couple of Mike Miller questions in this week's mailbag. It's that time of the offseason. Here was the article that Anthony is referring to on "Big Mike." How the Colts handle the backend of that tight end position is a bit of a mystery right now. Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle are clearly the top two guys. We know that. Is Mo Alie-Cox the favorite to be the No. 3 tight end? You would think the Colts would carry at least three tight ends on the 53-man roster. A fourth tight end isn't a must by any means. If you do keep four, that guy has to be a special teams impact player. Miller has caught the eye of Chuck Pagano already and if he can do that in full pads, he's going to draw at least some attention for a roster spot or a potential practice squad position. Again, I don't think more than three tight ends is a must, but the Colts do like what they have in their young tight ends (undrafted Darion Griswold should be mentioned, too).

Evan B. (Ohio)

Hi Kevin, I know the colts already have 3 solid receivers in Hilton, Moncrief, and Dorsett, but what do you think the odds are that they bring back Andre Johnson? He might be the best Free Agent still available, and he can't be asking for very much.. Go Colts!

Bowen: It looks like the experiment of adding a veteran wide receiver is on the back burner this offseason. Ryan Grigson touched on this topic earlier in the week. The Colts need to develop from within to find that No. 4 wide receiver. Personally, I know I can't name hardly any No. 4 wideouts in the NFL. You just don't see many teams with marquee names at that spot. The Colts will look to the likes of Josh Boyce, Brian Tyms, Quan Bray and some undrafted prospects to fill out that group. It remains to be seen if Andre Johnson will keep playing football as he's still unsigned.

Nick V. (Shafter, CA)

With Andrew Luck being the best QB in the AFC south without a doubt, a built up and seemingly strong offensive line, great running depth in Gore, Turbin, and Varga, and great receiving opportunities such as Hilton, Moncrief, Dorsett, Wayne, and even Doyle and Whalen and what not with other names. My question is what's next offensively for colts to become that top team in the league? Is it unity? Or maybe another signing as the offseason/season progresses? Thank you

Bowen: You mention the bevy of skill players, but I think it goes back to what you said early on in your question. For me, the offensive line is the key to how explosive this offense can be in 2016. If protection is sound, that is going to allow for those weapons to be used in a multitude of ways. 1. Just a few roster notes: Reggie Wayne hasn't been with the Colts for now two offseasons. Also, Griff Whalen is no longer on the roster. He signed with Miami earlier this offseason.

Trevor U. (Fort Wayne, IN)

Hello Kevin, I have a question for you. I've not seen Reggie Wayne turn his official retirement papers in yet, unless I've missed it. So my question is, what could be the chance of the colts calling him and getting him in for conditioning or training to see if he still can ball or not. I'd love to see #87 come back one more year to play with Luck and being 100% healthy for a huge campaign ahead of our colts.

Bowen: I'm all for Hollywood-type stories but I don't think this is happening. Wayne has given no indication he wants to play football after last season's brief camp stint with the Patriots. I think Wayne is enjoying the extra family time he is finally getting after a Ring of Honor-type career in Indy.

Andrew E. (Lafayette, IN)

Hey its me again. I have a question that sorta brings up the past. When we drafted Dorsett pep was quoted as saying he was salivating over the speed and potential for 4 wide out sets. I remember talk of using him and TY on the field at the same time to cut the defenses top clear off. We never saw that last year nor did we see it after chud took over. So my question is why on earth aren't we using that speed. Using both guys on the same side of the field to open the weak side or just make that side indefensible seems to make to much sense, put one out wide right and one wide left even with moncrief or Allen in the slot. Do you think chud will use out speed to cut defenses early to make them respect the pass. That would open up the box for frank too. Thanks.

Bowen: Andrew, I'm going to point you to this article. This covers exactly what you're asking and there's accompanying video from such plays last year. In short, the speed at receiver is a major strength for this offense and that should/will be used to open things up underneath.

Kieffer G. (Miami)

Hey Bowen I haven't asked a question cause you guys essentially cover most of them thankfully. Now I just want a little info on some players. How's josh fergurson looking in practice. Really like what I saw from his game tapes. Also is Good still getting reps at guard? I feel like Good seems to be left out of the competition conversation for o-line. I'm guessing they didn't see him demolish some players last year. Those are my questions for and thanks again for your time on these questions.

Bowen: Josh, if you're reading the mailbag, you know that I'm a fan of Josh Ferguson. I'm not crowning him for anything just yet, but he brings a desired and unique trait to the running back position. I'm looking forward to seeing him, and more of Trey Williams, in Training Camp. They have speed out of the backfield. Denzelle Good played guard during the two weeks he was healthy for this offseason. Good is definitely not "left out of the" offensive line competition. This staff is high on him. I see Good, Hugh Thornton, Jonotthan Harrison and Joe Haeg all competing for that right guard spot in Anderson.

Stan C. (Minneapolis)

Hey Kevin! Thanks as always for your opinions. I wanted to pick your brain regarding the running back position with regard to the 53-man roster.

Now, this question isn't critically important, as Frank Gore will be the central back and the backups are more placeholders than potential successors to his job. The top-end RB talent is loaded in next year's draft, so there isn't a need for a RB to be ready to take that mantle and we can expect a promising back in 2017 no later than rounds 3 or 4. That being said, the young backs will have a fight to be on the roster.

It would be reasonable to expect 4 backs on the final roster. We can reliably expect Gore and Robert Turbin to be the 1 and 2, respectively. I have a very high opinion of Turbin as a backup, considering his tape from Seattle. That leaves Jordan Todman, Tyler Varga, Trey Williams, and Josh Ferguson to vie for the last 2 spots. Todman has by far the most experience, Varga has always been highly praised by the staff, and Williams and Ferguson both fill a very needed scat-back/change of pace element to the group. It is still quite early, but what are your thoughts on how the position? And how much will those varying factors (experience, confidence from the staff, and running style) factor into the final decision?

Bowen: I like this question, Stan. On paper, the running back position might not have a huge quantity in numbers, but I think there's some unique quality throughout the group. Let's say Gore and Turbin are your top two guys. I think Jordan Todman definitely has the lead on that third spot. He has played numerous special teams roles in past stops and provided some needed production during Pittsburgh's postseason run last year. Now, this is where the real fun begins. The Colts are clearly high on Varga after what he showed during the 2015 preseason to merit a roster spot. However, the speed of Trey Williams and Josh Ferguson has to be quite enticing. Remember, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski was previously out in San Diego with Darren Sproles. He knows what a change of pace guy can do for a running back group. I think the Colts will have really good competition to round out this group behind Gore and Turbin. I believe it will be hard to say 'no' to both speed guys, but if Varga has another preseason like he did last year, that's going to complicate things in a good way. This position battle isn't going to make or break the season by any means, but Colts fans know full well how a reserve running back Week One could be the lead guy late in the season.

Jacob H. (Fullerton, CA)

So basically you think improved play in the O-line and secondary is what this team needs to focus on in order to become regular postseason contenders. Okay, and could you elaborate on what being a "hunter" means?

Bowen: The Colts were the "hunted" last year. Many national pundits had the Colts making a deep playoff run in 2015. Some even had them playing in Super Bowl 50. Therefore, teams were gunning for Indianapolis all season long. This year they are more in a "hunter" role. The national attention has decreased immensely for the Colts. With all of the talk surrounding other AFC South teams, the Colts aren't a locked in favorite to win the division. You ask the Colts players, and they are just fine with this belief from those outside of the building. Now, the Colts are the ones doing the chasing this season, instead of being chased.

Zack W. (Bedford, VA)

I recently read the article on the colts app detailing Mike Millers journey to become a colt and as a huge fan of the NAIA it raised a lot of questions for me.

First I was curious how often nfl teams even look at NAIA talent? Are NAIA players eligible to be a part of the draft? Has their been any?

Secondly I was confused why the colts looked at Taylor University. My brother just graduated from Marian University after earning his second national championship title and to me it makes more sense for the colts to be looking at the national champs. I know a lot of guys on that team and I am sure their is better talent on that team then taylor who ended up only 7-3.

Bowen: 1. Teams are looking at every avenue for NFL players. This includes the NAIA. Last year, the NFL had just under a handful of former NAIA players in professional football. 2. The Colts have certainly looked at Marian University before. They have invited former Knights to their local Pro Days and/or rookie minicamp. All it takes is one player, no matter the type of team he plays for (good or bad), to warrant NFL consideration. In case you missed it, this is the article that Zach was referring to on Colts.com.

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