Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag Weekend Edition: What Does The Future Look Like At Tight End?

Intro: In Saturday’s mailbag, readers inquire about the play of rookie safety T.J. Green, the versatility of Darius Butler and if the team has considered bringing back inside linebacker Nate Irving.

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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 V. (Zionsville, IN)

Early in the year the team jettisoned Nate Irving and Sio Moore, who were supposed to be the starters at LB. Nate seemed to be an obvious candidate to bring back and shore up the linebacking corps since he was familiar with the system and they were in need of help. Is there a reason why the Colts never revisited Nate Irving

Bowen: There were reports earlier this year of the Colts bringing Nate Irving in for a workout. Irving has been reported to have worked out for several teams over the course of the season, but hasn't signed with any team. The Colts mentioned special teams as a major reason why they parted ways with Irving. The other inside linebackers clearly have/had more of an impact on those units. We've seen Sio Moore go from the Colts to the Chiefs and now to the Cardinals. The Colts are currently rolling with Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison in the final four weeks of the season. You could have never predicted D'Qwell Jackson's suspension. But here the Colts are getting an early look at the possible future at inside linebacker. It's early, and this weekend will be a totally different test, but Edwin and Morrison are giving the Colts some reasons to think they could enter next season as the team's starting inside linebackers.

Stan C. (Minneapolis)

Hey, Kevin! It was certainly nice to watch a great win in my own backyard. Special props to Mike Adams, Robert Turbin, and Mo Alie-Cox, who came up big all throughout the game. Couldn't grab an autograph, but I blame the stadium for putting the visitor tunnel on the side of the field with the Viking's sideline and not the visitor's sideline for that. The bottom row of seats I waited at put me about 20 yards away from player warm-ups, though, and Pat looked my way when I waved his jersey as the special teams unit came out for warm ups. Made my day! Plus, the Vikes have made an incredible stadium, and the arena's reaction when Adrian Peterson made his return gave me goosebumps. Helluva great time!

Anyways, I want to get something off of my chest. Last week, the league dropped a fine on T.J. Green for a hit on Texans kicker Nick Novak from week 14. Green flew helmet-first into the side of Novak's knee after his kicking foot came back to the ground, not particularly close to a block on the ball. I was honestly infuriated. I have no love lost for any Texans player, but that's the kind of thing that could end a kicker's career. I know he's new to being a defender, but you'd think as a former WR he would be more cognizant of the danger a move like that poses for his peers. Has Green responded to this play, either post-game or post-fine? I love my boys in blue, but I hold them to a high standard and that play made me sick to my stomach.

Bowen: What a stadium the Vikings have up in Minnesota. I loved it and thought the crowd's reaction to AP coming back was outstanding. Moving on to T.J. Green, he was fined $9,115 for running into Houston kicker Nick Novak earlier this week. Green was lucky that play wasn't called roughing the kicker and cost the Colts a first down via a penalty. This isn't the first time Green has had a late hit/personal foul penalty in his rookie season. It's probably the biggest negative we've seen from Green. You watch him play and you see the speed and athleticism the Colts loved coming out of Clemson. You see him make plays in space and the versatility that the Colts wanted to bring to their defense. But Green has to clean up these plays if he's going to become a full-time starter in 2017. You can't have those careless penalties that result from just being too reckless.

Braxton P. (Fort Wayne, IN)

Hi Kevin, long time reader, first time writer. My question is with Art Jones now on IR for the rest of the season, how likely is it that he will be cut sometime in the offseason? He will have missed 31 of his 48 possible games with the Colts mostly due to injury. What this means is he has only been available for about one third of the games played since becoming a Colt. To me he isn't a big enough impact player to warrant keeping around for that short of a time. Someone like JJ Watt or Gronk would be worth that to me, but Jones just doesn't create those kind of mismatches and game changing moments.

Keep up the great work!

Braxton

Bowen: The Colts are going to have two decisions to make in the off-season regarding veteran defenders under contract. Arthur Jones and D'Qwell Jackson are those two vets. We saw Jones take a pay cut last season, but his 2016 was once again defined for the time away from the field (four missed games due to suspension and three more due to injury). The defensive line needed Jones this season with Kendall Langford and Henry Anderson hampered by injuries. If the Colts feel Langford and Anderson can return to full health in 2017, that could really complicate things for Jones. Remember, Jones is under contract for two more seasons, so we will see if the Colts feel that they need to move on, like they've done in the past with guys like Bjoern Werner, LaRon Landry and Ricky Jean Francois.

Justin R. (Haymarket, VA)

With how our offensive line played last week and with Reitz and Good getting healthy do you think there will be a change up front or are we going to stay with Clark and Haeg on the right side?

Bowen: All signs watching practice this week point to the Colts keeping their same offensive line against the Vikings. That would mean LT-Anthony Castonzo, LG-Jonotthan Harrison, C-Ryan Kelly, RG-Joe Haeg and RT-Le'Raven Clark. Yes, Denzelle Good and Joe Reitz have returned to practice. But the looks at practice indicate the Colts are going to stick with the line that protected better than any other group we've seen this season. Again Minnesota, the five above allowed no sacks of Andrew Luck and just two hits (fewest we've seen all year). It's looking like that group is going to get another shot to work together this week. This time the task is a dynamic edge duo of Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

Michael M. (Indianapolis)

This has certainly been a frustrating team to root for this season, don't you think?

When looking at all of our upcoming free agents, who would you say are most likely to stay? Doyle has made a case for himself and with ten sacks through the season, I'd say Walden could stick for another year or two, at least until we get a younger pass rusher comfortable. But with guys like butler and Mike Adams, where go you see then fitting in with the plans this offseason?

Thanks and have a Merry Christmas!

Bowen: This is something we've touched on in the past few mailbags. Coming into the season, you didn't think the Colts had many major free agents in 2017. But, sure enough, here you are with two weeks left in the regular season and some of the team's most productive players in 2016 are free agents. Guys like Erik Walden, Darius Butler, Mike Adams, Jack Doyle and Robert Turbin have been five of your most productive players this season. That handful (and Adams' future could come down to him wanting to still play at the age of 35) make for very compelling cases to be brought back in 2017.

David B. (Clearwater, FL)

WOW! the eye formation. Think we might see it this Sat? Maybe alittle Payton to Edge stretch play? Love to c Gore with a head of steam. Merry X-Mas

Bowen: We've seen Gore in an I-formation this season. Whether it's Jack Doyle, Dwayne Allen or Erik Swoope, the Colts have versatile tight ends that can lead block for one of the NFL's greatest running backs. The balance from this team in Minnesota would be welcomed again in Oakland, trying to keep the Raiders offense on the sideline.

Bransen H. (Tipton, IN)

Big fan Kevin.

  1. So we know this tight end class for 2017 is very deep. And in my opinion, Jack Doyle has been more consistent than Allen all year, and Swoope has really made strides from when we first signed him. With Grigson showing a history of drafting players more on talent than positional need, where do you think the Colts stand on Doyle and Swoope. Do they want to bring them back, or take a chance in the draft?
  1. Everyone is talking about Walden being the top priority for the colts in the offseason, and it makes sense since he is the only Colt not named Mathis or Freeney to have a double digit sack season since 1999. But Darius Butler is playing the best of his career in the slot and at safety. Now with Melvin carving out a role on this team, the corner draft class being deep, and assuming Pat Robinson can return to 2015 form, do you think Butler is worth resigning or letting walk.

Bowen: 1. This is probably a question not on a lot of people's minds going into 2017. But it is something to ponder. You are correct in that the 2017 draft class appears to have many more quality tight ends than we saw last year. You could make a case for going that route in the draft. However, I don't like that. In my opinion, you have proven guys in your own building. You sign your own, don't take a risk and then address the other needs (mainly on defense) through the draft. It's not like Doyle or Swoope are really going to break the bank in free agency and the Colts do have a good amount of money to work with in 2017. Picking a tight end in the draft would keep you from spending a pick on a need much more important to this team than a reserve tight end. Sign your own and let the defense get the bulk of the draft focus. 2. Another very good question. In my opinion, it's going to be very hard to let Darius Butler walk. Butler has extended his career by displaying some unique versatility in 2016. Butler can play safety and slot corner. That's a major luxury in a pass happy NFL going up against secondary's where any little injury can truly expose a player. Bringing Butler back gives you the ability to float around other ideas in how you handle the secondary. Butler is so reliable and this staff has talked about how there's a general calmness when you know No. 20 is patrolling things from the safety position. Don't overlook that when thinking about Butler's pending free agency.

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