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Colts Mailbag Weekend Edition: Will Rookie Zach Banner Start In 2017?

Intro: In Saturday’s mailbag, readers inquire about the defensive line depth in 2017, finding some leadership on defense and the most indispensable Colts for this coming year.


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).

Brad G. (Los Angeles)

Hi Kevin I'm a die-hard colts fan for over 15 years. I'd like to see your projected starters on the offensive line and I hope haeg is in there somewhere because I feel he's too good to keep out of the starting rotation. Also just putting in my 2 cents, I think it was a terrible move last off season to not resign Freeman and keep d. Jackson, it should've been the other way around. I think our d is going to be great this season, tell me what you think, thanks.

Bowen: Brad, hopefully you get a chance to see the Colts on September 10, when they take on the Rams to start the season. With the offensive line, I'm going with LT-Anthony Castonzo, LG-Jack Mewhort, C-Ryan Kelly, RG-Joe Haeg and RT-Le'Raven Clark. With the Jerrell Freeman/D'Qwell Jackson debate, that is definitely one of the moves that was in the negative category for Ryan Grigson. Yes, Freeman was going to be a little pricey, but he showed this past year that he can still play at a very high level. Now, the Colts head into 2017 with really no definite direction for the future at inside linebacker.

Pedro K. (Belo Horizonte, Brazil)

Hey Kevin, how's it going? It's been a while since I've sent a question, but lately I've been wondering about the situation of the D-line. I think we have a lot of talent, and are going to have a good problem deciding who makes the roster. My guess is that Hankins, Anderson, Langford, Ridgeway and Stewart are definitelly going to make the cut with 1, maybe 2 spots to be decided between Parry, Woods, Hunt, McGill and Boyd. Those are some solid players that will have to be cut. With that in mind, I've been wondering whether we should try and sneak Stewart in to the practice squad, given that he is the most raw of the group, and has elegibility. That would allow us to keep one more quality body around for longer. How much of a risk would it be? I wouldn't want some other team to claim him like we did to Doyle a couple of years ago. Do you think it would be worth the gamble? Once again, thanks for the great answers!

Bowen: Doing terrific, Pedro. Thanks for asking. A couple of defensive line questions this week. I thought Thad covered it pretty well below in another question. Right now. I'd be really surprised to see Grover Stewart risked onto the practice squad. I know the numbers are going to be uncertain along the defensive line. But sliding Stewart through to the d-line is risky. I think you're right with the combination of Parry, Hunt, McGill and Boyd for a spot, maybe two? Maybe.

Isak H. (Mexico City)

Hi, how have you been doing? I would like to know a few things about UDFAs. First, is Rigoberto Sanchez being given a fair shot to compete at punter? Second, I think Garrett Sickels was the best player overall to go undrafted, how has he performed? And third, with KC firing John Dorsey, could we expect Chris Ballard to try to lure him? Thank you, have a great week.

Bowen: 1. I'd say yes. I still think Jeff Locke will win whatever "competition" there is. It's punting, so the results pretty much speak for themselves. I believe a veteran like Locke is going to be the guy come Week One. 2. Haven't noticed too much from him. He's a guy to take more of a look at when full pads come on in Training Camp. 3. You don't get too many surprising NFL headlines this time of year. But the parting of ways between John Dorsey and the Chiefs was certainly that last month. With Dorsey at GM, the Chiefs built one of the most balanced rosters in the NFL. One reason I'm hesitant in pairing Dorsey up with the Colts/Ballard is because of the timing. You are late in the offseason. Theoretically, if Dorsey took another GM job next year he'd only be in Indy for about six months. If I'm Dorsey, I probably just take 2017 off, think about any changes I want to make in my next GM position and then enter 2018 as the leading GM candidate across the NFL. Also, I'm not sure what role Dorsey would have here. Maybe a consultant?

Thad S. (Dayton, OH)

In regards to D-Line depth, it is interesting to hear that Woods has taken a ton of snaps at NT (0-tech) while Hankins was primarily working as the DT (3-tech). 

On paper, the best rotation depth we could have on the D-Line would look like:

DE (5-tech) = Anderson, Langford
NT (0-tech) = Woods, Stewart
DT (3-tech) = Hankins, Ridgeway

Next Tier Down = McGill (DT, NT), Parry (DT, NT), Hunt (DE).

Not saying that is how it will work out but that depth chart looks, on paper, to be the best way to get 2-deep rotation ability at all 3 D-Line positions.


Bowen: I think you are really onto something here, Thad. The only question would be regarding roster mechanics and if you can keep that number of defensive linemen. Good work here. I like the makeup of this depth chart, with Hankins having the versatility to allow you to rotate things.

Bob B. (Deltona, FL)

Do you think Zach Banner has a good chance of starting ?

Bowen: I look at Banner as a guy on the outside looking in for the starting lineup this year. Anthony Castonzo and Le'Raven Clark are my starting tackles, with Denzelle Good as probably the top reserve. The Colts really don't need Banner to come in and be a Day One contributor. Banner needs to focus on re-tooling his body during NFL season No. 1 for the fourth-round pick out of USC. Can Banner get to around 340 pounds? If so, Banner should be a potential starting candidate in the coming years.

Paul C. (Superior, CO)

I loved Hankins' 'best defense in the AFC comment'. Whether or not he believes it himself is irrelevant (although I think he does believe it), he's thrown down the gauntlet that everyone on that side of the ball needs to step up their game. The Colts lost a lot of veteran leadership in the offseason, so I love the new guy coming in with the brash attitude. The young Colts Defense is going to be fun to watch with Hankins leading the way. What are your thoughts on a young newcomer assuming a role like that so quickly? Will the few remaining oldtimers buy into it?

Bowen: Where is the leadership going to come on the defensive side of the ball? That's a major question entering Training Camp. A guy like Darius Butler always comes to my mind when talking about a 2017 leader. But even Butler's role has yet to be defined. Will rookie Anthony Walker, a guy known for his leadership characteristics, earn enough playing time to become a leader? Will quieter guys like Clayton Geathers/Henry Anderson emerge into those roles? I really don't know who will rise up. But the Colts certainly need a couple of young guys to do that.

Kris C. (Winnipeg, Canada)

Hey Kevin, Once of Canada's biggest colts fan here.

I just need some advice. I'm really having a tough time making a decision for my next Colts jersey. Its either Hilton or Gore at this point (maybe Hooker if he can start off his rookie season strong). I have 2 reasons I am leaning towards T.Y. 1, being, as we both know he led the league in receiving yards in 2016 and 2, i feel like getting a Frank Gore jersey in anything but red and gold is wrong.

what are your thoughts on the matter?

Bowen: I say definitely Hilton. No knock on Frank Gore at all, but he's entering a contract year at the age of 34. Hilton is under contract through 2020, so the long-term value of him staying in Indy is obviously much higher than Gore.

Steven B. (Columbus, OH)

Hey Kevin.
While waiting on football season to start, I am reduced to watching some great games from years past. One of the ones I watched recently was the Colts/Steelers game in which Mike Vanderjagt missed a 46 yard field goal that would have won the game. At the time he was the most accurate kicker in NFL history. I always loved his celebration after a made kick. Can you tell me what happened to him after his CFL career?

Bowen: Didn't expect a question like this. But I'm just as curious as you are to see where Mike Vanderjagt is nowadays. Here’s an update from a few years ago as to what Vanderjagt has been doing post-football life.

Ross B. (Noblesville, IN)

Hey Kevin. With the NFL such a game of attrition, between the high number of injuries and harsh IR rules, I think Ballard's focus on depth is overdue. That being said, who are the 5 guys that you think would be the hardest to replace if they missed considerable time? I say Luck, Geathers, Hilton, Hankins and Vontae. What do you think?

Bowen: Ross, you are reading my mind for a story coming out later this month. My annual "the most indispensable Colts" article will trickle out in a couple of weeks. You have a pretty good top five there. I'll go with Andrew Luck, Vontae Davis, T.Y. Hilton, Johnathan Hankins and Anthony Castonzo. Many would probably ask, why Castonzo? I think the lack of proven tackle depth on this roster puts him on my list.

The analysis from those producing content on does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.

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