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Colts Wednesday Mailbag: How Will The Defense Account For The Patriots Offensive Attack?

Intro: This Wednesday, mailbag readers inquire about the injury news on Andrew Luck, using Andre Johnson and how the Colts defense will match up against the Patriots offense.

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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:Michael M (Amarillo, TX)

Hey Kevin, what's the deal with Pagano always bein so vague with answers regarding Andrew Luck? Everytime he's asked a questioned about him it's bob & weave. What's the deal, why so secretive? Is it because he doesn't want the Patriots to have an idea what's goin on or what? Anyways, just curious, thanks!

Bowen: Michael, it's all about competitive advantages in the NFL, particularly when it comes to the quarterback position. If Chuck Pagano came out at the start of the week and said one way or another whether Luck will play or what he did at practice, that would allow for the opposition to adjust their game prep accordingly. This week we also received plenty of mailbag questions about Luck's status for Sunday against New England. We are still a ways away from Sunday but as of now, all signs point to Luck making his return. The two key factors come from Luck being a "full participant" at Monday's practice (Wednesday marks the first official injury report of the week). Secondly, the Colts released quarterback Josh Johnson on Monday. If they maintain the two-quarterback number on the active roster this week, that would obviously indicate Luck will dress, and likely play, on Sunday night.

Luke W. (Oregon)

Hey Kevin, my question is do you believe Henry Anderson gas a shot at winning DROY with the way he's performed so far this season?

Bowen: There's no denying Henry Anderson has been one of the top rookies in all of football this season. Per Pro Football Focus, Anderson ranks second among all 3-4 defensive ends in tackles and solo tackles this season. Anytime you find your name next to J.J. Watt in these categories, you've done something. I would put Anderson right up there with the Bills Ronald Darby and the Jets Leonard Williams as candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Anderson might not receive the accolades because he's in the trenches, but he's producing at a remarkable level.

Ben D. (New Jersey)

First off, great win against Houston, especially with the veteran players really stepping up. Unfortunately we obviously cannot expect the same level of output each week or for long term. My question for you, Mr. Bowen, is how can the Colts proceed from here with our veteran players. We cannot pull the Philadelphia Phillies thing and let the vets take more cap and give little output, so are they a short term thing? Also, in relation, matt hassleback had a supposed illness. If Luck's issue is that serious (or Hassleback's), who might the Colts want to look at for a backup QB?

Bowen: Comparing a major league baseball salary cap situation to that in the NFL is just not feasible. Neither league operates on anywhere near the same pay scale. Now as far as the veterans the Colts currently have and how that impacts things going forward, the team is going to have to hit on draft picks. We are seeing it already in 2015. If guys like Henry Anderson and David Parry are starters going forward, the Colts are saving plenty of money with those third and fifth-round picks. If you can consistently hit on at least a couple of draft picks each year that will still allow you to fill the remaining needs via free agency. A lot of this is also going to depend on how the future contract of Andrew Luck is ultimately structured.

Isaiah J. (New Mexico)

Why don't the colts use H.O.F Andrea Johnson as much ? I think If the colts spread out our offensive and have every body doing different routes switch it up a little like the colts back in the day were a better offensive than and we have good format just gota learn how to work together more and I think last game frank gore did work are line is looking better different blocking skeems seemed to confuse them keep it up colts

Bowen: I'm not sure if this question was sent in prior to the Houston game or not. You saw on Thursday the type of outing I think many us expected Johnson to provide this offense in 2015. He was used in a variety of ways and made key catches in the red zone and a fourth-and-one, too. Johnson's ability to win those one-on-one matchups we saw in Houston has to be at play again this weekend. With the expectation that New England will once again try and take away T.Y. Hilton, that should leave opportunities for others (Johnson included) to make plays.

Bransen H. (Tipton, IN)

Hey Kevin, big Colts fan and love the mailbag.

With a NFL record 16 straight divisional wins, our offense seems to be jelling together with Luck absent. With Hasselback putting up 5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions against the Jags and Texans, what is the likelihood that the coaches may prolong Luck's return and ride the hot hand of Hasselback.

Secondly, the next game is against the Patriots. Will Vontae (if healthy) cover Julian Edleman? I have not seen much of Vontae in the slot, which I assume the Pats will use Edleman. Also can you see Geathers cover Gronk because of his size during the game?

Thanks.

Bowen: When Andrew Luck is healthy, he's going to be under center. There shouldn't be any debate over that. He's earned that in re-writing so many NFL records through three seasons, along with leading the Colts to three straight 11-win campaigns. As far the Edelman/Gronk matchups, I'm not sure if the Colts will exclusively assign one player to another in shadow roles. I could see the guys you mentioned above but I think the bigger key is for communication on those shorter, intermediate routes on 'who has who'. That's where the Patriots really force your hand and try to take advantage of matchups they view as favorable.

Zac N. (Indianapolis)

Hi Kevin. In the first five games we're not getting much pressure on the quarterback which leads to a very clean pocket and lets them find the open receivers with ease because they're usually wide open. Is it a mixture of bad coverage and not getting pressure? Nothing against the quarterbacks we've played so far but they're all at best average in my opinion. How are we supposed to compete with the top teams in the league if we cannot get any pressure on the quarterback? If these guys can put up big numbers against us I don't even want to think about what the top quarterbacks can do. Thanks!

Bowen: This is something that has to be a focus on Sunday night. Everyone knows the Colts struggles from a pass rush standpoint last year against the top quarterbacks (the Colts had just two sacks in their six losses last season). I'm interested to see if this changes going forward now that the Colts have their top three cornerbacks back and healthy. That should help the Colts front, too, get more creative and potentially throw in some more bodies to the pass rush, without worrying about the backend. Against New England, mudding up the interior of Tom Brady's pocket should also be a focus because the timing of the Patriots passing game can be very quick tempo. You are right, Zac, in that the Colts need to see improvements in the backend and in the defensive front to ultimately create more pressure.

Stan W. (Memphis, TN)

Hi Kevin,

I was wondering if the defense has a plan on how to defend New England's pass game on Oct. 18. In the Thursday night game at Houston, Hoyer was very successful against our defense, successfully completing 24 out of 31 passes for 312 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. As talented as Hoyer is, Brady is better on multiple level. How will the Colts defense adjust?

Bowen: This is a major storyline coming into Sunday night. While the Colts run defense has impressed in 2015, the secondary has been a banged up unit at the cornerback position. With the lead trio of Vontae Davis, Greg Toler and Darius Butler on the field together last Thursday in Houston, the unit struggled with little help from the pass rush. That clearly has to change against a New England passing attack that will operate much differently than Houston. With scat back Dion Lewis, the shifty Julian Edelman and 6-7 tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots will often interchange that trio to take advantage of individual matchups on shorter-type routes. To combat that, the Colts must disrupt timing early in routes and that's where early pocket pressure could force errant throws from New England.

Kevin B. (Sacramento, CA

Hey Kevin, Huge Colts fan since i was about 7, i'm 17 now. I was worried on how the colts were playing at the beginning of the year but now they are looking better, now my question, why did the Colts get rid of the boom Herron? He was absolutely stellar regardless of the fumbles and I believe he could've taken us to the Super Bowl being a backup behind Gore. what are your thoughts? go Colts!

Bowen: The Boom Herron situation seemed to come down to roster mechanics, with injuries at the running back. With Herron's injury in the preseason finale, the Colts didn't feel they had the room on their 53-man roster to carry him for several weeks. It was an unfortunate numbers crunch but something the Colts have had to deal with at the running back and cornerback positions, especially here in 2015. For those not knowing where Herron is currently playing, he seems fully recovered from his shoulder injury and played his first game of the season with the Bills last weekend (nine carries for 28 yards).

Joseph J. (San Francisco)

Hi Kevin, I have a comment on this week's game against the Pats. In spite if all of the "hoopla" surrownding New England I for one, am just not impressed with them, especially with their offense. With the amount of illegal pic plays that they run with Edelman and Amondola, it seems to me that they are the only team in the league allowed to do so. Since the officiating crew has shown that they aren't going to flag Pats enough to deter them from continuing to run them, don't you think the Colts should run the same plays against the Pats? If Belichek is the "genius" everyone seems to think he is then he will either show everyone how to stop his own plays when he's faced against them or teams will march up and down the field on him if he doesn't right?

Bowen: Joseph, I find it hard to "not be impressed" with the Patriots after what they've done here early in 2015 (and frankly for the last decade and a half). The personnel changes, yet their perennial playoff appearances/run stay the same. Have they found success in "rub routes" for their offense? Sure. Do other teams run the same type of plays every week? Yes. That's how life in the NFL is. For the Colts to be victorious come Sunday they will have to get the key third-down stops that were elusive last year against New England.

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