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Colts Wednesday Mailbag: How Good Was The Colts Offensive Line On Monday?

Intro: This Wednesday, mailbag readers inquire about the play of the offensive line this season, an early look at the upcoming free agency and when a running back should be drafted next April.

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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:Greg M. (Piketon, OH)Great win last night. I got frustrated with the hits Luck took in the 2nd qtr. When the defense is clearly showing all out blitzes, why do we stand in there, looking for the kill shot, with Luck just coming off injure and not do some quick dumps or outs to burn the D and keep him clean? Just seems like we are always looking long when the quick 1st down is in reach. Lets keep Luck on the field.

Bowen: Andrew Luck has a career-high passer rating, the offensive line gives up the fewest sacks of 2016 and the run game produces the second most yards the Jets have given up this season…yet this is the question that comes into the mailbag. The Jets have one of the best interior defensive lines in the league. They are going to get some hits on Andrew Luck. The line protected Luck very well. There's a reason analyst Jon Gruden gave his "Gruden Grinder" award to Joe Haeg (who played two positions on Monday). A second-quarter drive had some issues on the line (sack given up and a holding penalty), but outside of that, 11 of the team's 12 drives on Monday night crossed midfield. I'd say the offensive efficiency was tremendous. The hits on Luck were not too abundant and the quarterback found developing crossing/drag routes for big plays.

Stan C. (Minneapolis)

Hey Kevin! Thanks as always for your work. It was a really nice win last night, particularly from the passing game. I've got a question about a strategy we saw in the first quarter.

I believe it was during the second Colts drive of the game, but the team broke out of the huddle and almost immediately snapped the ball. The Jets D was scrambling trying to find their marks and Andrew Luck found T.Y. Hilton unmarked for an easy big gain.

Why don't we see that kind of quick-out-the-blocks strategy more often? Considering the speed mismatches that Hilton, Moncrief, and Dorsett would have over any linebacker that mistakenly get put on them, you'd think a heady player like Luck would be able to take advantage like he did against the Jets. Throw in the ability for a tight end or running back to slip through the flat in the confusion and it seems like you could have options across the board for Luck to exploit. Is it just because the offensive line would have minimal time to set up their protections against the opposing front 7? And do you think we could see plays like this more often down the stretch?

Bowen: Nice observation, Stan. Going back and watching the game on Tuesday, I noticed the same thing (thanks to ESPN for going to a camera shot behind the offensive line of scrimmage to easily see this develop). You wonder if Luck called out a quick hot read once he noticed the Jets were scrambling. I do think this is something the Colts could use more of, but I would guess it depends more on what the defense is doing. If Luck sees them confused, then the hot read is called and the play happens. The only issue in doing this when the Jets aren't running an extra defender off the field, is it isn't a free down. So you are taking a little bit of a risk at wasting a down, if the defense quickly recovers.

Juan M. (Mexico City)

Hi Mr Bowen, i'm wondering about the type of approach the colts are going to take in the next offseason without taking in account the free agents' signing because of their own free agents like Jack Doyle and Erik Walden. Darius Butler is one of them? Because for me is maybe Ryan Grigson's best FA signing due his ballhawkng skills. And what do you think about Mike Adams, the colts will resign him? if not then they could deploy more times the same type of subpackages they used against Green Bay for the next Season?.
And at last i think the press put a lot more pressure on the qb than he deserves because for me is a result of mixed things like poor O-line performance, bad play calling, defense that allow many too points, and some quiestionable WR performances (Dorsett) than him, sure he had throw some bad inteceptions but is more about others not doing his job than just him.

Bowen: Those are four names of unrestricted free agents in 2017 that are very worthy of being re-signed. All of them have made impacts throughout their time in Indy, and are still doing it now in 2016. If I had to rank them, I would go with Jack Doyle, Erik Walden, Darius Butler and Mike Adams in that order. The need for Adams next year could really, really rise if the team decides to move Clayton Geathers down to linebacker in 2017. I'm also not 100 percent sure of Adams' plans going forward at the age of 36 next March. You make a great point in how valuable Butler is with his versatility in the back end of the defense. Butler has shown that he can play both spots, and that's attractive to potential suitors in free agency. Walden and Doyle are each playing significant roles, too. I could see room for all of these guys returning next season, but other factors could play into how realistic that becomes.

David H. (Houston)

It is clear that the Colts top 3 needs going into the draft are RB, CB, and Pass Rusher. I think the colts should draft a Top corner in the first round to put across from V. Davis under the concept that shut down coverage creates pass rush. Then go find a pass rusher with our second pick. With the depth at the RB position in this years draft I feel like we can afford waiting until the 3rd round. I don't think trading back into the 3rd to draft a ILB would be a bad idea either. What do you think?

Bowen: Most of what you're asking is answered in a variety of questions this week. I don't really disagree with your thinking. Probably where I agree with you the most is the patience in looking for a running back. This is such a deep running back class. You are going to be able to find some pretty good quality there in the middle rounds.

Mikey J. (Folkestone, UK)

Hi Kevin. Thanks as always.

Kevin I have recently been getting more interested in the college game. The reason for this is mainly to watch and analyse any potential fits for the colts. And also thinking ahead before the Jan-Apr break to watch some film and keep me busy until draft time.

Do you have a list of players that you have been keeping tabs on that would be realistically attainable for us. Corner, rush, Inside lb. of course we can't be sure where we will land draft time. My pre draft pick in April was Ryan Kelly so I was delighted when his name was called. And I think he's stepped up. 
What positions do you see 2017 that are loaded with good talent depth wise. And will be helpful to our need.

And finally regarding the colts iPad app, which I use daily. Could it be mentioned that on start up we have Andrew, Robert and (thanks for you amazing service to the colts) Antoine bethea. It's been a few years now and I think either pat mcafee or you Kevin should take the vacant spot.

Thanks again.

Bowen: Take a gander through this mailbag and you will get an idea of what positions I'm going to be keeping an eye on when the Combine rolls around in late February/early March. Outside linebacker, inside linebacker, cornerback and running back are the positions to watch for the Colts, in my opinion. Once the draft get closer and we get a full list of underclassmen declaring, we should have a better idea of what the 2017 class is going to look like. Early reports indicate outside linebacker and running back have strong depth. In regards to the App, I've forwarded along your question and they made sure to remind me that you have the latest version of the App and updated it.

Ellis W. (Edgewood, MD)What are the plans during the off season to improve the defensive back field? Because it seems to me that we get beat a lot, and what are plans to improve the defensive pass rush?

Bowen: A lot of what happens in the secondary this offseason will depend on how the Colts view the future for Clayton Geathers. Are the Colts going to keep Geathers at safety? If so, then the Colts have their future at safety with Geathers and T.J. Green. You move Geathers to linebacker though and that now pushes safety pretty far up on the offseason priority list. When you look at cornerback both Vontae Davis (28 years old) and Patrick Robinson (29 years old) are under contract. Darius Butler (30 years old) is entering free agency. What all that means is the Colts cannot completely ignore looking away from a top flight cornerback come draft time. The Colts need a young cornerback to help ease the transition that will come eventually in the defensive backfield. When it comes to the pass rush, the draft has to be the primary focus in addressing that need. The Colts have to get younger off the edge and accomplish that with a high draft pick (or two). Free agency can be explored, too, but an infusion of a rookie should be in the plans as well.

Carter F. (Norfolk, NE)

Where can you see the Colts using some of their cap room in free agency. And what kind of names do you think would fit the system the colts are trying to implement.

Bowen: First, the Colts must take a long look at re-singing their own. Guys like Jack Doyle, Erik Walden and Darius Butler come to mind. Would a short-term deal for Mike Adams make sense if Clayton Geathers does move to linebacker? After that, I look at the defensive side of the ball as the place to explore possible fits. I don't necessarily think the Colts need to be major spenders this offseason. You need to keep in mind the second contracts that will likely be coming for Jack Mewhort and Donte Moncrief. I could see several positions on defense being looked at in free agency with linebacker probably being above the others. At the same time, bolstering the defense with young talent has to come through the draft (like you did last year with the offensive line).

Jacob H. (Fullerton, CA)

Kevin, im just here to say I agree with you that we can (and probably should) wait until the later rounds to find a RB in this upcoming draft, but I'm not against potentially taking one in the first round. If, in the right scenario, say Leonard Fournette were to fall to us then I am all for picking him; he's a can't-miss talent, as well as a game changer, and he could be the missing piece that takes this offense from 'pretty good' to 'elite/scary to play', just like Dallas did in this past draft. But only in the right scenario would that be smart, otherwise I think it'd be smarter to nab OLB Derek Barnett or ILB Reuben Foster. People talk about Dalvin Cook and whatnot, but I don't think the Colts should take a RB in the first round unless he is the very best of the best, there's just too many other needs we have that would be more important. So if by chance Fournette, Barnett, and even Foster are taken before we get to choose I think the Colts backup plan should be to go for the deep and talented corner class that have 1st round potential. What do you think of this draft day plan?

Bowen: Yes, I'm a fan of taking a cornerback in Round One, especially if the other positions have been gobbled up already. I touched on this above, but there's not a definite young cornerback on the roster waiting in the wings. The team's top three cornerbacks are hovering around 30 years old. They've battled injuries this season, too. With how the NFL is shifting, too, having many cornerbacks is never a bad thing. You can easily talk me into a cornerback in Round One, particularly if the linebackers are long gone when it's time for the Colts to pick.

Joseph N. (Orlando)

Should the Colts Draft Line Backers and Runningbacks NOW that the wide receivers seem to be loaded up!

Bowen: So. Many. Draft. Questions. Joseph, you are right in that the receiver position has plenty of depth for the long-term future. If you are looking at the offensive skill positions, running back is the clear choice for me in a spot to add some talent. Frank Gore is under contract for 2017, but you need to find a young back to learn behind the man who will merit serious Hall of Fame consideration one day. Linebackers and running back should be in the mix for the Colts come late April.

Jahfar B. (Philadelphia)

Should the colts consider moving constanzo to RT and drafting a true LT.

Bowen: I don't see this happening. I actually think Anthony Castonzo has played better recently. The needs on this team are so important elsewhere that I don't think you can afford to spend a high, high pick on a left tackle. Let Castonzo continue to play at the only position he's known in the NFL. Let Joe Haeg concentrate at right tackle. Then you can spend your valuable picks on defense and running back in 2017. Keep in mind, it sounds like this draft class is a pretty weak one along the offensive line, especially at tackle.

David P. (Indianapolis)

My questions for you is about our upcoming draft and free agency. I understand the need for a young rb in the draft but shouldn't we focus again on our shaky O-line again this offseason and stress the value of a running game through play-calling next season? Our running game has not been bad this year when we use it, with Frank averaging 3.8 yards per carry but only gettingaround 16 carries per game. Also is there any young off the radar defensive impact players coming available in free agency?

Bowen: I would be surprised if the Colts used a really high draft pick on an offensive lineman next year. You have the core of that group under contract for multiple years. It's time to let that cohesion build between all the young faces across that unit. The Colts spent four draft picks on linemen last year for a reason. You took those guys that high to revamp the look of the line. Remember, this is not a very deep offensive line class on the edges, according to the early pundits. Looking ahead to free agency, I haven't explored names too closely yet. With new coordinator Ted Monachino, his philosophies will lend to some different style of guys that he sees as fits for his scheme. So that's something to keep in mind when free agency rolls around.

Logan C. (Philadelphia)Hello, I'm a big Colts fan along with Wisconsin. Therefore, my question is going to be about the 2017 draft and Wisconsin. Our biggest needs are OLB, ILB, CB, and RB. Watching Wisconsin play all season and especially in the Big Ten Championships, do you think the colts would look towards the Badgers and draft Vince Biegel or TJ Watt because of what they bring to the pass rush? I believe one or both of these two are definitely two of the more viable options for day 2 of the draft. Thank you for your time :)

Bowen: I could certainly see the Colts taking a hard look at those linebackers. If you've read past mailbags, you will know that I view inside linebacker as an important need, too. Yes, finding a linebacker off the edge deserves to be a higher need (where Watt is more of a fit), but the future at inside linebacker isn't crystal clear by any means (where Biegel is more of a fit). You know the Colts took a hard look at Saturday night's Big Ten Championship with it being played at their home stadium, and the team not traveling to New York until Sunday for their game with the Jets.

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