The Colts Mailbag is back! Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.
Missed out this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for the next Colts Mailbag by clicking here. I'll also be checking the comments on our Official Colts Podcast YouTube page and will answer some listener questions in here, too.
Let's get after this week's questions:
Stan Scherer, Fort Wayne, Ind.: What is the status of Josh Downs, will he be ready to play this weekend?
JJ Stankevitz: Downs left the Colts' Week 9 win over the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return, and he did not practice Wednesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. He initially sustained the injury during practice last week.
Keep an eye out here on Colts.com and the Colts App Thursday and Friday for practice participation updates on Downs. I'll have game status designations – no status, questionable, doubtful or out – from Frankfurt on Friday. We'll keep an eye on Downs as well as three other players who did not practice Wednesday: CB JuJu Brents (quad), LB Zaire Franklin (knee) and TE Drew Ogletree (foot). Right tackle Braden Smith (hip/wrist) practiced in full on Wednesday, so we'll see if he'll play for the first time since Week 6 on Sunday in Germany.
Michael Holcomb, Lagrange, Ind.: I been a devoted Colts fan since 1965. My question is what's going on with Alec Pierce? There are not many targets and catches, is he not getting open?
JJ Stankevitz:Pierce is third on the Colts with 32 targets, but that total is well behind fellow wideouts Michael Pittman Jr. (86 targets) and Downs (57 targets).
On a per-target basis, Pierce is just as productive as he was as a rookie last year (7.6 yards/target). He's averaging 14.3 yards per reception, right in line with his 14.5 yards per reception average in 2022. But he's averaging 1.9 receptions per game (down from 2.6 last year) and 27 yards per game (down from 37.1 last year).
"He'll continue and evolve in our offense," head coach Shane Steichen said. "Week to week, you never know where the ball may go. Some weeks, it might be Pitt for 10 catches and the next week it might be Alec for eight. There's one football and shoot, we'll do everything in our power to get these guys the ball week in and week out."
Pierce didn't have a catch on two targets in the Colts' Week 9 win over the Panthers, but the game script – which, first and foremost, led the Colts to do whatever they could to avoid turnovers – didn't necessarily call for aggressive 50/50 deep balls to him. In Weeks 7 and 8, when the Colts needed to score plenty of points to keep up with their opposition, Pierce caught six of eight targets for 94 yards.
So we'll see as the season goes on if Pierce gets more targets and receptions. But also don't discount what his presence on the field does for the rest of the Colts' offense, even if he isn't getting the ball at a high rate.
"He can take the top off the defense, and they have to respect that because he can run," Downs said. "I would say just having him out there allows us to clear it out a little bit."
John Rozenek, Smithfield, Ohio: What little I've seen of Anthony Richardson, one can't help but be impressed with his raw talent and to be excited for the future. However, I am somewhat concerned about the number and severity of injuries that he has sustained in a little over three games total. I've seen some quarterbacks take some real shots and be sacked numerous times this year and in the past, yet few were knocked out of games and sustained as many injuries, in as little playing time, as AR has had. Is he just unlucky or should we be concerned over his injury history with so few minutes played.
JJ Stankevitz: This is probably a better question for the offseason, but since Steichen said Richardson will be back with the Colts this week, we'll take a look at it.
The Colts this offseason will have discussions about how to better protect Richardson, and how he can better protect himself, going forward.
"We'll cross that bridge next year when we get there," Steichen said. "But again, one of the things that makes him really good is a runner. A lot of those guys around the league that run and make plays – that's what helps your offense."
Steichen said the Colts and Richardson will "turn over every stone" when it comes to identifying ways to keep the 2023 No. 4 overall pick on the field.
The good news here is the Colts saw plenty of good things from Richardson when he was on the field – "he was playing really good football," Steichen said – and, once the offseason hits, those discussions will be about how to keep a promising player healthy.
"It's disappointing, we all know that," Steichen said. "But he's going to learn from this, he's going to grow and he's going to get better from it."
John Patton Jr., Muncie, Ind.: How easy will it be to get the win in Germany?
JJ Stankevitz: I assume this question got asked because the Colts' opponent in Frankfurt is 2-7 and has the NFL's No. 31 scoring offense (15 points/game) and No. 26 scoring defense (25.3 points/game). Take the logos off the helmets and don't look at who's on the sideline and fans might be inclined to think this game is "easy."
Of course, you can't do any of that – not when it's Bill Belichick, and not when it's the New England Patriots. The Patriots' point differential of -93 is currently the franchise's worst since 1992; in Belichick's tenure (2000-present), New England has had two seasons with fewer than eight wins (2000, 2020). The Patriots, from 2001-2021, did not have a single season in which they finished outside the top 10 in either scoring offense or scoring defense. Last year, New England was 17th in scoring offense and 11th in scoring defense.
But again: This is a team coached by Belichick, who Steichen said this week he regards as "the best to ever do it." Outside of clunkers against the Dallas Cowboys (a 38-3 loss) and New Orleans Saints (34-0), the Patriots have kept most of their games close – a seven-point loss to the Miami Dolphins, a four-point win over the Buffalo Bills, a five-point loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, a five-point win over the New York Jets, etc.
Don't let the record and point differential fool you: Playing the Patriots is never easy, and will never be easy, so long as arguably the greatest coach of all time is pulling the strings on the opposing sideline.
"Just being on the opposite sideline watching what he does over his career is phenomenal," Steichen said. "Just what he does, he's always switching things up. He's a brilliant coach, a ton of respect for the guy. He's been doing it at the highest level and has been the best doing it for I don't know, the last three decades? Whatever it's been. But just a ton of respect for what he does on a weekly basis. Every week he gets his team ready to go."
Check out behind-the-scenes photos from the Colts versus Panthers matchup at Bank of America Stadium.