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.
Here is the collection of Wednesday questions:
Paul M. (Pittston, PA)
Hey Kevin, Is there any thing in your opinion the Colts can do to improve their D. They gave up over 500 yds in offense to a 1-3 team. Plus they were aided by numerous penalties. We knew they would be avg at best, but this isn't even close to avg. Your thoughts
Bowen: I've been surprised by the defensive performance the last two weeks. Just as the unit was getting the healthiest it has been in a long time, Jacksonville and Chicago had big days against Indianapolis. After a couple of strong outings in the run defense department, the Colts defense gave up more than five yards per carry yards to T.J. Yeldon and Jordan Howard. Chuck Pagano said changes will be coming for the defense---whether that means more personnel adjustments or a scheme-wise alteration remains to be seen. The defense has to start creating more impact plays. Currently, the Colts rank 32nd in interception rate and 27th in sacks per pass attempt. We will hear from new coordinator Ted Monachino on Thursday, so check back to Colts.com then for his thoughts. The tackling has to get better and the penalties have to decrease. I still look to a lack of pressure around the quarterback as probably the biggest reason this defense hasn't performed to the level I thought it would in 2016. Yes, the rush defense has been an issue the past two weeks, but if the Colts could create more discomfort in and around a pocket, that is a major (necessary) step needed for this defense to start improving.
Gene B. (Tampa, FL)
Been a Colt fan since the days of Buddy Young/Bert Richichar. Totally enjoy your column. My question - what is the status of TY McGill? He stood out during the exhibition season and now he's been inactive, please comment.
Bowen: We've had a couple of questions about T.Y. McGill in recent weeks. After being inactive for Weeks Three and Four, McGill was back dressing on Sunday, playing 21 snaps in a reserve role. I wrote this a week back when asked about McGill's current role on the defensive line: We've seen T.Y. McGill a healthy inactive the past two weeks. That's where the Colts are with their defensive line depth. Once *Henry Anderson *returned, someone had to go to the inactive list. I think the DL position is arguably the deepest group on the team. It's tough to have McGill inactive, but that's what happens when you have a deep defensive line bunch. Those guys don't play special teams, so the reserves are often inactive come game day. I'm very curious to see what the Colts now do with Arthur Jones. Do you have enough room on the 53-man roster for all seven defensive linemen? If you were to have McGill active, then who do you put on the inactive list? *Zach Kerr? Hassan Ridgeway? David Parry? I don't think any of those names makes sense. It's definitely a good problem to have and something the Colts can live with (for now) given their nice bill of health on the 53-man roster.*
Rob G. (Baltimore)
Thanks for the Mailbox each week. Just thinking maybe a possibility ofor a change on the O-line? I know it won't happen but maybe Castonzo is a better G than LT?
Bowen: I think there's a better chance I move inside to guard before Anthony Castonzo goes there. The Colts did shuffle some things up on the offensive line in Week Five. With a healthy bunch at Joe Philbin's disposal, he elected to go with Denzelle Good back at right guard and Joe Haeg at right tackle. That move put veteran Joe Reitz on the bench. Jim Irsay spoke in London about how he felt the Colts were on the verge of settling on their "best five" up front. Was that the group against the Bears? No matter who is up front protecting Andrew Luck, the communication has to be smoother. We saw several sacks of Luck via stunts and the linemen not 100 percent sure who was passing which defensive player off to who when the Bears showed those looks.
John L. (New Bedford, MA)
I feel the colts are still not making good use of Todman. He played for the Steelers last year and they seem to know a little something about running backs,Ferguson played for Ill.Ferguson has rushed seven times for a 0.7 yards average and he's not a great blocker,his receptions are for very short yardage.So with Gore and Turbin a little dinged up lets give him try.You don't need to be NFL coach to know what's coming when Ferguson in there.Your thoughts on this please.Also thank you for the mail bag, its a great forum for all colt fans and a great source info.
Bowen: I thought we would see more usage of Jordan Todman on Sunday against the Bears. With Robert Turbin out, it seemed like a time to incorporate Todman in an offensive setting to go along with Frank Gore and Josh Ferguson. But looking back on it, with Turbin being such a late scratch (he didn't even appear on the injury report until Friday), the Colts likely did not have enough time to insert Todman into the offensive game plan. If Ferguson continues to struggle with his drops, then the Colts will have no choice but to try another option on passing downs. We will see if the Colts alter their rotation behind Gore at all moving forward.
David P. (Indianapolis)
Good day Kevin! Always enjoy reading your answers to our questions. My question this week is about our offensive play calling. All off-season and even during the season, we talked about establishing the running game. So why does every time Frank Gore seems to get going we tend to go away from him and put the ball in Andrew's hands? Case in point, a couple of weeks ago against the Chargers Gore had about 75 first half rushing yards but only finished with 82. Correct me if I'm wrong please, doesn't successfully running the ball help build confidence in the O-line who loves to be physical and smash mouth?
Bowen: We had several questions this week about how the Colts are dividing up the reps at running back and the overall reliance on the run game in 2016. David, you are right in that the recent trend has seen Frank Gore's first-half production not repeat itself in the second half. I think against San Diego and Jacksonville the biggest reason for that was the score dictated the Colts to do otherwise. They couldn't afford to keep pounding Gore, once they got down and the yards were still not there. This past Sunday, we saw Gore go for 34 yards on four first-half carries. In the second, with the Colts having a lead for the majority of the half, Gore had another 10 carries for 41 yards. If the Colts can stay ahead of the chains and on the scoreboard it's going to allow for Gore to receive more work post-halftime.
J B (Atlanta)
First things first, thanks for all the hard work answering all of our questions. Glad my guys won today, I have a few questions. Is it just me or is our O-Line worse than last year? Six sacks last week, five this week…I shudder to think what will happen when we play someone like Minnesota. This may sound strange, but what makes a good O-Line? Is it measured in sacks given up or hits? Second, what's going on with the penalties? I know we're talking about grown men, but are they held accountable to some degree? I wouldn't be surprised if we were league leading in penalties/yards. Anyway thanks for the consideration.
Bowen: J B, I got into the offensive line play above. While that unit has been helping Frank Gore reach above four yards per carry, the sacks are far too many for Andrew Luck. Sack numbers aren't the end all, be all, in judging line play, but that unit must protect the franchise better for the offense to survive being a productive unit throughout 16 weeks. With the penalties, the Colts have been called for the eighth most this season. Where the Colts have gotten a bit lucky this season is their opponents have actually committed eight more infractions than Indy has through five weeks. The penalties have to get calmed down. We have seen mainly pre-snap penalties on offense and then just too many on the defensive side of the ball. Everyone is accountable for penalties. Whenever you have such a variety of penalties called, the "blame" doesn't just fall squarely on the shoulders of the players or just the coaches.
Chris M. (Sioux Falls, SD)
Thanks for doing the mailbag for us fans to ask questions and my question is this. Do you think the lack of defense and pass rush has anything to do with the lack of protection on our offensive line? In practice they prolly go up against each other in drills. The o-line might be strong against our defense but against a defense that can rush the passer and get pressure in the backfield they are not doing that well of a job. 20 sacks in 5 games is ridiculous. Are there and free agent o-line men that would fit the bill to help ok the offensive line?. A veteran leader would do magic for the o-line. Just a thought
Bowen: Chris, my pleasure. I don't think a lack of pressure directly is because the offensive line has struggled. There's teams around the league that have strong pass rushers, but their own offensive line has given up many sacks, too. During the season, it's a scout team look at practice, so your days of starters against starters have largely passed. As I mentioned above, it sounds like the Colts have found the five they want up front. We will see if the cohesion can build through that five and ultimately solve some of the communication problems leading to the sacks.
Ed K. (Beloit, WI)
Kevin,I have sent you questions 3 different times and you didnt answer them.Im sending you a question for the fourth time and hopefully you answer it.Coach Pagano says they look at the tape and clean up what went wrong in games. What do they practice on after watching the tape? It doesnt show in the next game because the same problems occur every time.And why doesnt coach Chud have Andrew roll out more to keep him from getting hurt or sacked? Its shamefull the way that offensive line performs.
Bowen: Ed, sorry about that. I try to involve a variety of fans each week, but can't recall seeing your name. I will say that the offense flipped the script that we've seen in previous weeks. Against Chicago, the Colts got off to their finest offensive first half in arguably two years. They inserted some quicker pace into the game plan and the result was four first-half scoring drives in four series. Now, it's time for the Colts to try and get the same result on the other side of the ball. Chuck Pagano spoke on Monday about how the definition of insanity on defense would be doing the same thing that has been tried in recent weeks. Expect some changes on that side of the ball when the Colts head to Houston.
Stan C. (Minneapolis, MN)
Hey, Kevin. While I love your work, I want to push back on an article you wrote last week about the drafting of young players on this roster. First- and second-year players are very often retained by front offices anyways, and a good amount of the play time from these players has been due to injuries and roster construction. I compared the drafts of the 5 GM's signed in 2012, with the roster status of the 3rd-5th year players as a baseline for a "high floor" evaluation and the number of drafted Pro Bowlers for a "high ceiling" evaluation.
Les Snead, Rams: 16 players drafted 2012-2014 still on roster, overall drafted 2 Pro Bowlers. Negotiating contract extension.
Reggie McKenzie, Raiders: 10 on roster, 4 Pro Bowlers. Extended through 2021.
Ruston Webster, Titans: 7 on roster, 0 Pro Bowlers. Released in 2016.
Phil Emery, Bears: 10 on roster, 2 Pro Bowlers. Fired in 2014.
Ryan Grigson, Colts: 5 on roster, 2 Pro Bowlers. Extended through 2019.
With all due respect, provide an argument why we should celebrate our drafting under Ryan Grigson.
Bowen: Tremendous amount of research there, Stan. I would say the biggest reason why Jim Irsay signed Ryan Grigson to an extension this past January was the playoff success the Colts have had compared to the names above. Three playoff wins for the Colts, despite going 2-14 in 2011. No playoff appearances for those other teams, with virtually all those teams drafting in the top 10 every season. With Luck, Allen, Hilton, a trade for Vonate Davis, Donte Moncrief and Jack Mewhort, the Colts have found a nice core from those drafts. Now, the defense has to be addressed going forward. You have some pieces from the last two drafts, but need more young bodies, especially at linebacker and cornerback. I believe in the last five years, the Colts, Broncos and Patriots have the most "drafted players" currently starting (10 now for Indy: Luck, Hilton, Allen, Kelly, Moncrief/Dorsett, Mewhort, Good, Haeg, Parry, Geathers (then also throw in Henry Anderson once he begins to start). Looking ahead, the Colts have to hit on the defensive side of the ball and also look for an eventual replacement at running back.
Willie B. (Indianapolis)
GREAT JOB KEVIN , REALLY ENJOY YOUR COLUMN. MY QUESTION IS DO YOU THINK IF THE COLTS WERE TO SWITCH TO A 4-3 DEFENSE THAT COULD HELP THEIR DEFENSIVE WOES? THEIR PERSONNEL SEEMS TO BE BETTER SUITED FOR IT.
Bowen: Appreciate that, Willie. I don't think we are going to see a straight shift from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3. I caution to even label the Colts defense as one specific formation right now. Chuck Pagano was speaking on Monday how the Colts are in their sub packages defensively nearly 65 percent of the time. What that means is we are seeing a defensive lineman and/or a linebacker be taken off the field for a defensive back on about two-thirds of the team's snaps. There goes a 3-4 structure right there. It's just how the NFL has evolved in the past decade or so with defenses having to get more speed on the field. When the Colts are in their base, I still think a 3-4 look is what you are going to see. I don't know if the Colts have the personnel for outside linebackers in a 4-3 scheme, specifically.
Stephen W. (Ruskin, FL)
Luck seems to be a very good passer on out of the pocket throws, so why don't the OC have more designed bootleg or rollout plays implemented for the offense?
Bowen: You wonder if we will see the Colts shift the pocket via some rollouts for Luck. You are spot on in that Luck was terrific Sunday outside of the pocket. Those improvisation type plays from Luck and T.Y. Hilton had to have demoralized the Bears defense. I'm curious to see if Rob Chudzinski thinks the Colts can have the same success on designed such plays.