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:James S. (Australia)
It's unfortunate that by the end of the season we were playing with Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley, but I see it as an oppertunity. Do you think either of these guys could be a long term backup. After all, we've seen Hasselbeck limited endurance due to his age.
Bowen: This is going to be a storyline that should receive some more clarity in the next month or so. Matt Hasselbeck is a free agent, so that decision should have an answer by March 9, when the new league year starts. Both Freeman and Lindley are under contract in 2016, so there are capable backups on the roster. The Colts have really never had a situation like this behind a starting quarterback. I definitely think Freeman and/or Lindley could be the team's backup in 2016, however a lot is going to depend on what happens with Hasselbeck.
Leonardo B. (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Is Jack Doyle ready to step in for Colts if we decide not bring back both Allen and Fleener?
Bowen: The role of Jack Doyle could really evolve in 2016. Doyle, who is a restricted free agent this offseason, has served a plethora of roles for the Colts in his three seasons. There's no question that if (more likely when) the Colts can only bring back Allen/Fleener, then Doyle will have more of a consistent presence within the offense. Doyle has played right around 30 percent of the team's offensive snaps in his three years. We don't know how Rob Chudzinski is going to utilize this tight end position going forward, but I think we've seen enough from Doyle that he can be a No. 2 tight end at this level.
James V. (Greenwood, IN)
It seemed fairly obvious from the injuries to not one but TWO QBs that the O-Line is in serious need of an upgrade/overhaul. One particular player that could be available in the draft is (Ohio State) 6'7" 315 LB OT Taylor Decker...Have the Colts been watching him play and considering him as a possible future Colt??
Bowen: With the draft still more than two months away, the name "Taylor Decker" seems to be the most common name we are seeing for the Colts in Mock Drafts. I think it's safe to say the Colts have evaluated Decker. I do think he could fit in. However, I mention it below in talking about how important of a need is right tackle in Round One? Obviously, teams don't draft off positions of need, but I'm more of a find an impact defensive guy in the early rounds.
Chris C. (Lafayette, IN)
Do you feel or think with how poorly the colts run game was this year, and how poorly protected the quarterbacks were this year that the offensive line needs much work still to this day after 4 years of having time to find a line that works, it still seems to be a big issue and problem when you get down to statistics and facts that the line is still not where it should be. I know I'm not the only long time colts fan that is unhappy with the offensive line performance.
Bowen: The offensive line has to be a more consistent unit going forward. It’s why Owner Jim Irsay sat down with new line coach Joe Philbin to reinforce the focus of that group in 2016. You don't often see owners meeting with position coaches, but that happened with Irsay and Philbin. I think the Colts need to bolster the interior, while then allocating other resources to the defensive side of the ball. That is where the core of the offseason has to be for this team.
Dave C. (New Castle, IN)
Kevin: The draft seems like a "roll of the dice". I've heard Bill Polian speak about how few picks make it. Now with the Browns taking an "analytic" approach, I have to wonder what a team learns from failed picks and successful picks to evaluate the potential success of college players. You look at a Trent Richardson, who should have been great, failed, yet Russell Wilson, who slipped in the draft is all pro. How do teams evaluate this talent?
Bowen: This is a terrific question, one that I think about every time the draft comes around. There are no cookie cutter prospects that are guarantees. You see top-five picks "fail" every draft and then you have guys that go undrafted play from Day One. I think the biggest things team look at is trying to do as much homework as possible on a given prospect. You try to uncover all stones and make sure you have the most well informed opinion you can have on a kid. There just isn't some magic formula. I do think there are specific traits that scouts look for which can completely eliminate a kid from rising on a draft board or vice versa. I am interested to see how the Browns' analytic approach will go over. Analytics in baseball is one thing, but we really haven't seen a committed approach to it in professional football.
Scott A. (Decatur, IL)
Is there room for another Colts fan?? I'm a recently displaced fan from a team that previously played in St. Louis. So, I guess I'm a free agent!!! :) I'm really curious in seeing how the colts play the off season. I think they could clean up well in the draft for O-Line. Make them holes for Gore. On the D side, would they be looking at guys like Barron, Hayes, Sims, or Brockers and maybe a corner like Trumaine Johnson at corner? I know all five are free agent Rams, but I've been a season ticket holder and have seen these guys play and they play hard.
Bowen: Scott, I think the Colts would love a few of those Rams' defenders to make the trek over I-70. The Colts certainly could use some depth at every level of the defense and those names you mentioned could help that. On the St. Louis/Los Angeles note, what the Rams do in free agency will be interesting. Where will they meet with potential free agents? Will the move to LA and all the newness that comes with that hinder their ability to attract free agents?
Stover S. (Oklahoma)
What do you think about signing Russell Okung to be our RT. Then draft nick Martin in the second round to play center. First round pick should be corner back to replace toler or pass rush.
Bowen: How the Colts view the right tackle position will really impact how the team operates this offseason. You mention Okung, Seattle's offensive tackle, and under your scenario he would come to Indianapolis to play tackle. My question again is with Joe Reitz and Denzelle Good, does right tackle remain a major, major need (which would be the case in the money spent to sign Okung)? Sure, ideally the Colts would be able to hand out multiple starting-level contracts and take care of all their necessary upgrades. However, that's just not how life works in the NFL. I think the Colts have starting caliber linemen on the roster in Reitz and potentially Good. That's why I'm not on the "must get a right tackle" bandwagon. I do think Notre Dame's Nick Martin and finding a cornerback in the first round could be good routes for the Colts to take.
Matt S. (Ridgecrest, CA)
Why bring new players in when luck is just getting the hang of of all the other new players u already got i mean u guys pretty much had already traded of your whole team why get more rookies
Bowen: I'm a little confused by this one. Each team wants to build through the draft. Success in the draft is a must with how the salary cap is structured for rookie deals. That is why the Colts will couple their young draft picks with the returnees in 2016 and go from there. I don't see the personnel turnover on offense being too immense for Andrew Luck in 2016.
Eduardo C. (San Juan, PR)
Here are my thoughts on the way our draft should go: 1) OG 2) CB 3) OLB 4) FS 5)RB 6) OT 7)CB. What do you think Kevin. Thanks for your thought and round the year great input/job!!!
Bowen: Eduardo, I appreciate that. I think fans would take your draft and be pleased with it. Your list there matches up pretty much with my thinking on needs. My only difference would be free safety is a little high on the list. Yes, the Colts could use another free safety, but I could see a second OL or a DL being an option, before taking a safety. Just one correction, the Colts don't have a sixth-round pick in 2016 because of the trade for Sio Moore.
Joshua K. (Ontario)
Hey Kevin, huge fan of the work you do, great job of keeping colts community connected to whats going on!
I've been reading the mailbag, and I was wondering about what you think if the Colts took Sheldon Rankins at the 18th? He's been really rising in stock from the senior bowl, and I know everyone is saying we need OL but personally I think RT and LT and LG are good, we can grab a center at least by the 5th round and be fine if we can find the right one. I just think one more defensive push at DL and a budding star like Rankins could really help solidify that DL for years to come. Hard to predict the draft but they're projecting Rankins to be taken at the 26th which I don't think he'll last until...
Are there any other DL guys that we might grab instead of Rankins you think if we went that route?
Bowen: Joshua, thanks for the kind words. I do think you are onto something here with your general overview. If we are raking strictly needs, I don't have defensive line at the first slot of my list, but it's up there. The Colts appear to have found some young depth up front, but the group wouldn't hurt from another body in the defensive trenches. Sheldon Rankins is a guy that impressed in Mobile and I've seen him right around the Colts No. 18 spot in some Mock Drafts. You have the Alabama defensive linemen, Ole Miss's Robert Nkemdiche, Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun and Clemson's Shaq Watson as some other names that have been positioned around the Colts' No. 18 overall selection.
Carac C. (Indianapolis)
I know you've already talked about the colts drafting elliot, but do you know where derek henry is projected?
Bowen: I haven't really seen any Mock Drafts where Derrick Henry is projected to go in the first round. It sounds like the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner is pegged more for the second round.
Patrick T. (Germany)
Many experts predicted the Colts to win Super Bowl 50 last summer. We were loaded on offense, especially WR, but what about our defense? What about the saying "Defense wins championships"? We ranked 26th in total defense last season (24th pass D and 25th run D). That's not how you win a championship!
Yes sure, we have to address the o-line this offseason, in order to protect Luck way better. And as it was written by "Dan A. (Muncie, IN)" this week, I think we need help on C and RG, rather than RT. And I also think we should get another WR. But not as a high priority, but for depth behind T.Y., Moncrief and Dorsett (but not in the draft and after cutting Andre Johnson).
But what we really should do this offseason (Draft and FA), is address the defense, especially our LBs. Get some pass rushers. Get younger on D (like Jim Irsay already said). Cut these older, expensive players. According to overthecap.com we spend more than any other team on Linebackers last year. And in retrospect, that's not how they produced. Not even close. Next in line would be NT and CB! Parry was okay I guess, but I'm sure there is someone better around. I don't know about D'Joun Smith, coming of injury, but if he's not game changer, I think we need a CB as well.
Wasn't really a question so far, more like my thoughts and opinion. So what do you think? Where do you see the most necessary changes? What do you think about cutting most of our existing Linebackers (Cole, Walden, even Mathis)? Oh, and what do you think about our TEs? I haven't talked about it above, but what do you think on Fleener and Allen? Should we resign one or even both of them?
I have high hopes for this offseason. With some (necessary) cuts and maybe contractual restructures, we have a ton of cap space and could really attack in free agency. And consequently attack in the league.
Greetings from Germany
P.S.: I'm really looking forward to see the Colts for the first time next season in London against the Jaguars!
Bowen: Patrick, thanks for sending in a question. I think you are spot on with a majority of your opinions regarding the 2016 offseason. My general thinking of the offseason as a whole surrounds improving on the offensive line and finding a couple of younger defensive pieces. We've talked a lot about the age many Colts defensive starters in 2016. I think it's time to build off last year's draft class and find some defensive guys to combine with the handful or so impact rookies we saw last season. It's taken some time, but I think we are starting to see the quality depth on defense that is needed when roster turnover is inevitable.
Anthony C. (Troy)
Hey Kevin, I made a list of potential free agents I wouldn't mind seeing the Colts go after and I wanted to know your opinion on the likelihood of any of it happening.
Chris Ivory (If there isn't a younger back in the draft that would help out the team more)
And for our troubles at offensive line draft someone who could benefit the team sooner rather than later like Jack Conklin or Taylor Decker. Do you agree with any of my picks and if so what are the chances?
Bowen: Anthony, you have some specific positions of need in that quartet (cornerback, defensive line, edge rusher and a running back). All those names would address those areas. The Ivory one is the only major question to me. Ivory is a starting running back in this league. If he comes to Indianapolis, he's not going to be starting. I tend to think the Colts need a young running back, via the draft, to learn behind Gore while also being an impact guy in his rookie season. The Colts do not have a definite backup running back currently on the roster.
Anthony O. (Springfield, MO)
Hey Kevin, I read your mail bags all the time and this is my first time submitting a question. From what I recall, the Colts hired a new defensive backs coach previously with the Chargers, correct? Also, Eric Weddle is set to be a FA if I read right as well. So that being said, and the new DBs coach having coached Weddle in his years at San Diego, would the Colts possibly venture to lure Weddle over and would he even be a good fit for the Colts system? Thanks for all the good articles Kevin and Go Colts!
Bowen: Yes, the Colts have hired Greg Williams to serve as the team's defensive backs coach. My opinion with a lot of potential free agents is you have to weigh a guy's age with his immediate impact to the team. Jim Irsay has said that this team has to get younger and the defensive side of the ball is where you have possibly eight returning starters of at least 30 years old. Weddle turned 31 in January. If the Colts don't bring back Dwight Lowery, also an unrestricted free agent, they will have an open starting spot. Let's not overlook second-year safety Clayton Geathers as a possible starter in 2016, if Lowery isn't re-signed.
Paul B. (Converse, IN)
It seems i remember us signing an injured defensive back way back in training camp, who wasn't going to play the 2015 season. Can you please confirm or deny that for me, and if so, remind us who he is? Thanks Kevin
Bowen: Paul, you are right on that. The Colts claimed Tevin Mitchel in early August. Mitchel was a sixth-round pick of the Redskins last year. He tore his labrum in Training Camp with Washington and was then waived/injured. The Colts claimed Mitchel and then placed him on injured reserve at the end of August. In Mitchel and D'Joun Smith, the Colts will have a couple of young cornerbacks who should finally be healthy for the offseason program.
Derek R. (United States)
Is Sua Cravens similar to Bucannon on the Cardinals?
Bowen: It's going to be intriguing to see how teams view Su'a Cravens, the USC safety that has played some hybrid linebacker in college. You mentioned Deone Bucannon, a college safety who has been used as a linebacker in the Arizona Cardinals defense. There are obviously similarities for the two Pac-12 products and how their skillset can translate to the NFL level. With teams always looking for more and more defensive speed on the field, Cravens allows that at the linebacker spot, while not sacrificing too much size. Cravens has been a guy in the late part of the first-round Mock Drafts.