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:Ben. D. (Voorhees, NJ)
With Hassleback injured and luck only questionable at best, would the colts be looking to trade for a quarterback more capable or proven than Charlie Whitehurst such as Colt McCoy or EJ Manuel?
Bowen: Ben, the trading deadline has passed. The "acquiring a backup quarterback" storyline is something that is interesting to ponder for this week. So far, the Colts haven't made a move, sticking with three quarterbacks on the active roster (Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst). Now, if Luck isn't cleared to play in a game and Hasselbeck isn't ready to start, can you risk having one "healthy" quarterback active on Sunday (and possibly Hasselbeck in an emergency role)? That's going to be something the Colts will have to figure out the rest of the week to see where Hasselbeck is at health wise come Friday-Saturday, if he can start or at least be available.
Ron H. (Dover, DE)
I am originally from Philly and grew up in a house where i was the only non-Eagles fan so my commitment to the Speed Blue runs deep lol. I watched the game vs Jacksonville in shame, but it made me question a few things. When do you think we'll see D'Joun Smith more involved? Because I just knew with Toler being out he was going to get the job lining up opposite of Vontae instead of Brown who struggled for the most part. Also prior to the start of the season there were talks of Cole and Mathis being on the field together for a good portion of time to allow us to put pressure from multiple points each down. It seems like mathis and cole are only on the field together on 3rd in long and we've havent seen much play time from Newsome who had a great rookie campaign especially with his low amount of overall snaps last season.
Bowen: It doesn't look like we will get to see D'Joun Smith in a defensive setting this season. Smith played one snap on Sunday with the Colts starting Jalil Brown in place of Greg Toler. If Toler returns this week (he's expected to practice this week), I don't see where Smith eats into the snaps with four cornerbacks ahead of him on the depth chart. The Colts have used a "NASCAR" type package with Trent Cole, Robert Mathis and Erik Walden. With a crowded outside linebacker group, it hasn't surprised me to have seen Mathis and Walden lately being the guys on the early downs. Then when the Colts defense gets into pass rush situations (haven't happened as much of late), we are seeing Cole join them on the field.
Richard W. (Tulsa)
Robert Mathis does not look his normal self! How many years does he have left? Does he have plans to retire in the near future?
Bowen: Robert Mathis is under contract next season. Mathis has given no plans to retire and frankly, I don't think he should. Does Mathis look like the same player who led the NFL in sacks in 2013? No. But was that really the expectation coming off 10 surgeries on his Achilles? He's still the Colts best individual pass rusher and leads the team in sacks (4.0), despite not playing a starting role until Week Seven. I see no reason why Mathis can't be around double digits in sacks next year with a healthy offseason. That's pretty impressive for a guy who will turn 35 in February.
Stan C. (Minneapolis, MN)
I've been really baffled by the Colt's use of tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. I don't consider either to be world-breaking players, but as a flexible duo they add a dimension to the offense that other teams simply don't have.
The Colts love versatility in their players and their playcalling, and two TE sets have been a staple of Andrew Luck's game dating back to Stanford. This season, however, Fleener and Allen have been largely ignored in the passing attack. Fleener has 67 targets over the first 12 games of the season (roughly the same pace as last year, but as a player in his 4th year I expected a increase in usage), and Allen has only been targeted 23 times (due in part to helping pass block for a mediocre offensive line, but still a significant decrease from his usage in his two healthier seasons). Their lack of involvement has been especially notable in 3rd down and red zone situations, where they often disappear completely from the playbook.
More importantly, however, is what they could have done for Matt Hasselbeck. The original Colts offense was clearly supposed to be for Luck, with deep speed burners like T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett to exploit Luck's arm strength and gunslinger mentality. Hasselbeck lacks that arm, but is very capable as a backup quarterback who can manage a game. One would think that Hilton and Moncrief's recent slump is in part because Hasselbeck can't feed them the deep ball as reliably as Luck could. Including dual TE packages or just using the intermediate passing game would have helped Hasselbeck tremendously, and even would have aided the often questionable pass blocking.
It seems so strange to me that Fleener and Allen have been so underutilized, especially considering that the Colts are unlikely to extend contracts with both players at the end of the year and need to figure out which one to move forward with. As we try and figure out OC's Rob Chudzinski's plan for this offense, will we see more of the tight ends?
Bowen: Stan, tremendous research in analyzing the (lack) of tight end production this year compared to the past couple of seasons. The biggest drops off in Allen and Fleener's pass catching impact this season has been in their catches and minimal first-down receptions. Last year, Allen and Fleener ranked near the top of the NFL in catches going for first downs (Allen had 82.8% of his, Fleener had 78.4% of his). This year both are under 40 percent in that category with their average yards per catch cut in half. I believe the threat of the Colts not being able to stretch the field, like they did so often last year, is really hindering the expected production from the tight ends. Teams don't have to worry about big plays so they can take away Allen and Fleener closer to the line of scrimmage. Until this changes, I just don't see a major eruption from the tight end position.
Taggyrt M. (Keenesburg, CO)
Y don't the Colts use Griff Whalen more in the redzone. He catches everything thrown his way, he runs the best routes arguably on the team. Quan Bray has been a good KICK returner this season. Griff Whalen still has better Punt return stats. Will we use griff just for punts ?
Bowen: We've seen the Colts use Whalen more and more on third downs in recent weeks. We did see Whalen's snaps go down a bit last week with Phillip Dorsett back for his first game action since late October. The Colts red-zone troubles have been well documented in the past two weeks (1-of-9 in the red zone). That has to improve, although I'm not sure force-feeding Whalen in the red zone is the answer. Right now, I don't see Whalen taking over on punt returns. The Colts are only using Bray on special teams, so might as well let him stick to that role and have Whalen concentrate completely on the offensive game plan.
Marissa M. (Riverview, FL)
What are the chances Andrew Luck doesn't sign with the colts after this season? I've heard rumors that he wants to sign with a team that is more dedicated to the OL and has a better D?
Bowen: Well, this is news to me. I would love to see where these "rumors" have come. Luck and the Colts have said nothing other then they want to get something done long-term when asked about future contracts. Obviously, Luck has taken too many hits in his first four seasons. The protection for him has to improve, but in no way does that mean Luck is going to test the free agent market when that time comes. If you have some credible proof of such rumors, send them into next week's mailbag and we can look at them then.