Colts Mailbag

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Colts Wednesday Mailbag: What Are The Early Playoff Odds For The Colts?

Intro: This Wednesday, mailbag readers inquire about the injury to Dwayne Allen, the reps at wide receiver and what changes are needed defensively.

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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:Jarred M. (Arkansas)Hey Kevin, how's it going? Watched the horrible breakdown lost sunday night. Was looking for a win since it was my birthday as well. But watching the game I seen that Luck holds the ball a little to long which he talks about alot, but i don't find it to be his fault at all. Once Allen went out you could see Luck hold on a little longer. Even when Bray and Dorsett was in the only player that got open was Rogers, who is a great young player i might add. Since T.Y was getting doubled and tripled half the game we couldnt really get the ball to him. My questions is do you think we need to free agency shop for WRs? Dorsett can't get open, Bray is our return man i know when Moncrief come back it'll be better but how much. Its some quality guys in FA that can get open for Andrew and helps us next week vs the titans. And one more question Kevin, Alden Smith comes back next month you think we'll give him a call since we need to apply presure on opposing QBs as well.

Bowen: Jarred, Happy belated birthday to you (although my words probably aren't much compared to what a Colts win would have been for you). I don't think the Colts going to find anyone in free agency that will come in and immediately help. I say "immediately" because it doesn't sound like Phillip Dorsett or Donte Moncrief will be out too long. Moncrief is reaching the end of that "four-to-six" week timetable. Dorsett has a hamstring injury, but there are no signs of any serious ramifications of that (Chuck Pagano will update that later Wednesday if Dorsett is going to miss any time). It's hard to ask for a free agent wideout to come in, learn the offense that quick and play right away. That's why you saw the team elevate Tevaun Smith, a guy very familiar with the offense, from the practice squad on Tuesday. Having said that, the absence of Moncrief and the possible absence of Dorsett is still going to hinder the wideout group. This offense is going to need a big outing(s) from Chester Rogers. T.Y. Hilton is priority No. 1 for opposing defenses, so some unsung Colts will have to emerge until the wideout group regains its health. I don't see the Colts in the market for Aldon Smith.

Stan C. (Minneapolis, MN)

Hey, Kevin. Thanks as always for your work. I'm sure you'll have plenty to discuss with a frustrated fan base this week. I'll leave tonight's game aside and ask a controversial question: has Andrew Luck improved at all since being drafted?

Now, don't get me wrong: Luck is a top 10 QB in his sleep and even since his rookie year, most of his career he has been top 6. But when I look at his strengths and weaknesses, I really don't see anything that's changed since 2012. His strengths? Fearless in the pocket, always eyes the deep ball with a killer instinct, Big Ben-like strength and slippery-ness under pressure, quite durable even under tons of hits/sacks, ultimate leadership intangibles, high IQ, and great athleticism/speed on the scramble. Weaknesses? Holds on the ball really long while he waits for his preferred deep ball to develop and is seemingly always good for one or two utterly boneheaded throws/decisions a week (the interception in the red zone this week, for example, was inexcusable).

I've been thinking about this for a couple years now. And while I know his statistics change year to year, I struggle to see any improvement as a player as far as the subjective eye-test is concerned. To be fair, the QB he was in 2012/is today made him a worthy superstar from day 1. But would you agree that he has not really taken any significant steps forward thus far?

Bowen: Stan, per usual, you always provide very insightful analysis and questions. You are right in that Andrew Luck entered the NFL without hardly any glaring, glaring weakness. It's why he went ahead and led the Colts to three straight playoff appearance and three postseason victories, following a massive roster/coaching rebuild. You listed two weaknesses. The stats do indicate that he still is holding the ball for a long time, compared to other NFL quarterback. I'm not going to put all that on him, because it's up to the receivers/scheme to provide quicker underneath options for him. At the same time, we know Luck loves his deep ball. I actually do think we've seen him improve in the "boneheaded" throws this season. Through six games, Luck has thrown four picks. I would categorize two of those (Detroit and Houston) in the true "bonehead" category. The Houston one was a chance to really seize firm, firm control of that game at halftime and possibly take a 17-point lead, before getting the ball to start the third quarter. I just can't recall too many throws this season where I was like, 'What did he see there?' (outside of the Detroit/Houston ones). Luck's interception ratio is 1.7% this season. His other seasons: 2.9%, 1.6%, 2.6%, and 4.1%. This season Luck has thrown the ball 237 times, second most in the NFL. Even with Luck throwing more passes than every other quarterback but one, 13 guys have thrown more interceptions than him.

Manny V. (Fresno, CA)

Just finished watching the Houston game and I am angry! Where was the high intensity defense from the first quarter? Were any adjustments made when Houston realized they could run the ball on us? 150 yards went to Lamar Miller alone. There must be a balance or else we are going to be the laughing stock of the AFC South. Who, in your mind, would be an ideal speed rush linebacker for the Colts, realistically? I love Robert Mathis and Eric Walden has been consistent, but youth (proven youth) is what we need.

Bowen: Youth off the edge is an offseason must for the Colts. You could make a strong argument that there's no bigger offseason need. Robert Mathis, Erik Walden and Trent Cole are all north of 30 years old and all entering free agency. This team has to find a young playmaker (or a couple) to dial up pressure off the edge and be a guy that you feel confident can win his fair share of one-on-one matchups. Like I mention in a later question, I don't have a great grasp of all the 2017 draft eligible names, but I just know that the Colts need one for Ted Monachino.

Dray H. (Joliet, IL)

Hello Kevin

Thanks for all of the great information and outstanding work you do. I have two questions:

  1. I like the aggressiveness that the Colts showed in going for it on 4th and inches in the Houston game, but why are they continuously throwing the ball instead of running? That makes no sense to me.
  1. Since people like you and others have access to the Colts front office, has anyone talked to the Colts Organization about hiring Coach Venturi as a consultant to go in once a week for a one on one with the defensive coaches? I think he would be an invaluable asset.

Thanks

Dray

Bowen: 1. We get more into the fourth-and-one question below. My best guess is the Colts ran it on third-and-one (via an Andrew Luck QB sneak, so that's why they threw it on fourth-and-one). We did see the offense convert a few third-and-shorts via the run on Sunday. 2. From the few talks I've had with Coach Rick Venturi he is more than content with the current gig he has at the age of 70. He rides his motorcycle, talks football and goes down to Florida when the weather turns bad. That sounds like a decent life to me. I'm not sure how exactly "consultant" roles work but if Venturi did such a thing, he obviously wouldn't be able to do the radio/TV gigs that he thoroughly enjoys.

Matthew G. (Evansville)

I wrote a question last week about why Coach wasn't too aggressive in his game strategy, settling for field goals in multiple 4th and short situations.

I'd like to be the first to say I love the call at the end of the 3rd quarter to go for it on 4th and Inches. I think making aggressive moves like that sends the team a message that you trust them and I believe it could be a real confidence booster.

However, my question this week comes from the specific play call. How can there be any other play in the playbook for 4th and inches other than a QB sneak, except for maybe a fb run?

Speaking of which, do you think we might consider signing a true FB in the future, as we once had a few seasons ago?

Thank you for having this method for fans to directly interact with the team and voice opinions/questions.

Bowen: On that fourth-and-one, we actually saw the Colts attempt a QB sneak on the previous play. My thinking is that Rob Chudzinski probably figured the Texans would be stacking the line with Vince Wilfork in the middle to stop a sneak, hence why he threw it. When you do come out in shotgun, you pretty much eliminate the run threat while hoping your wideouts can get win their man-to-man matchups. Here was Chuck Pagano's answer to the fourth-and-one question from earlier in the week: 'It's depending on how you line up and the personnel that you have in the game. I think it was third (down) and that much and the way that we lined up and what they did to defend it we got that much which led to fourth (down) and less than one (yard). I think based on the personnel, whether we line up under center or whether we line up in the shotgun, you are going to get some different looks. I stand behind the call wholeheartedly. They executed and we didn't and that's the bottom line there. Absolutely. We got the ball in the right guy's hands and we didn't execute. But it takes all 11 (players). It doesn't fall on one guy. It takes all 11 (players). They did and we didn't.' In regards to a fullback, I don't see one being part of this offense. Coordinators preach versatility so much with their personnel that they don't want a fullback tipping their hand of a run play. I think Jack Doyle/Dwayne Allen are find fullback options, if need be.

Justin R. (Haymarket, VA)

Hey Kevin. During the game vs the Texans I saw that Allen went down with yet another injury, do you think that in the upcoming draft the colts might draft a TE?

Bowen: Tight end is not very high on my needs for the offseason. The retention of Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope are key though. Doyle is especially an important free agent this offseason, with or without Allen's injury history. If the Colts have a three-tight end grouping of Allen, Doyle and Swoope again in 2017, that's more than enough talent. You have much bigger needs elsewhere---linebacker, cornerback, running back.

Brenda W. (Indiana)

Why did Duane Allen take a knee and disrespect the National Anthem and the flag of the country that made him a millionaire ??? He embarrassed all of Indiana and hoping we can play for another team outside of the USA

Bowen: I see we have a supporter for the NFL getting a team overseas. Dwayne Allen did not take a knee throughout the national anthem. He goes on a knee at the end of the anthem to pray. He's done it his entire career. Here's more from Allen on these sorts of comments he got.

James J. (London)

Hello Kevin, it's been a while since my last question so here it is... having noticed the severe lack of QB pressure and sacks in the first few games this season as well as it being briefly touched on last week, a pure pass rusher in the draft is essential. That being said who would you say are the top 5 prospects to keep a close eye throughout the college season and leading up to the draft?

Thanks again for all the work you do!! #coltsnation

Bowen: James, I haven't analyzed too much of the 2017 Draft Class in terms of specific prospects. It's hard to do it this early when you think of possible underclassmen declaring and all of that post-season stuff. From the little I've read, it sounds like the SEC (surprise, surprise) has several of the top pass rushing prospects in 2017. It's no secret the Colts have to find a young pass rusher. The Colts need a young edge rusher that has a dominant pass rushing trait. That is a virtual must to find this offseason.

James B. (Indianapolis)Against the Bears, obviously the no huddle was working. Even when Luck scrambled out of the pocket and threw on the run. The hurry up offense slowed down the pass rush and our offense was more effective. My worry is how Colts choose to play conservative with the lead. They stop doing the no huddle and allow Luck to get sacked while trying to slow down and tick time away. Why don't we go back to what the Eagles did a couple years ago? They had like 20 seconds between plays and were the fastest offense. I believe that style would definite benefit Luck. We need to quit playing conservative with the lead and have the pedal down until late in the fourth. Now if we have a good lead with half the quarter to go, then fine run the clock as much as possible, but until then, I wish we wouldn't slow down our offense. My question is, why not play the Eagles' style offense from a few years ago, and have more bootlegs also?

Bowen: A lack of a no-huddle is definitely not why the Colts lost on Sunday night. We saw the Colts go in and out of their no-huddle usage on Sunday. Their only punt through the first three and a half quarters came on a drive where they had a holding penalty. Leading 23-16 with a little less than three minutes left that's when the game pressure was evident. On a second-and-eight, Erik Swoope got whistled for a false start. Now, it was then second-and-13 and Luck got sacked on a designed rollout. The Colts were back in no-huddle on the final drive of regulation. Then in overtime, the Colts were relegated to just a specific personnel grouping because of injuries to Dwayne Allen, Quan Bray and Phillip Dorsett. You had miscommunication on that drive between Jack Doyle and Robert Turbin, leading to the third sack of Luck. The Colts are going to use no-huddle, but they aren't going to come out and play the same Usain Bolt-pace that the Eagles used a few years back. Honestly, I'm not sure if the Colts will use much no-huddle in Tennessee this weekend when you look at the new faces playing bigger roles at the skill positions.

Carter F. (Norfolk, NE)

Hello Kevin thanks for answering all of our questions. Creating sacks has been an issue for us. Ted Monachino knows for his defense to excel to the next level, we need pressure. I don't think Ted has gotten what he wants yet considering the sack total hasn't been too high. So what do the Colts need to do get more consistent pressure, which will lead to more sacks and help out the secondary.

Bowen: Involving more resources to the pass rush is probably the only answer the Colts can use. On Sunday, we saw the Colts take advantage of a favorable matchup (Robert Mathis on a running back), but that was the lone sack of the game. It has to come down to winning early downs, too. The Colts have to start playing better on those early downs so that will set up third-and-longs. That forces the offense's hand and lets the pass rush be full bore. Individually, the Colts just don't have the Von Miller/Ziggy Ansah/Whitney Mercilius' of the world. So to make up for that, they must go in roundabout ways to affect the quarterback.

Terry W. (Ocklawaha, FL)

Well, the Houston game looked pretty good till the last 7 minutes then it looked like the defense went into prevent mode. I've been watching football for almost 60 years and the only thing a prevent defense prevents is the team using it from winning football games. The Colts need to stick with what got them the lead in the first place. Dominate defense is what wins games and doing it for 60 minutes. If I'm not mistaken they had their first interception of the season in that game. They need to get more aggressive in that area and stripping the ball to get off the field quicker so Luck and the offense has more time on the field. The only thing they are going to win playing soft is a high draft pick next year, hopefully on defense. Would really like to hear your thoughts on what went wrong Sunday night and how to fix it.

Bowen: Chuck Pagano was asked this very question on Monday. Pagano's response was this: 'We didn't play any different coverages or calls that we'd been playing. We were going to make sure that 10 (DeAndre Hopkins) did not beat us and we were going to try to take him out the entire game.  Make sure the runner didn't get loose, we did that in the first half. We started the third quarter and he had a 26-yarder, a 12-yarder and a 14-yarder out of nowhere. They executed and we didn't. You get down the stretch, you get to the seven-minute mark and you're up 14 (points), you can say, 'Well, they're dinking and dunking this, that and the other.' We weren't doing really anything different. I think what happens is you get in these ball games and momentum shifts and you can't get away from what got you to that point and that just comes down to we have to execute and you've got to get the job done and we didn't get the job done. We weren't sending a lot of bodies at the quarterback throughout the course of the game. We felt like we could do certain things to get to Brock (Osweiler) early. We did early on with playing coverage and making sure that a couple of those guys were taken care of, specifically Hopkins. We accomplished that goal, didn't get in the end zone. I thought Vontae (Davis) did a great job on him. He had one third down, that third-and-9 pickup late in the game on that second to last drive before overtime was one of the back breakers, but I don't think we got passive or softer or anything like that. I think they executed better than we did.' No matter the coverage debate, the Colts had to find a way to win that game. It was the first time in the Indianapolis history of the Colts that they lost a game where they had a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. For me, the Colts had chances well before that chaotic final seven minutes to finish off the Texans. The Colts were leading 13-3 late in the first half, with a golden opportunity at adding points and also getting the ball to start the third quarter. Then Andrew Luck gets picked. Then the first drive of the third quarter has a holding penalty, leading to a three-and-out. When you get chances in this league to step on an opponent's throat, you've got to take advantage of it. Fans were leaving NRG Stadium and a three-score lead in the second half would have brought out even more boo birds. You can't survive in this league off wining close game after close game. If the Colts can put together more starts like they had on Sunday, then they must turn those into Ws, especially away from home.

Yash T. (Denver)

Hey KB,

That one is tough to swallow... It hurts to see our team not preform to the level we have on paper. Really appreciate everything you do for us fans. 
My question is, and it might be too early to ask: Is there still a chance for the post season? If so, what do we need to do to get there? Great to see Frank hit 100, worse to see us lose in that manner. Take it easy - A concerned fan, YT

Bowen: The Colts definitely still have a chance at the postseason. But with each loss, especially one in the division, and against Houston, those odds start to get smaller and smaller. Let's get the obvious out of the way. The Colts need to start stringing wins together and root against the rest of the division. The division is the first, and most likely, option for the Colts to reach the postseason. But after six weeks, the Wild Card picture is pretty cloudy, too, with no two teams in the same division with less than two losses right now. If we are breaking down the last 10 games, I place @Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Houston, @Minnesota, @Oakland into one group. If the Colts can 3-2 in those games, and 4-1 in the others, that would place this team at 9-7. I think 9-7, with the right tiebreakers, should be enough to get into the postseason. But even that's no guarantee.

Matthew H. (Iowa)I know Phillip Dorsett is still very young, but with donte Moncriefs absence I expected Dorsett to get more targets. In week one Dorsett had 6 targets (with healthy moncrief) and every game moncrief was out he had 5 or less targets. Why hasn't he seen more opportunities?

I really liked the way jack Doyle played on Sunday despite a tough loss, with a pending injury to Dwayne Allen, do you think we could see more opportunities for Doyle?

Bowen: The amount of catches for Dorsett, without Moncrief, has been really puzzling. You are right in that Dorsett's best game of the season was in Week One. With Moncrief playing, it was Dorsett's four-catch, 94-yard afternoon that led the Colts against Detroit. Since then, in five games, Dorsett has just nine catches in 18 targets. I really thought his targets number would go up a bunch without Moncrief. He's only been credited with one drop in that stretch so I'm not sure specifically why Andrew Luck and him haven't found more of a rhythm. The tight ends and Chester Rogers have seen more of an uptick in targets since Moncrief went down early in Week Two. Now we will see where Dorsett is at health wise after a hamstring injury took him out of Sunday's game in Houston. With Allen, expect the targets for Jack Doyle to increase. He's caught 20 of his 23 targets (87%) in 2016, which is the highest percentage for NFL tight ends this season.

Brian M. (Ft. Myers, FL)

I found myself getting frustrated at the number of sacks/hits Luck took against the Texans. He scrambled away a couple of times, but it seems to me that he was slow to react and scramble away most of the time. I know the line isn't protecting him the way it should, but I'm concerned Luck is injured and not able to scramble the way he used to. What do you think? Thank you

Bowen: The 53 rushing yards Luck had on Sunday was actually a career-high for the five-year pro. I thought his ability to take off in the open field was pretty impressive and I didn't see any health concerns when he decided to run. I've said it before. The feet on Andrew Luck are a weapon. He knows that and I thought on Sunday he used it to his advantage.

Jason K. (Montana)I have been a die hard colts fan since Jim harbaugh was the quarterback and I can't help but feel that the colts have always built their teams around having an explosive offense and having a lead forcing the opposing team to pass instead of run. I don't want to take anything away from the defense that helped produce a Super Bowl and I am a huge fan of bob sanders Dwight freeney and Robert Mathis, in fact the only colts jerseys I own are of defensive players but I feel like for too many years the colts have relied on the offense putting up big numbers allowing the defense to be one dimensional. What is your take?

Bowen: When the Colts had their overhaul (roster, coaching and personnel staff wise) back in 2012, the beginning transition came on offense. You had all those skill picks drafted that year (Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Vick Ballard, LaVon Brazill). The offense, and building something around Luck, was clearly the early focus. It's taken longer for the defense. For me, an important key this offseason is finding young playmakers at linebacker and a cornerback of the future. You have some young pieces on defense and you have your starting safety pair for the future, but impact players at the linebacker positions are needed. At times this season, you get the feeling where the offense has to play almost perfect to earn a victory.

Howard G. (Indianapolis)

Why are the Colts not changing it up on offense? From my perspective, if you want to soften the defense, start using Todman in screens and sweeps and I feel that would provide more yards and relief for Gore, in my opinion... On defense, start playing Edwin Jackson in exotic blitz packages...

Bowen: We've had a couple of questions wanting to see more Todman on offense. If you're looking for more Todman, maybe check out the kick return unit this week. With Quan Bray on injured reserve, the Colts need new returners. Todman is a definite option. I love Todman's burst and think he could bring something offensively, but I don't think he's going to supplant Robert Turbin or Josh Ferguson right now. It's hard to involve four different running backs in a game plan. I still think it's Ferguson over Todman.

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