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).
Here is this weekend's collection:Curt H. (Fort Wayne, IN)
As we look at all the free agents are there certain players that the Colts feel are a priority in resigning? And is there interest on Adam Vinatieri's part in returning? Even at 44 he hasn't seemed to have any drop off in his ability and skill.
Bowen: Curt, we haven't heard from Ryan Grigson or Chuck Pagano about the free agent outlook in 2016. This year's end of the season presser was all about the head coach's extension so there wasn't any talk of roster plans in the upcoming offseason. Their next availability will come at the Combine in late February. As far as Vinatieri, I'd be shocked if he wasn't in a Colts uniform next season. He's currently kicking at the highest level of his 20 NFL seasons. The past two years, no one in the NFL has kicked at a higher rate than Vinatieri (55-of-58 on field goals). Vinatieri has talked about he wants to continue to kick and, unless something crazy happens, I'd expect that to be right here in Indianapolis.
Terry W. (Ocklawaha, FL)
I noticed a problem with Luck holding the ball too long this year. And then at first Hassellbeck was getting the ball out fast and after a couple of games he was doing the same thing. I got the feeling that this could be a coaching problem. Maybe a coach browbeating them to the point they're to worried about throwing an interception to function. What is your opinion on that?
Bowen: I think you're nitpicking a bit here. Yes, Andrew Luck has talked about getting the ball out quicker. He mentioned that on more than one occasion in 2015. Hasselbeck isn't in that boat. Of the 36 quarterbacks with at least 200 drop backs in 2015, Matt Hasselbeck had the seventh quickest time in how long it took for the ball to be thrown post snap (per Pro Football Focus).
Tyler B. (South Jordan, UT)
Where would you rank offensive line, pass rush, cornerback, and running back in order from biggest need to least. Thank you and go colts
Bowen: This is a great question Tyler. I'd go with cornerback, offensive line (interior), pass rusher and running back. Getting a young, lockdown corner opposite Vontae Davis would be huge for this defense. Remember, Greg Toler is a free agent and D'Joun Smith is still a bit of an unknown. I do think all of those positions you named are needs for the team in 2016. I'd also throw linebacker (potentially inside, if the Colts and Jerrell Freeman don't re-sign) into that group.
Dustin K. (Fort Wayne, IN)
Why didnt we call carter up when dorsett got hurt.
Bowen: This is a question we've received a couple of times in recent weeks/months. When Phillip Dorsett went down, the Colts wanted a guy to impact special teams. Dorsett wasn't then receiving that much playing time on offense (Griff Whalen had emerged within the offense). So with Dorsett out for more than a month, the Colts looked to Quan Bray for a spark on special teams. Bray, of course, provided that and proved too valuable to send back to the practice squad once Dorsett returned to the field in December.
Dave C. (New Castle, IN)
Hey Kevin I was wondering why the Colts placed RB Josh Robinson on practice squad IR this year? Did he get injured in practice or was it to make room on the practice squad roster? Do you think we will see Josh Robinson back next season? I think he's got some talent & his story is the most inspirational story I've ever heard almost even more inspirational & motivating than the story of Rudy! Thanks & COLTSTRONG!!
Bowen: Dave, there wasn't really any news on Josh Robinson's injury. As of right now, Robinson is not on the Colts roster and is on the free market. It remains to be seen if Robinson re-joins the Colts. I will say that I still think there's potential with Robinson, the team's sixth-round pick from last May. Yes, he had his fumbling issues in 2015, but he showed some flashes in the preseason that made you think he could be a reserve contributor at this level. Robinson does have a great story, one that you can read more about here.
Scott B. (Fishers, IN)
Seems there was a lot of questions around the Colts Oline this year. Most of the coaching changes were on the defensive side of the ball. How does the O-line coach get retained, or what are we proposing are the Oline coaching improvements in order to justify retention?
Bowen: As of this posting, the Colts do have an opening at offensive line. Hal Hunter, last year's co-offensive line coach, was not retained by the team. In talking to the IndyStar last week, Jim Irsay made it pretty clear what he was looking for from the offensive line in 2016. "We want some leadership," Irsay says, speaking softly at first, as he does for most of our 18 minutes together Friday evening. "When (offensive line coach from 1998-2009) Howard Mudd was here and it was Jeff Saturday and Tarik Glenn (on the line), the mantra was, 'No one touches 18! His jersey doesn't get a spot of dirt on it!' Irsay said to the Star. "I mean, it was the pride of the building. "I can't tell you the way those offensive linemen carried that pride. We have to get back to that." Based off Irsay's words, a new voice in that offensive line room, along with some new bodies in the offseason, will hopefully lead to a group that improves in "protecting 12" come next fall.
Cody C. (Owensboro, KY)
Hey there! My first question is: Do you think with Coby Fleener being a free agent, that they will sign him for next season and if so, do you think they should use him more? From what I've seen I really don't think they are using him to his full potential.
Bowen: This is a question I expect to be coming in week after week. When it comes to the likely debate over Fleener and Allen, it's going to come down to what type of tight the Colts want and if they are looking to take a bit of a risk. One of Fleener's biggest pros is his ability to be available week after week. While Allen has missed 21 games the past three seasons, Fleener is the only Colts player (non-specialist) to have played in every game during that same span. Fair or not, it's hard to totally ignore those numbers. Now, one thing we don't really know is what type of tight end new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is looking for. With the young pass catching talent at wide receiver, does more of a blocker make sense for his scheme? Does the intrigue of moving the taller Fleener around sound more appealing? The Colts offense was restricted this season for several reasons and that impacted the tight end use. In my opinion, the Fleener/Allen debate (assuming the team only brings back one) is one of the hardest offseason moves to predict. I can honestly see convincing reasons for keeping both.
Robert K. (Indianapolis)
ok I'll be the first to admit that a few years ago I was less then thrilled at the signing of Eric Walden.And I will be the first to admit he has really grown into one of my favorite Colts.He plays with a toughness and an edge that he is kind of like a hockey enforcer as he is always in the mix with other players and is the first to back one of his teammates up.While i will admit he isnt the best player on the field I think he has endured himself to other Colts fans as well What are the chances that the team will Resign him?
Bowen: Haha, I like that "hockey enforcer" description of Walden. He does bring a toughness and edge (no pun intended) to this team. Teammates have always talked about feeding off the way Walden plays the game. Walden, who turns 31 this year, is under contract through this season, so he's not one of the 12 unrestricted free agents in 2016.
David P. (Indiana)
The obvious concern going into this off season is our offensive line and a lot of names of former Colts greats have been thrown around for other position coaches. Do you think arguably one of the greatest offensive lineman in Colts history, Jeff Saturday would be interested in coming in and coaching or linemen and do you think there is any interest from Chuck, Ryan, and Irsay to bring him in?
Bowen: The "former player to coach" questions continue this week. This one asks about Jeff Saturday. Again, I haven't heard anything that would suggest such a connection from either side. It seems to be that Saturday has a pretty stable job right now working as an ESPN analyst while still being able to spend time whit his family.
Philip M. (Bidwell, OH)
Hey Kevin, I know Robert Mathis is getting older an we need a good pass rusher to take his place when he leaves do you think the colts would trade up to get Joey Bosa?
Bowen: The Colts would have to give up virtually their entire draft to move all the way up to the top and draft Joey Bosa from Ohio State. He's the No. 1 projected pick in several mocks. The Colts aren't going to do that. I do think pass rush is an area to certainly explore. A young pass rusher would be nice to groom with Mathis, Trent Cole and Erik Walden all in their 30s. Mathis did show in 2015, especially as the year went along, that he could still get after the quarterback at a high level.
Jim S. (Austin, TX)
Polian and Tom Moore first priority was protecting Manning in the early years. Why did we not follow that proven blueprint? The second focus was Pass Rush. Can we get consulting help on these areas?
Bowen: There's no doubt the Colts previous regime did a tremendous job in keeping Manning as upright as possible in his early years. Manning (who knew hanging in the pocket wasn't going to lead to many plays with his feet) effectively didn't take the chance of being susceptible to extra hits. I'm not a big fan of comparing eras, but the 2012 revamp was much more extreme than what the Colts dealt with in Manning's rookie year. In the two years before Manning was drafted, the team had drafted Marvin Harrison and Tarik Glenn—two staples of the next decade in Indianapolis. There was a foundation beginning to be built, where as the 2012 rebuild forced the Colts to part ways with a bunch of key veterans. This staff knows the areas you mentioned have to improve. This current group was also able to begin their own "era" with three straight 11-win seasons and three playoff victories, something that group did not achieve. Again, side by sides of this era versus that era isn't really fair. The bottom line is this: the Colts know they must address protection and a more consistent pass rush.
Wayne P. (Middletown, CT)
Is there an NFL limit to the number of assistant coaches a team can have?
Bowen: Wayne, I'm almost positive there is no limit to how many coaches a staff can carry. Of course, the biggest dilemma in having a big number is you risk the "too many cooks in the kitchen" sort of thing and also having other teams pluck your assistants in the offseason, therefore having some intel on the previous staff. Most staffs have right around 20 total coaches.
Dave H. (Burr Oak, MI)
I have been trying to watch but haven't heard anything of late as to Andrew Luck's current health status. I am wondering if his injuries and in particular the kidney injury has healed yet. It is a concern as to why it has taken longer than projected and if the reason is related to the injuries being worse that first thought. If so what if any impact that may have on a full recovery of the injured areas?
Bowen: Jim Irsay said last week that Andrew Luck would have possibly been cleared by the Wild Card Round. If not then, Luck should have been ready to go for the Divisional Round of the playoffs. That's why, with the Colts playoff hopes dangling by a thread in Week 17, the team kept Luck on the active roster and did not place him on injured reserve.
Cheri G. (Lexington, IN)
Any chance the Colts will re-claim Griff Whalen off waivers?
Bowen: If there's one player no one should count out returning to the Colts it's Griff Whalen. I can't recall another player who has jumped on and off the active roster/practice squad more in recent seasons than Whalen. I've heard no feeling one way or another on what Whalen's 2016 plans are. The Colts waived him off injured reserve late in the season. When everyone was healthy at wide receiver this season, it was very difficult to find a role for Whalen, especially with Quan Bray written in sharpie as a return man.
Zac N. (Butler, IN)
Like many others, I'm happy to see Chuck back. With that said, I'm still a little bit worried.. What I mean by that is the Colts have looked unprepared for a countless amount of games sense Chucj became the head coach in 2012. I don't know the exact stats but I think the Colts have been beaten by 20 points the most sense that time(or some kind of stat like that) know it's a pretty hard question to answer, but how is that going to change next year? Thanks!
Bowen: Well, I'd be lying to you if I said it was going to definitely change in 2016. The arrival of Ted Monachino (and really a revamped defensive staff) will face the biggest challenge in making sure the Colts don't suffer those significant losses like they have in recent years. The offense and special teams units have had their contributions to these 17-plus point losses, but the largest burden falls on the defense. Jim Irsay talked at last year's Owners Meetings in Arizona how he wanted to see his defense be able to adjust better in-game. In speaking with Monachino, he's really harped on the need for a unit to play fast ("don't coach caution into a great player"). The Colts clearly hope their moves on the defensive coaching staff, coupled with whatever personnel additions/subtractions they will inevitably make, are enough to end this trend.