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Colts Wednesday Mailbag: Who Will Start At Inside Linebacker In 2017?

Intro: This Wednesday, mailbag readers inquire about the 2017 ceiling for the Colts, pass rushers transitioning from the collegiate game and what is up with Erik Walden.


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:Sean M. (Ireland)

Hi Kevin, 
I'm wondering, what do you think is the Colts' ceiling this year in terms of how far they can go. I'm thinking, with a bit of luck, we could possibly make the AFC championship like 2014, but that's obviously optimistic. I think that with Andrew Luck, anything is possible right now.

Bowen: I would agree with that. As I've said in prior mailbags, the Patriots are in a class by themselves in the AFC. After them though, there's some room for teams to slide into the top couple spots. Teams like Oakland, Pittsburgh and Kansas City have strong rosters. If the Colts make the necessary strides (with their defensive and offensive line play), this is a team that has the ability to win a couple of playoff games.

Josh W. (Marion, IN)

Please tell me that the Colts will not let Josh Gable leave without being under contract!!! I know that Vinatieri is the living legend kicker they have been blessed to have. Ive seen the videos on Gable. He kicks 70 plus on field goals plus punts very similar to how McAfee did. There is no way he should play for any other team this year. What are your thoughts on this?

Bowen: Josh Gable has left without a contract. Where is he fitting on a 53-man roster? Teams just do not carry multiple kickers. It's impossible to have the proper depth throughout a roster if you have two spots occupied by the kicking position. Adam Vinatieri is still kicking at a very high level. He's your kicker in 2017.

Alex H. (Indianapolis)

Dear Mr.Bowen,
My question is why didn't the colts resign Erik Walden. He led our team in sacks last year and it kind of surprises me that that wouldn't get him a longer deal. Thanks for your answer and the mailbag. #Colts nation 4 life.
Alex H.

Bowen: I believe age was the biggest factor in why the Colts decided to move on from Erik Walden. It was clear Chris Ballard had a focus of getting younger on defense, especially at the outside linebacker position. Walden turns 32 later this year. When you are rebuilding a defense, it's hard to hand out the sort of contract to a player Walden's age. It was time to get younger at that position and try to groom new pass rushing talent. To be honest, I am surprised that no team has signed Walden yet. He remains a free agent and the only visit I saw for him during free agency was to Tennessee.

Gary H. (Melbourne, FL)

I thought going into the draft Inside Linebacker was number 1 need position. Why didn't Colts do more there?

Bowen: You thought inside linebacker was the top need. Others would probably argue for cornerback and outside linebacker in that top slot. I do think inside linebacker was/is a need for the Colts, but I had other positions higher. Remember, nowadays in the NFL the inside linebacker position can fluctuate within a defense. If Johnathan Hankins can occupy some space up front, that should allow for the linebackers in Indy to roam a little freer than maybe they were in past years. Also, having two inside linebackers on the field for all three downs is virtually extinct. The Colts are not afraid to use a guy like Clayton Geathers in that role when going to their sub packages. Who starts at ILB for the Colts in Week One? That's a great question, one with probably a handful of answers right now. I think the Colts can still play winning football with what they have at ILB.

Colin W. (Nitro, WV)

Hey Kevin, always love seeing what you have to say about the team. I have a few questions regarding both the offense and defense for the upcoming year. I'll start with defense as that's the biggest concern I have coming into the year. 1) What are your opinions about the constant stream of drafting 4-3 DE'S and converting them to 3-4 OLB's? This is specifically in regards to picking up Terrell Basham. I go to Marshall, and have witnessed his play first-hand, and am weary of how be might transition to LB, what are your opinions? 2) Who do you see being our starting ILB at the beginning of the season, I like Jackson and felt he did a pretty solid job when he was called upon in the sub packages last year, but do you think one of the new guys has any edge over our returning two guys?
Now for offense: 3) Who do you see as the number 3 guy? I personally love Dorsett and feel he unbelievable potential(look at his production at the U), but with the addition of Aiken I see his reps declining severly. 4) Is our OL going to be able to protect Luck better than in years past? Thanks for your time, and GO BLUE!

Bowen: 1. In college, you just rarely see true 3-4 outside linebackers, in a stand-up role. Teams have to try and convert 4-3 defensive ends at the next level. That's how things are in transiting from the college game to the pro game. Positions differ from Saturday's to Sunday's, specifically when looking at how spread offenses have overtaken the college game. 2. Such a hard question (see above). I'll go with Edwin Jackson and Sean Spence, but that's purely a guess. 3. Probably Antonio Morrison for run fits and Jon Bostic (if healthy) on passing downs, but you also have Clayton Geathers to factor in. 4. I think the unit will protect Luck better. A second season under Joe Philbin. A second season playing together with those rookies now second-year players. I'd be very surprised if we did not see improved line play.

Wyatt K. (Mooresville, IN)

Hey, Kevin my question is why isn't Ballard asking Luck to re-construct his contract, so we can sign players, and re-sign players. I get he's worth a lot of money and I agree, but he's making 140 million. Knocking off 20 million wouldn't even really change his contract he will still being making 120 million. Thanks, for the answers! Go Colts!

Bowen: Jim Irsay gave Andrew Luck that contract for a reason. He believed Luck was worthy of such a lucrative deal. Remember, Luck's contract is also setting the market value for other players around the NFL. The Colts are not in a cap starving situation where they need to ask/force Luck to restructure. They've planned for this deal for quite some time. If you have an elite quarterback in the NFL in his 20s, he's going to make major money. That's life in the NFL.

Terry C. (Noblesville, IN)

Kevin, your insight is appreciated thought the year. I continue to be impressed with C Ballard. I was hoping for Scott Paloi when the GM position was opened, but I was unaware of Chris.

It appears that the Colts will be looking at many free agents either before training camp or during the period of teams mandatory cuts. Do you have any insight on the most roster turnover the Colts have ever had from one year to the next? This year could be a record. Which suggest that the Colts will be a better team as the season moves forward, and the players learn the skeem and the comfort level of playing with each other. It will take time to play fast.

Bowen: I'm not sure on the specifics, but this certainly has to be one of the biggest roster turnovers in franchise history. They did sign the most free agents in team history, by a wide margin. As Chris Ballard started to evaluate film back in February he realized that the draft could not solve everything he wanted to do from a competition standpoint. That's why he tapped so frequently into free agency this year.

Doug R. (Moses Lake, WA)

Kevin -- Does David Parry have a future with the Colts, considering his brush with the law?

Bowen: Yes, he does. David Parry will be competing for a roster spot. His arrest will not lead to him being cut. Parry is in a crowded defensive line room and will have to earn a roster spot, after starting the last two seasons. Chris Ballard had this to say on Parry during the draft: "You've been around David. Good young man, smart. Made a knucklehead, young man mistake. He was sitting on my doorstep two days later, like a puppy. I don't know (about a league discipline). Who knows what they'll do."

Michael N. (Scranton, PA)

hey kevin do you think the draft picks Chris Ballard made suggests that he's planning to stick with chuck pagano for the long term considering he drafted players that fit pagano's defensive scheme Wilson is a perfect corner for pagano's defense and basham fits very well as well, or do you think it's just a case of both of them liking similar traits in players more generally Kansas City had a similar style of defense to the one pagano plays if im not mistaken, a lot is asked of the defensive backs so it's possible Ballard just leans toward db's himself bit I've always been a fan of pagano's and I feel like him and Ballard make a good team what are your thoughts?

Bowen: You're reading too much into it if you think the draft pick choices are an indication of Chuck Pagano's future with the team. Simply, the Colts had to get better on defense. I could be coaching the Colts. Vince Lombardi could be coaching the Colts. No matter, the defensive talent had to improve. You look at a guy like Wilson, he could fit in several different defenses. Chris Ballard loves taller/longer corners and Wilson fits that. The defenders chosen aren't pigeonholed just to this defense. They obviously have traits this coaching staff seeks out though.

Kenneth B. (Indianapolis)

Hey Kevin, how are you doing today. I have a few questions this time. Do you see this Colts defense being a mini me of Seattle. The rangey FS and the hard hitting SS. Plus the good CB, that is if Vontae can be the corner we know he can. Also having that good opposite CB. Next question is who do you think has the best secondary in the AFC South. My rankings go 1. Jags 2. Colts 3. HOU 4. TEN. Finally, are you excited to watch the Colts defense, and do you think they will make more plays than last year.

Bowen: Doing well, Kenneth. Thanks for asking. That's high praise putting the Colts defense in the same category of Seattle. But I do see what you're getting at in the type of talent the Colts are trying/starting to acquire in the secondary. Those secondary rankings look pretty accurate to me. Jacksonville has arguably the best corner duo in the NFL with Jalen Ramsey entering Year Two and A.J. Bouye coming over in free agency. The Colts, Texans and Titans are probably much more jumbled. The Colts have talent, but still need to prove it and solidify some roles back there. One thing is for sure, the playmaking should be much, much better in the secondary.

Benny F. (El Paso, TX)

Frank gore is on a contract year and cris Ballard really seems to like him. Do you think if gore gets another 1000 yard season the colts will sign him for another 1-2 years?

Bowen: Before we get to the question, let's remind ourselves of what Frank Gore could accomplish this season, at the age of 34. No NFL running back age 34 or older has ever started all 16 games in a season. Since 1998, only one NFL running back (2004-Emmitt Smith) has rushed for more than 445 yards at the age of 34 or older. So, Frank Gore could be in air we do not see too often for "older" running backs. If Gore has more than 1,000 yards in 2017, it's going to be hard for Chris Ballard to not at least think long and hard about a short-term deal for the future Hall of Famer. Ballard loves Gore the person and how he plays the game. I can't see anything longer than a year contract wise just because you know that wall has to inevitably come with all the hits Gore has amassed over the years.

Drew D. (Brookfield, WI)

Thank you for answering our questions and I know this is a little early but I was looking to make a preseason game. With all the new defensive pieces do you see the starting unit getting more reps than usual in the first two preseason games? I believe to gain chemistry they will need to be tested in the preseason more than normal to see how each operates in game situations.

Bowen: This is a good question. Unfortunately for fans, the two preseason games where the starters play the most (Weeks 2 and 3) are both road games for the Colts in 2017 (@Dallas and @Pittsburgh). I do think we could see a little longer look this preseason for the starters. With so many new faces on that side of the ball, those preseason game reps are going to be so darn valuable. Now, there's a balance there in not wanting to risk guys to injury, so the coaches will have a decision to make.

Dan A. (Muncie, IN)

Hi Kevin! Just wondering why Austin Blythe was released after just one season? I know they were trying to create roster space but do you have a reason why he might have been singled out?

Bowen: In listening to Chris Ballard, he's a big proponent of leaning on measureables when evaluating a prospect. The biggest thing holding Blythe back at the professional level was his size. At 6-2 and 298 pounds, Blythe is undersized in the NFL. I would guess that was a major reason in the Colts letting him go.

Adam S. (Cedar Lake, IN)

With the talk about all the players and future roster spots, I think we should take a look at another area of football. The equipment. Have you heard of the new helmet that will be used next year? The Zero1 I think it's called? It's supposed to reduce concussions and head traumas. Do you happen to know if the colts are using those helmets next year? I think they would help our players from getting hurt.

Bowen: I read this article explaining more about the ZERO1 helmet. I'm not sure how many players/teams we will be seeing use the helmet come this fall. Anything that improves the safety of the game, particularly in the head area, I'm all for.

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