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).Adam H. (Lafayette, IN)
Last year Melvin was our number 2 corner and this year he might end up as the 4th corner. I like knowing that we actually have depth this year with guys Melvin and Morris available to fill in. The last few years we've had so little depth that it's nice to know that we have options if someone goes down. Maybe I'm drinking the Ballard Kool-Aid, but so far he seems to be making all of the right moves. I could go on and on but I'll spare every one. It feels like with the added depth in the secondary that we might be able to produce more pass rush with better coverage. What are your thoughts?
Bowen: That part of the defense is so, so important this year. Without a definite dominant pass rusher, the Colts must rely on their secondary to aid in the pressure. The longer the coverage is there, the more time the pass rush has to get home. As long as the pieces get sorted out in the secondary and the communication is there, I do believe the defensive backfield will be vastly improved and can help out the front. In years past, it's no secret that when this defense played well, it came thanks to strong cornerback play. That has to happen more often in 2017.
Matthew H. (Iowa)
Do you think our offense will have a different look in the redzone this year? How much are Hilton and Dorset going to play on the goal line? When I saw Hilton on the goal line last year he usually wasn't much of a factor. Do you think they used him mainly to draw attention?
Bowen: Definitely. I expect the likes of Donte Moncrief and Jack Doyle to continue to be go-to red-zone threats. Let's also not forget about Kamar Aiken either. Aiken's size gives the Colts another red-zone option and it's something he's done previously to a high degree. Check out these clips from Aiken in the red zone during his days with the Ravens.
Dustin J. (Sioux Falls, SD)
Long time reader, first time submitter... I'm sick and tired of the media portraying the Colts as a dysfunctional organization on a downward spiral. After all, we finally got rid of the poison (Grigson). We could arguably boast one of the leagues best secondaries within the next couple of years. Our front seven can't possibly be worse than last year and our offense isn't even a question. I think we've got the pieces in place to shock the league this year. Am I being overly optimistic? Am I missing something? What are your expectations for this season?
Bowen: My expectations are for the Colts to win the AFC South. Yes, the division is continuing to get better and more competitive. But I still look at the Colts as a real contender to win the division. You have Andrew Luck and an offense capable of being one of the league's best. You have serious defensive turnover that is looking to push the Colts up from the bottom of the league's rankings. "Shocking the league" would probably mean a run to the Super Bowl? I still look at New England as the definite AFC favorite. But the Colts, in my mind, have a real chance at winning the division and getting into the playoffs.
Larry G. (California)
How big of a role is Marlon Mack going to play next year, with Gore and Turbin (who both have been playing well) still in the mix?
Bowen: This is one of the remaining questions at the skill positions left in 2017. In my opinion, Mack is too good of a talent to keep off the field. He brings something that has been sorely missed on the offense. Mack's speed and ability in the open field should be welcomed to the Indy offense. I still think Frank Gore and Robert Turbin deserve the main roles, but sprinkling in Mack would be a nice added piece for Rob Chudinzski.
Brian O. (Memphis)
Hey Kevin, me again.
I was looking around for interesting pieces on the colts yesterday and came across an article on Clayton geathers. It was talking about his neck injury from last season and said he had neck surgery earlier this off-season. That however is about all it said. Any chance you know the nature of the injury or any kind of timeline for a return? Could this possibly be the reason for taking hooker instead of Reuben foster or one of the pass rushers that were available? Looking forward to hearing your opinion. Thanks and go colts!!!!
Bowen: The Colts have not provided any timetable for Geathers' return. Maybe that comes next week when Chuck Pagano meets the media following the team's first OTA of the offseason. I don't think the drafting of Malik Hooker had too much to do because of the injury to Clayton Geathers. When a player like Hooker is there at No. 15 overall, you don't pass them up, regardless of the positional need. With a neck though, it's a serious body part especially for a player with the physical nature of Geathers. The Colts have spoken earlier this offseason as if Geathers will be good to go for the season, so we will see if Pagano adds any clarity to that next week.
Daquan D. (Connecticut)
Hey how's it going Kevin, my question is where does Darius Butler fit in the defense with the Colts taking Hooker? It was my understanding that he was brought back to play safety. I personally like him better at safety than at CB. What are your thoughts?
Bowen: I'm doing great, Daquan. Thanks for asking. This is a question that we will not have an answer to until probably mid-August (at the earliest). Right now, Darius Butler is a starting safety, alongside T.J. Green. That's because Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker are on the mend from their respective off-season surgeries. How I see the Colts using Butler is this: if they can't find a capable nickel corner, then he can fill in there. But if they can find that, I still think Butler should receive some reps at the backend of the defense. His ball skills, leadership and overall knowledge of getting guys lined up add to a very valuable defensive piece. But we are still a ways away from knowing Butler's exact role in 2017.
Sean M. (Ireland)
What do you make of Luck's chances of winning league MVP this year. I think that if the Colts can win 11 games, which is certainly possible, that he should be right up there as a front runner for the award.
Bowen: Yes, if the Colts do indeed win 11 games, then Luck should be in the MVP chatter. Putting Luck's shoulder injury aside, he had a very solid season in 2016. It was probably the second best individual season of Luck's career. MVP races are so hard to put a finger on. If the Colts win 11 games, but don't earn a bye in the playoffs, you still have four teams higher than the Colts in the standings (2 in the AFC, and probably 2 in the NFC) and those squads are going to have at least a couple of candidates. Nonetheless, if the Colts can hover around a dozen wins, Luck should be in the conversation.
Austex J. (Texas)
Hi Kevin. You are all doing a super job! My question: Assuming at the start of Training Camp, Andrew Luck is rolling with the first team: Will Andrew Luck be allowed to play in the preseason for an entire quarter?
Bowen: If Andrew Luck is taking first-team reps at the start of Training Camp, I would be shocked if he didn't see some action in the preseason. Maybe he sits out the first preseason game, but I would fully expect him to get some run in August, if he's indeed healthy to go in late July. It will be interesting to see how the reps are divided up for No. 12 this preseason with the shoulder injury.
Alex G. (France)
Hey Kevin, longtime reader, I will be making the trip to Indy this season for my 1st ever Colts game, Could you give some insight on the best time to arrive to witness all of the pre game action? (warm-ups, player introductions)
And what would you recommend in terms of stadium food?
Bowen: Alex, welcome from across the pond. The gates open up 1 hour and 30 minutes prior to kickoff. If I were you, I would come in about an hour before. You should try and walk around the stadium and see everything Lucas Oil Stadium has to offer. Warmups typically pick up pace around 45 minutes before kickoff and player introductions start about 10-15 minutes before kick. I'll be honest. I don't know much of the stadium food experience (I'm up in the press box!), but I have a feeling you will have a wide range of food to choose from. Enjoy!
Brian S. (Lafayette, IN)
Here's a break from football, I'm sure a lot of your followers are Pacer fans. What would you say to Paul George in a pitch to convince him to stay in Indiana?
Bowen: Oh boy, what a question. I'm not sure what the Pacers can say to Paul George. Kevin Pritchard will have to lay out a plan that details just how a championship contender will be further built around the All-Star forward. Look at the playoffs. It's clear the gap in the Eastern Conference is substantial between Cleveland and everyone else. Did what the Pacers show in Round One do enough to convince George that Indiana is not THAT far off? This is tough. You can't fault for George wanting to possibly pursue another team. Just life with LeBron in your conference is borderline impossible to find your way into the NBA finals. If the Pacers can re-sign Jeff Teague, find another piece to add, maybe they can make one more run with George in 2017-18.
Kade M. (Texas)
What happens if a rookie refuses to sign a contract with the team that drafted him?
Bowen: Joey Bosa 2.0? Based off last year's hoopla surrounding Bosa, the Chargers' No. 3 overall pick from last year, there are a few steps to look at. The Chargers had a deadline to possibly trade him, then could have still signed him well into the regular season. If those things did not occur, Bosa would have been eligible to go back into the draft for 2017. Safe to say, with how the collective bargaining agreement is, rookies are not holding out anymore and teams do not have this issue.
Wyatt K. (Mooresville, IN)
Do you predict anyone having a Chester Rogers type preseason? If so who?
Bowen: That's so hard to predict this time of the offseason. I definitely need to see some OTAs/minicamp before I can make an educated guess or two at undrafted guys to watch come the preseason. It took Rogers a little bit of time in Anderson last year before he started to show off what we saw later in the preseason, and even into the regular season. Fire this question back in early August.
Stan C. (Minneapolis)
Hey, Kevin! Thanks as always for all your hard work! Many people have been asking about the Colts' potential for a strong season/playoff run. I've long been on the more hesitant side, especially since no team should be evaluated in a vacuum. Really, there's only 3 questions: a) how likely is it for you to win your division, b) barring a divisional crown, how likely are you to be one of the 2 wild cards, and c) how can you stand against playoff-caliber teams. Recent history suggests we struggle with playoff teams. Tennessee is ascendant. And I thought Osweiler playing at an Alex Smith-level could have taken the Texans to the top of the AFC, while in reality despite Osweiler being possibly the worst starter in the NFL and a season without MVP candidate J.J. Watt, they had the league's top defense and a playoff victory. Add Watt and Deshaun Watson (who is basically Smith if he was less accurate but had a legit clutch gene), and we should be wary. We still have the division's top QB in Luck, but I think we should temper our expectations a little.
Let's take our opinion of ourselves out of the equation briefly and look at the rest of the field. 3 rapid-fire questions... 1) What would Jax need to do to join the other 3 teams in contention, 2) which of the Texans and Titans scares you more, and 3) what would be needed to stack favorably against potential wild card teams (Chiefs, Dolphins, Broncos, Ravens, etc)?
Bowen: 1. See Blake Bortles have the type of season many thought he would in 2016. The Jaguars don't need elite individual play from Bortles. They have enough talent at the skill positions and on defense to help Bortles out. But they do need much better QB play. I still think it's a lot to ask the Jaguars to go from a perennial top-five drafting team into playoff contender in just one season. 2. Good question. I'll go with the Texans, even though the quarterback position is still iffy. The reason I'll go with Houston is because they've been there. With the Titans, it's still a bit of a mental hurdle in my mind. They haven't been to the playoffs in eight years. They haven't beaten the Colts since 2011. What are they going to be like when December football gets really real? 3. I think the biggest thing for the Colts is getting off to a fast start. If the Colts can start 4-1, which is possible, they should be positioned quite well at the top of the AFC South and near the top of the Wild Card standings (should it come to that). Outside of the Chiefs, I'm not sold on any of those three teams you mentioned as being for sure 10-to-11 win teams in 2017.
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