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Colts Wednesday Mailbag: Is T.Y. Hilton Underrated?

Intro: This Wednesday, mailbag readers inquire about Le’Raven Clark at right tackle, the type of 2017 season needed from Vontae Davis and if Chester Rogers will earn any wide receiver reps this offseason.


INDIANAPOLIS – Each week, readers of 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:Grant L. (Jasper, IN)

Hi Kevin. My question is about the remaining veteran free agents. Why don't the colts bring in veterans such as Gerald Hodges, Ryan Clady, Deandre Levy, or Dwight Freeney (the last is what I want personally). The colts are in need and from my understanding have the cap space. Why not. Thanks as always.

Bowen: Outside of Hodges, the other three are not in the age demographic that follows what Chris Ballard has done this offseason. Yes, the Colts do have money to spend, but you can carry that money over to 2018, too. I think the Colts are just fine in turning their head at the 30-plus free agents still on the open market. It's time to see what you've got with this young talent.

Wyatt K. (Mooresville, IN)

Hey Kevin I was wondering with the signing of Kamar Aiken how much playing time do you see Chester Rogers and Jacoby Brissett getting?

Bowen: Just how the wide receiver reps are divided is a major storyline in 2017. It's hard to utilize five wide receivers in an offensive game plan. I see T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief as the team's top two receivers. After that I think a combination of Phillip Dorsett and Kamar Aiken will handle the No. 3 reps in a situational basis. Right now, Rogers is probably the odd man out. But he's certainly going to have a chance come camp to prove he deserves some reps. Rogers deserves that after what he showed last year.

Steven B. (Columbus, OH)

Mr. Bowen, 
I am very excited in the direction Chris Ballard is leading us. He seems to be building depth at every position which is something we haven't had in a very long time. Let's say that the f/a signings and the draft picks all work out. Barring injuries, how do you see next year's free agency and draft going? Personally, I woul make running back, offensive line and middle linebacker priorities.

Bowen: A 2018 off-season outlook? I have not given that too much thought. Let's start with defense. Playmaking linebackers and another cornerback should still be top of mind. When you look at the offense, a running back and the offensive line are solid bets, too. I would not rule out a tight end or a wide receiver. A wideout addition would depend on how the Colts handle guys like Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett and Kamar Aiken and their next contracts.

Jay V. (Sidell, LA)

What's up Kevin!?!? Thanks again for answering questions and all the info you provide. 

I have 2 questions for you...
1. I see the NFL top 100 has ranked TY as #61 this year. How is it that he is ranked so low after being THE leading receiver this year and has progressed every year while in the league. Not to mention he is a flat out BEAST. I think he is the most underrated WR in the NFL. What is your take? 
2. With all the addition of Malik Hooker I have some optimism BUT he has the same issue that TJ Ward had last year which is experience. In my mind he didn't quite live up to the expectations, and I think it was because of that inexperience. Do you think Hooker will run into the same hurdle???


Bowen: 1. Yes, T.Y. Hilton being listed at No. 61 overall is pretty laughable. Why is he that low? I think Hilton is not as high up for two reasons. One, he's not the most boisterous wideout that you see publicized in commercials or dishing out newsy-type sound bites when the camera turns on. Toss in Hilton's size and the Colts missing the playoffs the last two years and I think that's why the noise around The Ghost is a bit quiet. 2. I'm not going to automatically place Hooker into the same learning curve category as a rookie. Each guy is different. Remember, Green was initially a wide receiver in college, whereas Hooker was always a safety with Ohio State. The instincts of Hooker and his willingness to do the necessary classroom work have been praised by his former collegiate coaches.

Matthew H. (Iowa)

If le'raven Clark happened to go down in a game how would the right side of the line look? Assuming it's down to joe haeg and denzelle good, who would play tackle or guard?

Bowen: That's a good question. I really have no idea how the Colts would handle such an injury. My initial guess: slide Haeg out to right tackle and move Good into the lineup at right guard. I think that would make the most sense.

John J. (Miamisburg, OH)

Hey Kevin how are you. Quick question with Darrelle revis still on free agency I don't see rashann Melvin as a solid number 3 and Darius butler desperately wants to continue at safety even though we drafted Malik hooker do you see a chance of bringing him in as a number 3 cornerback? He's starting to slow down so let's move him from number one receivers putting up big numbers to number 3 receivers who he can shut down?

Bowen: I do not. Revis did struggle last year. I assume he still wants a pretty good sized contract and the Colts are just not handing those out for people of Revis' age. Don't get me wrong, the Colts do need to find a No. 3 cornerback. However, a player like Revis is not who I would expect.

Isak H. (Mexico City)

Hi, how have you been? So first, I would like to say that Ballard did a nice job drafting. Except for Hooker, his picks looked very solid to me. Now, I saw that the team signed Garrett Sickels, and I would like to know what are his chances of making the final roster. Personally, I believe he was worth a third or fourth round pick, so it's intriguing to know how he's doing. Thanks!

Bowen: Isak, I'm doing well. First, any player assessments/judgments should be on hold until Training Camp, especially when you are talking about trench guys. On paper though, I think it's going to be difficult for Sickels to make the roster. Let's say you take five outside linebackers. I would guess those spots would go to: Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, Barkevious Mingo, Akeem Ayers and Tarell Basham.

Derek C. (Texas)

I've seen that we have signed pretty much all of our draft picks to contract deals, with some being multiple years. Is this something that has to be done before the start of season? I'm sure they are for relatively low dollar amounts, but it just seems crazy to make such a commitment before training camp is even over. Excited for this season nonetheless! Thank you for your insight, Sir.

Bowen: It does have to be done before the start of the season. That's how rookie contracts were. No surprises with the Colts' eight draft picks and all of them putting pen to paper on their respective first-year deals.

Peyton K. (Springfield, OH)

Andrew Luck gets hit more than any QB in the league and we did not really address the O-Line this offseason. I understand that the defense is what we were lacking the most but shouldn't protecting your franchise QB also be important? Without Luck, our potential "NFL best" offense is nothing. I'm not saying I'm unhappy with the offseason, just a thought!

Bowen: With the offensive line, let those young guys develop in a starting role. Game reps on the offensive line are so vital for growth. Look at your possible starting five of LTAnthony Castonzo, LG-Jack Mewhort, C-Ryan Kelly, RG-Joe Haeg and RT-Le'Raven Clark. Four of those five were top-three round picks. Three were rookies last season. I'd be hard pressed to find another line in the league with four top-three round picks up front. The Colts need to let those guys mesh together and see if they can build off how they ended the year with Joe Philbin coaching them for a second season.

Quincy D. (Indianapolis)

Hey Kev! Long time reader, first time writer. With all the new additions & questions on defense, ill ask an offensive inquiry, particularly with the WR group. Well, its actually a two-part question: (1) Hilton & Moncreif are clearly 1-2. In my opinion Dorrset, Rodgers & Aiken have equal skill set in uniquely different ways. Dorrset helped stretch the defense with his speed but could improve in route running & consistency(well all WRs could vastly improve with being consistent!). Rodgers post catch abilities/YAC were second best in this group only behind Hilton. Aiken is the true definition of a possession receiver. How do you see the 3-4-5 playing out, because i feel all are worth keeping on the 53 man roster, especially if we only carry 2 TEs? I think 3-Rodgers, 4-Dorrset, 5-Aiken would work well. (2) With all the talent at the pass catching positions(WRs/TEs), do you see the offense airing it out more this season? I feel the O-Line came on late last season and did a better job of run blocking but still has strides to make pass blocking with the better D-Lines(Houston) and teams that stunt or twist often(Pittsburg/New England). OC Chud did a great job of play calling late in the season! Cant help but to think we're better suited to use the pass to set up the run instead of vice versa. Gore is an older back, Turbin kinda isnt really a 1st/2nd down back & Mack may need more grooming until he can handle the load/responsibilities. 

Thanks for all you do for us colts fans! Go Horseshoe!

Bowen: 1. Look above your answer about the wide receiver depth in 2017. 2. I totally understand the question. From a pure talent standpoint, the Colts have an abundance of options at the receiver position, and a group that I believe is the deepest on the roster. Rob Chudzinski is still going to seek out some semblance of balance though. And the Colts need to do that to keep defenses honest and opposing teams in their base package on that side of the ball. The Colts know where the most talent lies on offense, but you can't totally abandon the run game in the NFL.

Ken B. (New Castle, IN)

Hey Kevin thank you for the great job you do answering all our questions I have a couple of questions first how many of the undrafted free agents do you see making the 53 man roaster and 2 do you see Mack only as a situational guy or do you think he can get a more Define role in the offense because I see him as a possible starter late in the season with his speed and athletic ability in the open field just my opinion though thanks again for what you do

Bowen: 1. It's too early for me to make a call on the undrafted free agents. Obviously, long snapper Thomas Hennessy is going to be on the roster. After that, it's hard for me to say a UDFA has a great shot right now. That's probably going to change. But I just think with all the new faces the Colts added in the offseason, through free agency and the draft, there's not a glaring position where I say a UDFA is definitely needed. Cornerback still sticks out to me as the closest position to having that label on it. 2. For Mack, the role has to be situational early on. For all rookie running backs, until they prove themselves as a pass protector, they are not going to get on the field for long stretches. If Mack gets that down, I can easily see his role growing and growing. However, unless Frank Gore gets hurt, I fully expect the veteran running back to maintain his starting spot.

Bob M. (Milwaukee)

One glance at the Colt's Pro Shop gives you some idea of how much team apparel exists. Do players and staff get to pick what they wear, or does management issue it? And just a suggestion: this season how about a regular column regarding the practice squad activities. I don't believe most fans know what they do on a weekly basis.

Bowen: The NFL has gear for players/coaches to wear on game days. I believe there's some sort of variety in what these guys can wear pre-game or on the sideline. With regards to the practice squad guys, they do everything the other players do, besides play in the game. They attend meetings, practice and train. A couple of them might travel to a road game. They obviously do not play in the games. That's how the 16 weeks unfold for the 10-man practice squad.

Brian F. (Knox, IN)

Hi Kevin, really appreciate the mailbag. February through August can get pretty boring but this eases the pain of no football! Anyways I have two questions, well one question, and something that I have to get off my chest haha. The first is it seems like people like NFL network and ESPN analysts seem to forget about La'Raven Clark and the promise he showed at the end of last season. Some of these analysts almost make you feel like Andrew and the offense will be rolling out next year with no right tackle on the field. It's like they ignored the progress we showed. A lot of people had one knock for the colts this off season and it was not addressing the o-line. I personally believe Chris Ballard didn't heavely address the offensive line because he saw a unit that could come together and be something special sooner rather than later. Although I suppose you could say he did address it heavely, Zach Banner is a big ol man. I think he has a bright future as well. My one actual question is do you see Tarell Basham as a player that could be an elite pass rusher? Or do you see him fitting the same mold as Simon and Sheard?

Bowen: This is one of the big questions for the future of the defense. What can the Colts get out of Tarell Basham? Can the traits seen in his days at Ohio, the length and get off ability at the snap, translate to this level? It's too early for me to make a definite statement on Basham. I think he's got a chance to be a No. 1 pass rusher, but I'm going to have to see more of him in camp and in the preseason. The length and quickness at the snap makes me believe the move from the college game to the NFL will not be as difficult for a guy playing in the MAC.

Joseph B. (Kokomo, IN)

Hi Kevin question this week is more of your opinion really bc your not in the coaches meetings and everything but after releaseing Djack, Mattie O, and letting guys like Adams and Walden walk why is it you think the colts kept Langford he was IR last yr in his 30's I do believe and our Dline is prob stacked with the most young talent ive seen in yrs yet were letting a old vetren who has not put up great numbers in his yrs with colts take reps when we could be delveloping some of this young talent across the d line ...

Bowen: Kendal Langford had played in 135 straight games before the nagging knee injury led him to miss the final half of 2016. His durability is unheard of for NFL defensive linemen. When Langford was healthy in 2015, he was a very, very solid player for this defense. Langford needed to be kept. Yes, the defensive line has added some depth, but Langford is one of the few proven guys up front.

Donald T. (Richmond, IN)

Other than Ryan Kelly, why isn't the entire offensive line in competition ? This season the objection is supposed to be about competition !

Bowen: The spots up for grabs on the offensive line coming into 2017 are at right guard and right tackle. Along with Ryan Kelly, both Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort are expected to return as starters. I have zero issue with this. Both players were serviceable, to more than serviceable, at their respective positions last year. Yes, this offseason has been about competition. At the same time, you don't have enough resources to totally uproot the entire roster. The line played better later last year and now it's time to see if the Colts can build off that.

Ben W. (St. Louis)

3 Quick defensive questions for you. 

  1. Do you think it would be best for our defense to have Butler start at safety and move Geathers to LB? Or would it be better to keep Geathers at safety, put Butler at nickel corner, and start Jackson/Morrison at LB?
  1. What's your projected defensive depth chart?
  1. What are your expectations for our defense this season?

Bowen: 1. I hear you with this question. I think the best is to use Geathers, if healthy, in a situational role at inside linebacker. Having him playing ILB every down would be really taxing on a body that has dealt with a couple of significant injuries in the last year. The Colts are going to have options back in the secondary. I think Butler is too good to keep off the field. But I just don't know where exactly his fit should be. 2. Let's go with Hankins, Langford, Anderson, Sheard, Simon, E. Jackson, J. Bostic (the inside linebackers are such an unknown), Davis, Wilson, Hooker and Geathers. How wrong will I be come September? 3. A defense that climbs towards the middle of the pack. I honestly believe if this unit maintains health, it should be a much-improved bunch. Playmaking has to get better and I think there's talent in the secondary to get that done. Communication is a must for that side of the ball with so many new faces.

John O. (Seattle)

Marlon Mack has the ability to be a returner. Do you see him in a shared role with Quan Bray? 

The league just voted on doing one roster cut instead of two. What are your thoughts on this? Is this a positive or negative move in your opinion? 

I can't say it enough. I rewatched some of the games from last year where we dominated the likes of the Jets, Vikings, etc and our defense played so strong those games. Really feel like this season we stand a strong chance to get 10-12 wins with our defensive overhaul and overall competition increase at almost every position. Can't wait! GO COLTS!!!

Bowen: 1. If Mack shows some ability as a returner, he should definitely challenge to be in that role as a rookie. Remember, the roster spot for Quan Bray is no guarantee with all the depth at wide receiver. 2. I'm fine with it. Teams know full well who they are going to cut from 90-to-75. Sure, it gives one more chance for guys at the bottom of the roster. But at the same time, I enjoyed those final 20-30 guys on the roster going all out in Week Four of the preseason with the pending cut of 75-to-53. Would coaches hold out some player(s) in Week Four of the preseason knowing that they will be cut anyways, having seen enough reps from those guys? It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Clint S. (Bloomington, IN)

I think this year we have flexibility on D finally. From what I've heard from the coaches about TJ Green and Geathers possibly playing ILB and Sheard has played on the Dline I was wondering if you thought a line up I listed below would be possible on 3rd and 5 and longer. It's creative but it could create enough speed to keep with tight ends and crossing routes Which have killed us in the past. 
Sheard, McGill or Hankins and Anderson on the D-line 

Ayres, TJ Green, Geathers, Bashem at LB

Wilson, Butler, Hooker, Vonte in secondary

It wouldn't be advisable if you hope to stop a run of 5 or less yards but if they have to pass it could creat great matchups if needed.

Bowen: I don't think is the craziest lineup at all. It's pretty much the dime package with you getting a lot of speed on the field with some pass rushers, too. I could see that package used for sure in 2017.

Benny F. (El Paso, TX)

Andrew luck came in at 51 and TY came in at 61 in the top 100 players of 2017, do you agree with their placing. I don't, I think luck should be in at least the high 30s and TY the high 40s. Also I thinking instead of Malcolm butler at #99 Vonte Davis should be there. Your thoughts?

Bowen: Yes, Luck and Hilton should be higher. There's no doubt about that. With Vontae Davis, he had an up and down season last year, so I get why he wasn't on the top 100 list in 2017.

Sean M. (Ireland)

Hi Kevin,
My question this week is regarding Vontae Davis. Do you believe that he could be an elite shutdown corner this year? He probably has the biggest responsibility on the team after Luck.

Bowen: I don't think there's much of a question that Vontae Davis is the most indispensable player on the roster, not named Andrew Luck. You simply do not have the proven depth behind Davis. Physically, Davis has to stay away from the nagging injuries that are often exposed at the cornerback position. Davis says he feels great and is talking like a different guy here in his ninth NFL season. If the Colts can get a 2014 Davis, which I still think he's capable of, that is really going to help this defense out.

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