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:Nick V. (Shafter, CA)Our offense this year has played fairly well, do you credit that to the offensive line? How do you think they have improved and where do you think the Colts as an offense go from here?
Bowen: When the offense has clicked this year, it's been because the offensive line has done its part. The sacks are still way too high. The Colts have allowed at least two sacks in every game this season. I do think the offensive line has shown improvement, especially from mid-October through November. The Pittsburgh game was difficult to judge with Ryan Kelly leaving after three snaps and Denzelle Good in and out of the lineup. I said it last week and I'll say it again, for the Colts to get on a serious run in December, the offense has to do its part. That unit has the firepower, with Andrew Luck expected to be back, to score right around 30 points per game. The Colts won't play many explosive offenses down the stretch, but the Indy offense itself is capable of withstanding shootouts, should they arise. The offensive line is going to see some pretty stout defensive fronts in closing out 2016.
Carter F. (Norfolk, NE)
Hello Kevin, first off I'd like to congratulate Scott Tolzein on playing better than I thought. I thought Stephen Morris should have started before the game just because he was better in the preseason. My question is will the Colts keep Dqwell Jackson and Frank Gore next year. They both have two years left on their contract and we need to get younger. Edwin Jackson is a stud. Frank Gore is still good and I think we should keep him to groom our future running back via draft. But then again I thought Reggie Wayne would retire as a colt instead of a patriot.
Bowen: In the coming months, I'd expect we get a few more questions about possible veteran cap casualties. I understand where you could make a case for these potential situations. I don't really see a major advantage in parting ways with Gore. You can groom a future running back by playing alongside a potential future Hall of Famer. Frankly, I think this would be a great idea in having a first-year player learning underneath one of the best runners the NFL has ever seen. With D'Qwell Jackson, my biggest question is what does the future look like at this position and where does the leadership go? Edwin Jackson has shown some flashes, but he's started just a couple of games in his entire NFL career. Is Antonio Morrison, who hasn't played much defense at all in recent weeks, ready to take over full-time? I'm not seeing a bunch of answers at inside linebacker right now. Just like running back, there's not a clear-cut "waiting in the wings" option ready to take over for a veteran.
Matt H. (Metea, IN)
With Jack Doyle being a local guy and becoming a great tight end, what kind of cap space will the colts have to keep him around and at what kind of price to keep him? Do you believe the franchise tag would be am option, if not, who might get the tag? Thanks!
Bowen: This is a good question. Doyle is probably the biggest unrestricted name on the offensive side of the ball going into next free agency. He's likely going to get a starting-type salary from some teams around the league. It's going to come down to how the Colts view Doyle's value and how the Indy native looks at the next chapter of his NFL life. Second contracts are the name of the game for players and typically the big money getter for skill players. If the franchise tag is used, the Colts then would have to pay Doyle as one of top tight ends in the league. Is he worth that? I do think the Colts should have the money to withstand other offers. The cap room is pretty favorable for the Colts wanting to keep their own. They've never shied away from expressing how much Doyle means to this team. That could be tested in the offseason.
Jeff F. (New Paris, OH)Thanks Kevin for answering our questions. The Colts in the past few years have had problems winning against NFL teams with a winning record. I would suggest we draft a running back that can get those short yardage touchdowns we missed Thursday night and then focus on drafting and building the monster defense we were promised 4 years ago. Defense wins Championships, don't you agree? Love to know your thoughts!
Bowen: I do view running back as a need this offseason. Robert Turbin has shown the ability to be a productive option on 3rd-and-Short, but you still need other bodies with Frank Gore turning 34 years old next May. I don't necessarily look at running back as something you address before defense, but RB is probably my highest need on offense. An early draft haul of a OLB, CB, ILB and a RB could/should take care of several of the team's biggest positional needs.
John F. (Horseshoe Bay, TX)
Kevin, as you are keenly aware, many Colts fans are discussing the upcoming draft. Getting a running back has been high on the list for the 1st round. With our defensive unit near the bottom in many statistical categories, including being last in INT's, my draft wish list is going to the defensive side of the ball. What is out biggest need on the defense. We are 14th or 15th defensively against the run, so I see the need as CB's or LB. We cannot seem to generate much pass rush, but are near the middle of the pack on sacks.
Bowen: We had quite a few questions in this week's mailbag focusing on the 2017 draft approach. In looking specifically at defensive positional needs, you hit the two groups on my mind. Outside linebacker, inside linebacker and cornerback (and this order can be debated) have to be addressed. The futures at those positions don't have definite answers. So I think you're spot on in your thinking to their importance.
Darren M. (Plainfield, IN)When and under what conditions will Pagano start and mix in Laraven Clark in the Offensive Line seeing how injuries and the hits Luck is taking on every week? Is the reason he isn't playing is his health or the playcalling,or is the other options better than Castanszos lack of success this year,thx Colts fan Darren.
Bowen: We had this question last week. The Colts are still in the developmental stage with Le'Raven Clark. With Clark, expect a redshirt year. That was thought to be the case coming into 2016. Here is what line coach Joe Philbin had to say about Clark during the bye week: "He's getting better. He's getting better. Everybody comes from different experiences in their past (alluding to Texas Tech's offense for Clark not being an ideal immediate transition to the NFL for an offensive linemen). We've carved out some niches for him, some of them haven't really shown up situationally. He has gotten a lot of reps in the games but he's definitely making progress on a daily basis. (Assistant line coach Joe Gilbert) has been meeting with him extra and preparing him. He's doing well. Joe will get (Clark) on Thursday morning, Friday morning early. They will watch the tape, watch the fundamental tape to see his footwork is getting better, his punch is getting better here. Obviously that's in a drill situation and you need to take that to a game. We see him making progress."
David S. (Midlo, VA)What needs to happen for the Colts to make the playoffs? Either with the division clinch or with the wild card?
Thanks in advance!
Bowen: David, check out this story for more details on the playoff chances in Indianapolis. To sum it up, the Colts likely need to go 4-1 or 5-0 down the stretch, with one of those wins coming over Houston a week from Sunday. If the Colts don't go at least 4-1, they are going to need some big help in reaching the postseason. Looking specifically at this week, the Colts need to cheer for the Packers to beat the Texans on Sunday. The Titans have their bye this week.
Al O. (Ocala, FL)
Hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving considering the outcome on the field.
I have two questions:
- This year we drafted offensive linemen with the thought of protecting Andrew. Since that hasn't really happened. How long do you think it will take for the offensive line to mesh into a well oiled unit that keeps #12 upright and free from getting hammered?
- Because of the violent nature of the sport injuries are going to happen.
Is there any way we can improve our flexibility while improving strength at the same time in order to try and reduce the amount of serious injuries and their longevity?
Bowen: 1. This question was posed to Frank Gore a few weeks back. Gore, who played behind a terrific offensive line in San Francisco, believes it takes a couple of years for an offensive line to become truly cohesive for long periods of time. For the Colts, it's going to take some time. You have Ryan Kelly, Denzelle Good and Joe Haeg all playing new positions in just their first or second seasons in the NFL. Major progress should be seen this time next year. 2. The Colts hired a new strength and conditioning staff this past offseason in trying to improve in such areas. More football specific movements, for each position group, is something that this program emphasizes. This is also something to watch going forward.
Michael C. (Indiana)
Hey kevin, i love these articles and i look forward to reading them each week. Anyways my question is about the offseason. Assuming mathis retires, we let go of trent Cole, Hugh Thornton, and Darius butler could you see us picking up trumaine johnson to be a number 2? We could then put robinson back in the slot. We could actually keep butler in this scenario by moving him to safety and shifting Clayton geathers up to linebacker. Your thoughts?
Bowen: For me, what the Colts decide to do with Clayton Geathers is the domino of the off-season plans on defense. How the Colts choose to move forward with Geathers, playing either linebacker or safety, is going to have a significant impact into the building of this defense. There are pros and cons to keeping Geathers at safety, and sliding him down to linebacker. Focusing specifically on your cornerback question, getting a young corner is near the top of my off-season priority list. Davis, Robinson and Butler (a free agent next year) are all going to be at least 29 years old. That's why it would not surprise me at all if the Colts took a long, hard look at a cornerback in one of the first three rounds in 2017. To me, I look at the draft as the more effective route in transforming the future of the cornerback position in Indianapolis. Free agency is more of a stop-gap option. The Colts would be well served to find a young, quality cornerback early in the draft to possibly groom into a No. 1 guy.
Zac N. (Indiana)Hey Kevin hope your day is goin well. I have two quick questions. 1. How many passes have the Colts dropped altogether this season so far? 2. So you think Robert Mathis will be a Colt next year? I know he is a free agent after this year, he is 35, and he hasn't produced as much on the field I wasn't sure if they would sign him to a new deal. Thanks Kevin!
Bowen: 1. According to this statistical website, the Colts have 22 drops this season. They have a 5.4 drop percentage which is the second worst in the NFL this season. If the Colts want to achieve a higher level of offensive consistency in December, that percentage has to go down big time. 2. This is a great question. Mathis has given every indication that he wants to keep on playing (unless the Colts go on the ultimate run and win the Super Bowl this year, then Mathis has said he will ride off into the sunset). The outlook for what the Colts are going to do with their edge group next season is a bit cloudy. Erik Walden, Robert Mathis and Cole are all north of 30 years old and all entering free agency. Would the Colts want a total overhaul of that group going into 2017? Would they bring back a couple of those guys to pair with a young draft pick or two? I tend to think the Colts would like a mix of vets and young guys, but that rookie needs to be an impact guy. Exploring free agency and the draft for a pass rusher is a route I would go down. While free agency can strengthen some spots, the draft has to be the avenue where the younger talent comes from. This defense has to start trending towards more and more young pieces contributing on their rookie contracts.