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Colts Wednesday Mailbag: How Can The Colts Change Their Slow Starts?

Intro: This Wednesday, mailbag readers inquire about the 1-3 start for the Colts, the role for Josh Ferguson going forward and the team’s trip to London.

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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.

Here is the collection of Wednesday questions:Jacob H. (Fullerton, CA)

Kevin, is it too early to hit the panic button?

Bowen: Why not start with the common question of this week's mailbag. It is too early to hit it, however this start isn't going to make things any easier for the Colts the rest of the way. I always thought the back half of this 2016 schedule was more difficult than the front. So the Colts haven't helped themselves out in any way with this 1-3 start. What it means is the Colts have to put together some sort of winning streak, very soon. The Colts have the 1-3 Bears this week. After that, it's back-to-back road divisional games. Next week's trip to Houston (10/16) will be just a tad bigger than your normal Week Six contest.

Al O. (Ocala, FL)

Kevin,

Thanks very much for giving us fans a chance to ask questions and voice there opinions.

Having just watched a very disappointing game on both offense and especially defense, I'll try to stay positive. However...

What do you think we need to do in order to improve on both sides of the ball?

Do you think we can improve enough this year to challenge for the division title?

Thanks,

Al

Bowen: Offensively, the protection has to get better and the skill guys cannot be letting Andrew Luck down with drops. The run game has been pretty solid early on in games. On defense, the penalties are piling up way too high. The Colts are the most penalized teams in the NFL on defense. That has to cease. The unit is very healthy now, so its play should improve as long as the penalties decrease. Yes, the Colts are still within striking distance of winning the AFC South (we are only a quarter into the season) but they can't afford to let that gap widen much at all.

Matthew H. (Iowa)

Well last mailbag I sent in a question about a slow start. This time I'm just thinking, how can things be turned around? I think some player, someone who is considered a leader in the locker room needs to stand up and give a speech to the entire team about what needs to change. To me it looks like a lack of focus early in the game. We know they have the capability to do it, we see it at the end of every game. I know every fan has a crazy idea on how the team could do better, including myself, but what do you think has to happen?

Bowen: We get into the "no-huddle" angle of this question below. You are right though, Matthew, the Colts need their stars to play like that. Robert Mathis, Anthony Castonzo, even Dwayne Allen have to start playing at a higher level. The Colts need their leaders to emerge. Besides that, just simple execution has to occur. Look at last week. The Colts had two drops on the first two drives of the game. One ended a drive. The other led to an interception on the very next play. That stuff cannot happen when games in the NFL are so, so close in the end. 

Marissa M. (Tampa, FL)

Hey Kevin- I'm sure you will get some nasty questions this week- but can you tell me the mood inside the locker room? How do the coaches players feel about the first quarter of the season? Looking at other teams across the league (steelers, pats, Bengals , Broncos ) with much better defenses and overall teams, would it be smart to focus on the draft coming up and getting high draft picks ? We really need some more defense and a good RB would help. Thanks again Kevin !!

Bowen: I think the sense around the Colts is a team that is extremely disappointed to be 1-3 after the first quarter of the season. Losing three games you had chances to win late is not easy to just brush off. Plus, the Colts now are two games back in the AFC South after just four weeks, a spot this franchise is not used, too. Like the question below, the Colts are not tanking. Literally, zero chance of that.

Gary C. (Port St. Lucie, FL)

Kevin I want to first thank you for the fine job you do keeping all us Colts fans informed. Kevin it is so frustrating watching the Colts run the ball early to open up the passing game. The problem is we can not score a TD running the ball early. When ever we fall behind and we have to pass. The other team knows this and they can not stop us. My question is. Why don't we open up with the hurry up Offense score a bunch of points and then run the ball with a lead to kill the clock. That is what we did with Peyton and I know we can do the same thing with Andrew. As I am writing this I am still mad over the game. I just had to vent to some one who knows how I feel!!! Thank you for your time.

Bowen: As you would expect, we got A LOT of no-huddle questions this week. Implementing a quicker pace on offense is something the Colts will discuss this week in prepping for the Bears. At home, and with the possible return of a few starting offensive linemen, the Colts should be able to transition to feeling comfortable using some up-tempo action. But at the end of the day, execution has to be there. Look at last Sunday. You can use all the up-tempo you want, but a handful of drops will halt that in a hurry. Here was Pagano's full quote from Monday on the up-tempo idea: "Great question. It's something that we'll continue to have dialogue about and with and talk about it as a staff. There are things from a game plan perspective that you look at where you go no huddle and you get a group on the field and you have to keep them basically on the field. "If you want to utilize both tight ends at one point, if you want to go one tight end and three wideouts and stay that way, if you get a back in there, if you go no huddle, you end up having to keep them in there based on the pace that you're going to go. Those are some of the things that go into that. Then just trying to get into a rhythm. Obviously we didn't, but get into a rhythm early and try to help some young guys out. No excuses, but we had three young guys starting up front. All those things, but it's definitely something that we'll talk about."

John L. (New Bedford, MA)

Do you know if Mr Irsay looks at the colt mailbag ? If so has he ever said anything to you pro or con on any of the fans questions or suggestions.Finally after watching Sundays game I feel our linebacking is in poor shape when comes to rushing the passer with the exception of E. Walden. R. Mathis has lost a step he has no sacks and five tackles in four games lets see more of C. Maggitt your thoughts. After watching J. Fegusion again this week I feel even more sure Todman would do a much better job,your thought.

Bowen: Haha, I hope Mr. Irsay looks at the mailbag (anything to get those clicks up!). I can't say him and I have any specific discussions about what he reads in the mailbag. I can assure you though Jim Irsay is very aware of what needs to improve for his team. With Mathis, the Colts have to have No. 98 finishing plays. The near sacks aren't the game-changing plays this defense has to start producing. With Josh Ferguson, he has had two big third-down drops this season. But he is the team's second-leading receiver and has been the guy in obvious passing situations. Do the Colts put some offensive responsibilities on Jordan Todman, too. Does Frank Gore play on more passing downs? Despite the drops, I still think Ferguson gives you the most big-play ability out of the backfield.

John K. (London)

How many passes were dropped in the London game?

Bowen: The Colts had five drops against Jacksonville (maybe six or seven depending on a few bang/bang plays). Several of those came in some very, very critical situations, leading to a slow start. Simply, the Colts cannot have that, especially when they were missing three starters on offense.

James O. (Toronto)

Hi Kevin, thanks for answering my Okine vs. Maggitt question. Your answer made a lot of sense.

That issue seems to pale when compared to what's happening now. Luck has a new contract making him the highest paid football player in history. Yet his production since his stunning first 3 years has not been on par with such a salary. Is there any way that all involved would consider restructuring his contract? Including incentives, etc. In my humble opinion, this is wise for so many reasons but especially to allow the organization to afford vital parts to the team to help him win ball games NOW.

I agree, sure it's nice to say we have the highest paid QB but I think all would agree that it's even nicer to win games.

Bowen: I think we are really getting ahead of ourselves to think about the "reconstruction" of Andrew Luck's contract. We are four games into a contract that will last 96 games. Let's be patient before any such thinking. Has Andrew Luck been at his best for every minute this season? No. But this is a guy that has tossed eight touchdowns and three interceptions (and I wouldn't put the one against Jacksonville on Luck). If the Colts can improve their protection with Joe Reitz and Denzelle Good returning, that should allow for Luck to feel more comfortable in the pocket and return to what we saw against Detroit.

Sergio D. (Rhode Island)

I was hoping that this year Dwayne Allen would emerge into elite TE. I know it's still early in the season and he's has 9 catches, averaging over 12 yards per catch and one TD. In your opinion why isn't he playing a more prominent role in the offense, I believe he has the tools and talent to be among the top 3 TE in the NFL.

Bowen: Looking at last week, the Colts need for Dwayne Allen to make the plays that he had chances to make. A first-half drop from Allen kept the Colts from getting in Jacksonville territory. On the very next snap, Andrew Luck was pressured and an interception resulted. A combination of Allen and Jack Doyle has 25 catches for 277 yards this season. That's a pretty good combo for the tight end position. I don't think you are going to see Allen explode individually. Remember, Donte Moncrief's return should come in the next couple of weeks. Until then, the Colts need Allen and Doyle to provide a consistent/reliable option behind T.Y. Hilton.

Olin L. (Las Vegas, NV)

With injuries impacting the Colts O-line, would the Colts consider signing Guard Louis Vasquez. Plus, will the Colts be wearing their white away uniforms in honor of celebrating 10 years of Super Bowl XLI

Bowen: I do not see the Colts going to the free agent market for the offensive line right now. You have Jack Mewhort at left guard. Then when Denzelle Good returns (maybe even this week), you should have your starting right guard in place. I believe the Colts will be wearing their blue jerseys this week. Remember, the Super Bowl XLI reunion game isn't until Nov. 20 (vs. the Titans).

Martin G. (Topolcany, Slovakia)

Hi Kevin,

did you enjoy London? I want to say that I am happy with our team and how we played in London. Only things that I didn´t like were missed tackles and penalties. On the other side I really liked Frank and running game. I noticed that we used toss play few times and I think it helped our running game. Should we use toss play more often in next games? I wish you good day. Go Colts

Bowen: Martin, I loved London. The fan interest and the energy around the game was awesome to see. Certainly not your typical road game. I'm really intrigued to see what the growth is like for the NFL overseas (although it's going to be hard to put a franchise over there permanently). We did see some quick pitches to Frank Gore and the 33-year-old showed a burst that not a lot of people have seen from one of the NFL's greatest running backs. I think the Colts do want to use Gore in a variety of ways. Do we see Gore more in the no-huddle, two-minute, situations?

Jordan O. (Tennessee)

Kevin, I know there has been a lot of talk of geting younger on the defensive side of the ball. I feel linebacker is A big area of concern age wise. My question is How do you see the rookie curt maggit fitting in with this team down the road? Other than late hit penalties.....

Bowen: In a perfect world, Curt Maggitt would be a major piece of the defense in the future. The Colts really, really need some young pass rushers to emerge, even right now. It's why I've placed pass rusher so high on the 2017 Draft list for the Colts. In Maggitt, the Colts know they have a guy who recorded 11 sacks in the SEC two years ago. That talent is there. It's why the Colts want to see where Maggitt is in coming back from that hip injury last September.

Patrick B. (Evansville, IN)

Hi Kevin,

I have a couple questions regarding the trenches.

1) with the o-line still having some problems protecting our qb and more so not being able to move defenders off the ball; would the team be willing to try more double team blocks to create openings for frank gore instead of just "putting a hat on a hat"?

2)During the game in London it was hard to ignore the defense; especially in the ladder portion of the game. Why is it we started using only 2 d-linemen and continued to allow Jacksonville to run with more success? And was Henry Anderson injured during the game? There weren't very many sightings of him later in the game.

Bowen: 1. I'm sure Joe Philbin is looking at a variety of blocking schemes going forward. With starting three rookie linemen on Sunday, the Colts struggled in keeping Andrew Luck upright. The Colts need better play from Anthony Castonzo, too. We've seen Frank Gore get going pretty well in the first halves of the past two weeks. But deficits have forced the Colts to resort to moving the ball through the air post halftime. 2. The packages you were seeing from the Colts came in nickel and dime sets, when the Colts try to match the personnel the Jaguars have on the field. Jacksonville found great success in running out of several formations, successfully trying to keep the Colts in defensive personnel that included more defensive backs than normal on the field. Henry Anderson saw his snap count rise from 18 in his 2016 debut to 29 last week. I would expect that number to keep on going up.

Brian M. (Ft. Myers, FL)

Now that Arthur Jones suspension is over what have you heard about the team using him ? With injury and the suspension its hard to tell what he has to offer. I've heard rumors of releasing him since the young ones up front have performed well and to help out big time with the salary cap. Do you think he might be released ?

Bowen: The Colts will have one week to see where Jones is at. Teams have a roster exemption with guys coming from back suspension. This means the Colts have until Monday to bring Jones onto the 53-man roster. It is going to be interesting to see what the Colts do with Jones. That defensive line group is pretty healthy right now. T.Y. McGill has been a healthy inactive the last two weeks. Well, what happens when Jones comes back? That could lead to this team having to cut a defensive lineman. Remember, that position group doesn't really bring any special teams value, so they are often expendable on game days. It's going to be tough to carry seven defensive linemen on the 53-man roster. The Colts will have to see where Jones is at conditioning wise this week in practice and then go from there with how to handle the defensive line group, a deep spot on this team.

Anthony O. (Springfield, MO)

Hey Kevin I just had one quick question for you. With this loss it not only puts another mark in the loss column but puts one in the column against the division, which we all know isn't good and can be counted as worse than any other regular season loss. Now with the Bears coming up and hopefully being able to get another one in the win column, if we continue to win in the two road games against the other divisional rival Titans and Texans, bringing the record to 4-3, how good would the Colts be standing in coming back to the top of the South?

Bowen: This is the script the Colts would absolutely love to have after the next three weeks. At worst, this would put the Colts a game back of the Texans. It would also give the Colts an early tiebreaker over the Texans and also a 2-1 mark in the division, with all those games away from home. The saving grace for the Colts is that they have had the Texans number down in Houston as of late. That game in Week Six is going to paint a picture of just where this team will stand going into the second half of 2016. String a few together in the next couple of weeks and the playoffs are very realistic. If those games go the other way, then you are going to be climbing a hill the Colts aren't used to climbing in trying to claw back into the playoff picture.

Stephen G. (Monrovia, CA)

Thanks in advance Kevin, appreciate what you do for the Colts. Are the Colts tanking the season this year? Obviously a little too early to say so, but we are losing games that actually matter. That last play against the Jags was clear cut awful, yes they may stuffed the box however I think we have to be man enough and have enough trust in the O-line to get 1yd. I'm hoping for a 07 Giants season now, what's going on with the Colts.

Bowen: No problem, Stephen. Now, the word "tanking" couldn't be further from the Colts' vocabulary. This is an organization that has been to the playoffs 14 of the last 17 years. You will not be seeing any tanking from the Colts, not with Andrew Luck entering his prime years. The Colts are two games back in the AFC South and will get a chance at the division-leading Texans in two weeks. Safe to say, that one will be a major, major one for the visiting team.

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