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Colts Wednesday Mailbag: Which Returning Injured Player Will Have A Big Impact In 2016?

Intro: This Wednesday, mailbag readers inquire about comparing Ryan Kelly and Jeff Saturday, the 2017 NFL Draft and the depth along the defensive line.

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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:John F. (Horseshoe Bay, TX)

Hey Kevin!

We have talked a lot about improving the offensive line, yet when I look at the projected starters from guys, like Sorgi and some of the other analysts, the only change I see mentioned is Ryan Kelly at center. Many have Thortin and Reitz at RG and RT respectively. My question is this, how big a difference is changing the center going to make for the o line? I know we had changes and injuries last season, but still seeing the same names.

Bowen: I think people are underestimating what a stabilized center can do for the rest of the line. Having a consistent voice, not to mention an upgrade there physically, should do a lot for the continuity of that group. The interior of that group had to be improved. Now, I still think the starting competition is up in the air, but these projections will likely come down to how the Colts view Denzelle Good. Another rookie starting on the line is a lot to ask for. So that means Hugh Thornton, Joe Reitz and Good will likely compete on the right side. I'd consider Reitz the definite favorite at right tackle. If a slimmed down Thornton can provide the consistency the Colts have longed for from him, then he is that X-factor (as Jim Irsay labeled him in March). Once the full pads come on in Anderson, we should see more of a clearer picture as to who is really in the starting competition up front.

Dustin B. (Kings Mountain, NC)

Hi Kevin. I actually have 2 questions for you.

  1. Is comparing Ryan Kelly to Jeff Saturday putting to much pressure on Ryan Kelly as a rookie?
  1. With the O-line fixed, do you think that Andrew Luck will have the kind of season he had in 2014 with 4,761 passing yards and 40 TD's?

Bowen: 1. I think it probably is. But again, Kelly has to be one of the most NFL-ready centers we've seen in some time. Kelly played at Alabama, the closest collegiate program you have to the NFL. Whether it was the talent he faced in practice, the attention around the program---all of that is something Kelly will once again see at the professional level. Kelly also blocked for three different quarterbacks and played for three offensive coordinators in college. Also, comparing Kelly and Saturday isn't really fair considering the drastic paths they took to reach the NFL. 2. We actually had this question last week. My answer: In 2014, Luck completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 4,761 yards, 40 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. It was probably the best statistical season Luck has had in his four years of professional football. I do think a healthy Luck will rival those 2014 teams. I'm sure Luck and the coaching staff would love to see that percentage rise even a little. The touchdown-interception ratio is impressive though. I really think big plays are going to be a staple of this 2016 version. That might keep his completion percentage hovering around the 60 percent number though. With the speed at the receiver position, you can't ignore what those guys excel at. That's running quite fast. So I believe Luck and the Colts will hit on more than their fair share of big plays in 2016. I see similar numbers to 2014 for Luck.

Lucas R. (Carmel, IN)

Every year when I look at the Colts Roster I think "If we can stay healthy our team will be amazing", yet every year the Colts are one of the mist injury-riddled teams in the NFL. My question is: other than Luck, which Colts player returning from an injury plagued season (IR or not) will have the biggest impact for the team?

Bowen: I think Henry Anderson is the obvious choice. Jim Irsay mentioned it last month how you could argue that Anderson is/was the Colts' second best player. Anderson was extremely productive as a rookie and his injury really tested the Colts' depth up front. The Colts really don't have a lot of guys coming back from injury plagued seasons in 2016. I would put Nate Irving and Jacoby Brissett as two other guys who could make pretty big impacts after injuries hindered their first seasons in Indy.

Lowell K. (Westminster, CO)

Just wondering what ever happened to Da'Rick Rodgers.

He seemed to show promise. If the Colts need young receiver help why not bring him back into Training Camp?

Bowen: What a name. I still think Da'Rick Rogers' 46-yard catch against the Chiefs was a very underrated play in that historic Wild Card comeback. Rogers actually joined the Chiefs last year, but was released in June. In April, Rogers signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. It's clear with Rogers that he's going to have to show himself up in the CFL before getting another chance in the NFL.

Ben D. (Voorhees, NJ)

Hey Kevin,

First is like to thank you for answering all the fans' questions each week including mine on occasion. Second, I would like to discuss special teams. I know the Colts believe strongly in Quan Bray as a kick and punt returner. I also know that the colts acquired Jordan Todman recently. He was a decent kick returned for the Jaguars a couple years ago. Is there any chance we see a competition for that returner spot or will each player get their own position, one returning punts and the other, kick offs? Thank you again.

Bowen: I do think the Colts will give both guys a chance to show what they can do at Training Camp and in the preseason. When Quan Bray took over as the Colts' returner last November, he was tremendous. No returner in the NFL had more combined return yards in the final two months of the season than Bray. Because of that, Bray deserves the first crack at securing his return job again in 2016. Todman's speed though has caught my eye in OTAs. Even if Todman isn't a returner this season, he still has a chance to help out in other areas on special teams.

Evan B. (Ohio)

Hi Kevin, I really enjoy the Mailbag every week and I would like to ask you a question. When Arthur Jones Comes back to the D-Line, what will the starting D-line most Likely be? I myself think that Anderson - Jones - Langford will be the Starting D-line come week 1, but I would still love to get your opinion. Thanks!

Bowen: This is a really good question. Now, we should mention Arthur Jones and Henry Anderson being ready for Week One is no guarantee. We still don't know when/if they will be ready for Training Camp (the Colts aren't giving specific timetables). But when they are healthy, how that starting trio will look is a mystery. In Jones' limited action here in Indy, he hasn't played much "nose tackle" on run downs. That would be where he would line up in this scenario. I still think David Parry is your nose tackle, but having those three guys healthy would give the Colts plenty of flexibility in how they want their defensive line to look.

Martin G. (Topolcany, Slovakia)

Hi Kevin,

thank you for your brilliant work on Mailbag. I have 2 questions for you:

  1. With healthy Andrew Luck, do you think is possible, that our WR trio (Hilton, Moncrief, Dorsett) will all have a 1000 yard season?
  1. Do you think that Robert Mathis will have double digit sack number in 2016?

I wish you good luck in your work and have a great day.

Bowen: I think the second one is much, much more likely. Three receivers each accounting for 1,000 yards is very rare in the NFL. I think that trio is a dynamic group with plenty of potential. However, each of them reaching 1,000 yards is a stiff challenge. Mathis getting to the 10-sack number is much more realistic. He had 7.0 last year and didn't become a starter until Week Seven. I'd put the chances above 50/50 that Mathis finishes this season with at least 10.0 sacks.

Alex G. (Osgood, IN)

Hello Kevin. I have been a Colts fan since the early 2000s and I check the Colts mobile app on a daily basis. This will be my first time submitting a question. Bear with me as this may have several questions wrapped into one, but it focuses on Training Camp.

With the Colts facing the Packers in the Hall of Fame game on August 7, I would think we will be starting Training Camp earlier than usual. I would assume we will still be in Anderson right? I'm not certain if a training camp schedule has been released yet, but keeping in mind an earlier start to camp, when do you think we will report to Anderson and how long do you think we'll be there? Last season I believe we reported to camp on August 1 and finished our Anderson portion on August 14.

Thank you so much for taking time out to answer our questions every Wednesday and Saturday with regard to The horseshoe. Go Colts!

Bowen: The Training Camp schedule will be announced in the coming weeks. Yes, the Colts will be back in Anderson and the expected report date is around July 25th. I would guess the Colts will camp in Anderson through their second preseason game (August 13, at Buffalo). Hopefully that helps.

Dave H. (Sebring, FL)

last season we had a lot of problems with the o-line! will new oc philbin get this o-line working harder faster and better, quicker and acting like a team, pulling and getting out front clearing holes for are rb's or just stay fighting it out in the trenches keeping defences off luck???we must be ready this season and not be slow to react!

Bowen: That's the plan. It's been a while, but Joe Philbin's track record as an offensive line coach is very impressive. The Colts have coupled Philbin's teaching with a certain upgrade in talent, starting with center Ryan Kelly. Andrew Luck has had five starting centers in his four seasons with the Colts. Kelly will now solidify that position with plenty of competition being added to the right side.

Marcus R. (Louisiana)

How you doing well my question is that will the Colts do more trick plays besides the one play they did that embarrassed us but when it's 3rd & 3 they need to set up in a Iformation keep the WR's on one side but leave the Tight End by him self than roll out and throw the ball to the Tight End or Luck keep it and run for the yard than slide thanks

Bowen: Marcus, I'll relay your suggestion over to Rob Chudzinski and I'm sure he will dial it up come Week One.

Rob K. (Manahawkin, NJ)

I have an offbeat question this time around Kevin.

If by chance father time should catch up to Adam Vinatieri do the colts have a plan for it? Would Pat McAfee do both jobs or is there a backup kicker in indy?

Bowen: Father Time would have to take quite the jump to catch Adam Vinatieri. He's kicking at the best rate of his career the past two years. Right now, the Colts have no backup kicker. In years past we have seen an extra kicker at Training Camp. There currently isn't one on the roster. McAfee is the backup and I'm sure he will handle some kicking duties up in Anderson. Long term, I don't know if the Colts have given too much thought for what to do after Vinatieri. He signed a two-year deal this past offseason. I've said it before: McAfee is extremely talented but you know teams would be worried having just one kicker handle every kicking duty. An end-game injury to that player would be extremely significant.

Ronnie L. (Indiana)

A few weeks ago I sent a question in about the colts getting knowshon moreno and never saw a reply now I see that he is eyeing a comeback what are the chances the colts give him a look and sure they could get him at a real good price coming off a injury but I am just thinking about the power run game the colts would have with Frank gore and him what are your thoughts

Bowen: I'm not sure if the Colts feel they are in the market for a veteran running back. They went out and acquired two such players over the offseason (Robert Turbin and Jordan Todman). Then they have three younger backs they really like in Tyler Varga, Trey Williams and Josh Ferguson. Like I've mentioned, with any free agent addition this time of year, the money factor has to be taken into consideration. If Moreno is healthy, I'd expect the market to be a little more demanding for him, thus raising his contract.

Luke R. (Rochester, NY)

Hey Kevin,

One of the Colts main weak spots going into the 2016 season is pass rush, with only Robert Mathis, who is on the wrong end of 30, the only true threat. However, are there any college seniors or potential juniors the Colts will be looking at in the college season, and to complement Mathis, and make the linebacker core younger?

Bowen: Is this our first 2017 draft question? I guess it was nice we made it a few weeks post-draft before already looking ahead to next year's crop of prospects. I can't say I've delved too much into the EARLY draft outlook for 2017. Now, the couple of early Mock Drafts I've seen do have several more edge rushers as Round One potential guys, than we saw go in 2016. That's good news for the Colts.

Mauriel F. (Memphis)

From watching the games the last few years I've noticed that we have had a hard time with the run( offensive and defensive), I've felt defense has been in the bottom in of the league. When we brought pagano in I figured that we were moving to a more of defense first style of play. My question is other than injury, why haven't our defense progressed any.

Bowen: I think you can contribute to multiple reasons. First, the Colts' defensive overhaul was immense from a schematic/personnel standpoint. With how much turnover the roster took on back in 2012, the Colts used a bulk of those early picks on the offensive side of the ball. Recently, we've seen more and more picks spent defensively. Then the change from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 system has taken its time and the Colts have moved on from old coordinator Greg Manusky to try and improve their pass rush. In 2014, we saw some flashes (a unit that finished the year 11th in total defense), however that didn't carry over to 2015, hence the reason for Ted Monachino now in Indianapolis.

Mark M. (Utah)

I recently started working for a company that does some data storage and analytics for the Patriots and a little piece of me dies every day (ironically there is a high number of Colts and Bills fans that work here). What do the Colts do for their data storage/analytics needs, if anything?

Bowen: Last month the Colts hired John Park for "football research/analytics." The press release announcing the hiring of Park described his role as: "Park will incorporate and utilize statistical resources to provide support in various efforts such as player evaluations, salary cap, coaching, strength and conditioning and medical." Park comes to the Colts after stints at Rutgers University and with the Cleveland Browns. This day and age in the NFL (and really sports in general), I'd be surprised if every team didn't have at least some person dedicated to studying analytics.

Jacob H. (Fullerton, CA)

Kevin,

The media has been writing a lot about the importance of a strong relationship between Luck and Kelly, both on the field and off the field. I'm sure they'll build a good friendship, I also noticed amongst all the videos and pictures that Castonzo and Mewhort appear to be good friends as well. I like seeing and hearing that our players enjoy being around each other and that they're friends, I'm sure it makes for a stronger team as well. Now I'm more curious, who else amongst the Colts are good buddies with each other and go hangout outside of the facility?

Bowen: Jacob, I think Castonzo and Mewhort are good friends, hence their video interaction earlier this offseason. I can't say I know too much about these guys away from the complex in regards to who they hang out with away from work. It appears the offensive line group is very close with Andrew Luck thrown in with those guys, too. The defensive backs frequently have pictures together on social media. Considering how much time these guys to spend at work, I'm sure any time away from the facility is a chance to hangout with their families.

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