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Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag Weekend Edition: How Will The Defensive Line Group Shake Out?

Intro: In Saturday’s mailbag, readers inquire about why the Colts picked Malik Hooker, the release of Matt Overton and the selection of running back Marlon Mack.


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).

Bruce W. (Windsor, Canada)

With our new running backs speed, size and break to the outside style of running, could we possibly see a return to the ole manning/james stretch play??
I mean really stretching the play to the outside . Manning had to dead run to meet james outside the tackles, and when they playactioned off that play, no one could cover our recievers down field.

Bowen: I do not know if the stretch play will be inserted into the playbook, but I do think we will see some specific packages for a guy like Marlon Mack. He brings ability in the open field that the Colts have not really had in recent years. I would think the Colts would simply like to give Mack some touches to see what he can do on extended hand-off plays and other areas out in space.

Jamie S. (Philippines)

how many TE will the colts carry in their 53 player roster?

Bowen: I'm going to go with three tight ends on the 53-man roster. I was a little surprised the Colts did not draft a tight end in 2017, considering how deep that position was in the draft. The Colts have had four tight ends on the 53-man roster before. But with the wide receiver position having an abundance of options, I'll go with three tight ends. Maybe undrafted free agent Darnell Daniels can push for a roster spot. You have locks in Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope. Free agent Brandon Williams is my No. 3 tight end right now.

Pedro K. (Belo Horizonte, Brazil)

Hey Kevin, how are you doing? I hope you've enjoyed the draft week as much as I did. Great draft and overall a great offseason for the Colts. I know it might be a little early but I have a few questions about how the roster will shape up come final cuts in September, so here goes:
1. The defensive line suddently looks like our deepest position group. Do you think we could keep 7 d-linemen in the final roster? Right now it seems to me Hankins, Anderson, Langford, Ridgeway and the rookie Stewart are 'locks' to make the roster which would leave the final spots to be sorted out between Woods, Parry, Hunt and McGill. Who do you think are the front runners in that competition?
2. The offensive line is another group that is really shaping up to become a strength, considering we have arguably 8 guys who could be above average starters (Castonzo, Mewhort, Kelly, Haeg, Clark, Schenke, Good and the rookie Banner). Are 8 bodies enough to round out the roster or should we carry a 9th o-lineman? In that case who do you think has the advantage in that competition? Is Blythe going to make it, given the need for another backup inside?
3. Finally, I still haven't seen the full list of UDFA signees for the Colts, but I know we have a history of success finding talent after the draft. Which positions would you guess have the best chance of having an undrafted rookie make the final roster? I'm thinking CB, RB, ILB and OLB based on the need for extra bodies and the level of competition on those spots, do you agree?
Thanks once more for the great job you do answering our questions and GO COLTS!!

Bowen: Pedro, good to hear from you. I always love the draft. So unpredictable and entertaining. 1. Check later in the mailbag for the answer to this question. This is a really hard position group to predict for roster cuts. 2. I think the Colts will carry nine on the 53-man roster. I know Chris Ballard has mentioned even having 10, which is a number the Colts had at times last year. As long as the injuries are not too immense after the preseason, the Colts should have room for nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. I would go with Blythe for now, with that ninth spot really up for grabs. 3. Earlier this week, Chris Ballard said on SIRIUS radio that TE-Darnell Daniels, RB-Dalton Crossan and CB-Reggie Porter were three names to watch in the undrafted group. All of those guys are at positions of need.

Jim J. (Tucson, AZ)

Thanks for answering everybody's question. I'm very pleased with the Colts draft. One thing I noticed was the shortage of really big men available this year. There were many tackles in the 300 to 310 lb range. But only Grover Stewart was the size of nose tackle the Colts were looking for. I think Stewart can be coached up to a very high level as a run stuffer, much higher than Parry. What are your thoughts?

Bowen: The ceiling is high for Stewart. A 347-pound man piling up 27.0 sacks, even on the Division II level, is something you don't see often. We had so many defensive line questions in this mailbag and how the Colts fill out that group is a major off-season storyline. I would be surprised if Stewart doesn't make the 53-man roster. This will take up a roster spot somewhere. I think a big thing for Parry this offseason is to show he can play a few spots on the defensive line. The Colts have some versatile linemen, so Parry must make himself available at places other than nose tackle.

Richard P. (Rochester, NY)

Hi Kevin, Many of us are interested in seeing the updated weights of some of the players on our roster. Off season goals requested by the team could be asking some players to lose weight while others might be asked to put some weight on. Do you know when the updated weights will be posted on the roster? Two players I am interested in are Joe Haeg and Denzelle Good. Thanks a lot.

Bowen: I think this usually happens around Training Camp. A pre-camp weigh in typically comes with guys having a conditioning test on the first day of reporting.

Adam S. (Cedar Lake, IN)

What are the odds of the colts targeting Sammy Watkins? I saw the Bills didn't pick up his 5th year option. We tried to go for Alshon Jeffrey this offseason, so it would make sense to go for Sammy next offseason.

Bowen: My first instinct, odds aren't great. But you make a good point about Alshon Jeffery and just how the Colts handled the wide receiver group in 2017. Kamar Aiken was brought in for several reasons, one being to add some competition to Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett. The Colts have some really nice talent at receiver, however the future is a little murky at this position. Moncrief is entering a contract year. Dorsett is under contract through 2018, with a fifth-year option for 2019 needing to be exercised next spring, so a decision must be made there. And Aiken is on a one-year contract. So, yes, depending on how the Colts handle their own receivers next year, Watkins could be in play. Remember, the Colts hired new receivers coach Sanjay Lal, who came over from Buffalo. Watkins has extremely high praise for Lal.

Dave L. (Colchester, VT)

SORRY I cannot join into all the celebrating over having a great draft. Our 1st pick Hoover was a big mistake. The 2 months leading up to the draft and mock drafts were argued out weekly when the safety position came up a number of people did not have Hoover as their #2 player. They would give 1 year playing time,injury question,number of interception no coverage but poor QB work and show film. Then they talked about poor tackling skills and showed film of him looking silly trying to make open field tackles on college kids. We had a member of blue chip D players fall to us at pick 15 and we picked the wrong one. Add to this that he was not in a position of need. My question to you Kevin is who did you have as top pass rusher.cover corner and linebacker when pick 15 came up. Hope to hear from you. Dave

Bowen: In the Mock Drafts I looked at, I could hardly find any that didn't have Malik Hooker as a top 10-12 pick. There's a reason Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson thought long and hard about taking Hooker at No. 12, even throwing out the Ed Reed comparison as well. I did not expect Hooker to be there. Without a truly elite pass rusher there, knowing the cornerback group had depth (hence Quincy Wilson in the second round) and the questions on Reuben Foster's health, the pick of Hooker made plenty of sense. The Colts were 29th in interceptions last year, with eight picks. Hooker had seven interceptions alone last year. That playmaking was coveted and needed for the Colts. As long as he returns to health, I expect his tackling to improve in getting more reps at safety. I have no issue with the selection of Hooker.

James B. (Mississippi)

Thanks for answering our questions Kevin.
1. Over the years that Overton was the long snapper, who was the back up snapper in case he could not snap? Or who could be now? 
2. What kind of running back did the Colts really need ? An outside the hash marks runner or inside? I'm not sure what fits best with the style of offense. I suppose we have a variety now. I was hoping to see some running success from Josh Ferguson last year but didn't. He seemed to be an outside the hasmarks type of back. What are your thoughts on the running back style that the Colts have?
Thanks again.

Bowen: 1. That's a great question. I remember Coby Fleener taking some snaps at long snapper before. I think last year linebacker Luke Rhodes was the "backup" long snapper. I'd guess some backup linebacker or tight end would have those responsibilities. 2. I think the one that is like rookie Marlon Mack---a speed guy that lights up the tape when you turn it on. The Colts have been lacking a game-breaking back for quite some type. Mack was that sort of runner in college. Last year, the Colts had just four runs of more than 20 yards (fewest in the NFL). Mack had 6 touchdowns of at least 43 yards. His style was needed for this offense.

Erick M. (Rio de Janeiro)

Hi , huges from a brazilian fan.
My question is about ours DT. We have singed hankins and
also draft another. So, now we have Anderson, Hankins, Mcgill, Party, Ridgeway. To make the 53 on roster. Who do you think Colts shoud cut?

Bowen: Let's not forget about Al Woods and Margus Hunt, two new free agents on the defensive line. Also, you drafted Grover Stewart in the fourth round. This is the hardest position group to predict for roster cuts. I think Hankins, Anderson, Langford and Ridgeway are locks. Stewart is probably close to a lock. So that leaves one, maybe two spots for McGill, Parry, Woods and Hunt. Wow, what a group.

Kellen T. (Greensburg, IN)

Would Walker Jr. be considered a steal being drafted in the 5th round? Seemed like he would go much higher in all of the mock drafts I've seen, and he also looks good on film.

Bowen: I saw some ranking that had Walker higher than a fifth-round projection and others that had him going later. Guess it just depends on who you are looking at for scouting evaluations. I'm really curious to see what type of shot Walker is going to get. The Colts could be rotating quite a few inside linebacker bodies within that first-team defense this spring and summer.

Nick V. (Shafter, CA)

  1. How do you feel about the colts defense in terms of depth? Personally I feel like they have great depth defensively, with Green, Butler, Melvin, and Hairston (if it works out for him) would all be really good back up guys in the secondary, and basham and mingo in the OLB 
    1. I feel like the colts are gonna be that "sleeper" team next year, no one ever really talks about the colts on the Various NFL shows unless it's how bad we are at protecting Luck (which I kinda disagree with)

Bowen: 1. The depth has definitely improved. That's obvious. Especially at safety, inside linebacker, and the defensive line. 2. I saw those in Vegas put the over/under at nine wins for the Colts. If Andrew Luck is healthy for 16 games, I see this team as a double digit-win team. I agree with you though. When you hear talk about the AFC South (which is rare), Houston and Tennessee are often the first two teams mentioned.

Ray S. (Minneapolis)

Hello Kevin, My question is on the back field. I see a lot of teams deploying a two back attack Full back help opening up holes for the tail back, we rarely use this formation than blame the O-line when we get hit in the backfield. I understand we lose a TE or flanker but if we want to run the ball and be serious about it why not more of a two back attack

Bowen: Ray, I really don't know of many teams that use a fullback. That position is pretty much extinct in the NFL. Some teams will use a fullback on occasion. But, for the most part, teams use that hybrid tight end to play the fullback role. With the Colts roster at 90 guys, there's no fullback in sight.

Jalyan P. (Hattiesburg, MS)

As a fan I am very pleased with the draft. But my question is 'Do you think that we've added enough help in the LB core to make the defense solid?' Also, 'Do you think drafting Wilson in Round 2 was enough help for our already injury prone secondary?'

Bowen: With the linebackers, I think it's going to take another draft before the Colts feel really good about the depth at those spots. The Colts have brought in a pleothra of new bodies at both outside and inside. However, the 2017 draft picks there are a third rounder (Tarell Basham, outside) and a fifth rounder (Anthony Walker, inside). So the Colts could use more reinforcements there with the young talent. You knew you weren't going to solve everything in the draft, so that's why Jim Irsay has said it's going to take a couple of drafts before the defense really is on firm, frim ground. With Wilson, I do think the Colts did enough. Injuries are a part of the game. It's impossible to predict those. If Davis and Wilson can stay healthy, I think that's a more than capable duo to play corner.

Stan C. (Minneapolis)

Hey, Kevin! Thanks as always for all your hard work. A couple quick questions... 1) Which will/should be the most important rookie-veteran relationship over the course of this season: Darius Butler/Malik Hooker, Vontae Davis/Quincy Wilson, or Frank Gore/Marlon Mack? 2) Who would benefit the team most by having a sizable boost in play relative to what we've seen from them thus far: Henry Anderson, Phillip Dorsett, or Le'Raven Clark? Three very different types of impacts from three very different career arcs.

Bowen: 1. Interesting question. I could make really strong cases for all of them. Let's go with Malik Hooker. I think Hooker will have more communication/vocal repsonsiblies moving forward. Wilson and Mack are more at insitnictial positions with not much vocal guidance needed from those guys pre-snap. 2. Anderson or Clark. Anderson's is largely due to the ACL injury, so I don't know if it's totally fair to put him into this group. If Clark can solidfy the right tackle spot, that would really secure things up front. As always, great questions, Stan.

Doug R. (Moses Lake, WA)

Kevin -- Somehow I missed news about Todman. Didn't he improve Colts' kickoff returns?
I really enjoy your analyses

Bowen: Jordan Todman was not re-signed in free agency. Todman remains on the open market as an unrestricted free agent. I was not surprised by the Colts passing on Todman in re-signing. Yes, Todman was a very solid return man last year. But where does he fit in at running back? The Colts had to go draft a young running back. That takes up a running back spot, probably the one that Todman had occupied. If Quan Bray returns to health, and makes the team, then he takes care of your kick return question. The Colts have kick return options even though Todman was productive in his chances back there last year.

Scott G. (Iowa)

Hi Kevin, I have a question about the offense. Do you think if Josh Furgeson makes an improvement this year that maybe he he can keep a roster spot and next year he and Mack could be our 1-2 punch that can both run and catch the ball like what the Falcons had last season? I saw an article saying he was more comfortable this offseason so I was hopeful to see him make a little more noise this year! Thanks!

Bowen: I think Josh Ferguson definitleiy has a shot at keeping his roster spot. Chris Ballad spoke earlier this week about how the staff is still interested to see what Josh Ferguson can do. Ferrgsuon has those complementary traits the Colts are looking for with Frank Gore and Robert Trubin. I don't think that Ferguson and Mack could be the 1-2 punch though. Those guys are two similar in skillset. I believe the Colts would want more of an in-between the tackles runner to go along with one of them. Remember, Robert Turbin is under contract through 2018.

Corey G. (Indianapolis)

How you doin Kevin,thanks for all the support for Colts nation,I saw you Matt and Caroline on doin a most impactful draftee segment,I didn't hear Grover Stewart's name,I think he will be a guy that pushes everybody in my opinion,I am a Colts supporter, not a fan,I believe a guy from a small school can have a chip on his shoulder and with his frame and ability should not be overlooked,I think he will go hard in practice and in the meeting rooms to carve out a role on this team,has special and humble written all over him,my question is,I think this Colts team has a lot of hunger,what Undrafted free agents have a chance to contribute,I think this team is just as good as anybody,after they come together,what do you think

Bowen: With Stewart, I think there's upside for sure. But that's quite a jump from Division II football to contributing at the NFL level as a rookie. Plus, the Colts have some capable bodies already on the defensive line. There's not a real need for Stewart to have to come in and play a bunch of snaps. The Colts can be patient while Stewart gets used to this sort of competition every single week.

Eli D. (Del Rey, CA)

Hi Kevin,

A three questions.. 

Who do you see playing first: Hairston or Banner?

How much playing time do you think Marlon Mack will have this season?

I'm always excited to see our UDFAs. Especially this year. That being said, last question: Who do you think will make the cut? 

Thank you, Go Colts!

Bowen: 1. Let's go with Hairston. More immediate need at corner. You also sub guys in and out there. Even at worse, Hairston is still a special teams guy. 2. If Mack shows what he showed in college, it would not surprise me if he had 5-to-7 touches in Week One. The more Mack shows, the more that number is going to grow. 3. Chris Ballard said earlier this week on SIRIUS that he has his eye on running back Dalton Crossan, tight end Darrell Daniels and cornerback Reggie Porter. Those are probably the three positions that I'm watching, basically they have room for open roster spots. The big receivers are intriguing, but is there a 53-man spot available at WR? I don't think so.

Joseph B. (Kokomo, IN)

Hi Kevin love the mailbag helps me get through the season ... but I think Chris Ballard hit home runs in the draft but my question is if the season would start tomorrow who would u start on defense I would have it set up like

DL- Anderson,Hankins,Langford

LB- Sheard,Jackson,Spence,Simon

CB- Davis,Wilson,
NCB- Butler

FS- Hooker 
SS- Geathers 

What are your thoughts I put Butler starting a nickel corner but I just see the def playing out two or three ways ...if Geathers goes to LB or butler to CB things could change ....thoughts ....

Bowen: I think you're on it, Joseph. How the Colts want to handle Butler and Geathers will determine what the base defense/sub packages look like. I still think the inside linebacker spots are up for grabs. Jackson and Spence are probably slight favorites, just based off experience though. All in all, I think you have a pretty good idea of the starting 11.

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