INDIANAPOLIS — Each week, Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.
Let's jump right into this week's questions:
TWITA on Colts Reddit: "Will the colts put more of an emphasis on the run game this weekend? Or will they continue to utilize Phillip Rivers after his strong game against Cincinnati?"
Walker: Well, I thought the Colts' last game against the Cincinnati Bengals was going to be a prime opportunity to get the run game headed in the right direction — the Bengals' defense really struggles against the run — but, of course, when you get down 21-0 the first play into the second quarter, those plans go right out the window. Today's game against the Lions does present a second straight opportunity for Indy to get a ton of production on the ground, though; Detroit has already allowed some big performances on the ground this season to Aaron Jones (Green Bay Packers) and Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray (New Orleans Saints), and is allowing 131.8 rushing yards per game overall, which is the seventh-most in the NFL. The Lions also allow an average of 3.0 yards per carry after contact this season, which is the seventh-highest figure in the league. So if Indy can avoid another slow start in this one, Jonathan Taylor & Co. could be in for a big day.
kobegriffeysanders on Colts Reddit: "With rumors about guys on other teams popping up, is there any chance we make a trade ahead of the November 3rd trade deadline? If so, who might we target?"
Walker: I'm planning on taking a look into Tuesday's trade deadline and the possible Colts implications tomorrow, so keep an eye out for that article on Colts.com. I do think there are some possible targets out there, for the record, but I also know actual deadline trades rarely happen, especially for the Colts and general manager Chris Ballard. It's one of those "I wouldn't be surprised either way" type of scenarios.
Aleph_Alpha_001 on Colts Reddit: "The Lions seem to be much more potent offensively with Kenny Galloday back from injury. How can the Colts defend against this up-and-coming receiver? Will he just feast on zone coverage?"
Walker: I'm not worried about Kenny Golladay against the Colts' zone coverage; I'm worried about him down the field in those one-on-one opportunities. The 6-foot-4 Golladay is an absolute monster going up and getting the football, so one has to imagine defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus will be rolling coverages his way throughout the afternoon to avoid putting the cornerbacks in potentially sticky situations. Now, Xavier Rhodes does have plenty of experience going up against Golladay from their time as NFC North Division rivals when Rhodes was a member of the Minnesota Vikings' secondary, so perhaps you lean on that a little bit throughout today, but the Colts absolutely cannot allow Matthew Stafford to get into a groove feeding his top receiver Golladay for huge chunks up and down the field.
DirectTVAndrewLuck on Colts Reddit: "With the tough stretch ahead, schedule wise, what adjustments do you foresee for the offense going forward?_"
Walker: The run game absolutely has to get going for the Colts. That's it. That's the answer. Baltimore, Tennessee and Pittsburgh, among others, are all going to continue to stack the box with eight or nine defenders and key in on Jonathan Taylor and the Indy rushing attack; while you'd hope to see Philip Rivers make them pay by countering with an effective passing attack to back the defense off the line, at some point you also just have to overcome those occasional crowded boxes yourself and reel off some big runs. I have full confidence this will all get going, and soon, but make no mistake: it's not going to get any easier after today.
rayray1792 on Colts Reddit: "What is the health of the team coming out of the bye week and anytime table on our injured coming back?"
Walker: While by now we have a pretty good idea who'll be available for today's game against the Lions, it's still a good opportunity to dive into the Colts' injury situation coming off the bye week:
• Tight end Mo Alie-Cox (knee): Alie-Cox missed Indy's Week 6 win over the Bengals, but was able to return to practice in a limited role this week. He's questionable heading into today's game against the Lions.
• Tackle Chaz Green (back): Green also missed the win over the Bengals, but was a full participant in practice this week and seems good to go heading into today's game.
• Center Ryan Kelly (knee): Kelly suffered his injury during Wednesday's practice, according to head coach Frank Reich, and sat out Thursday and Friday; he's questionable heading into today's game, and if he can't go, look for rookie Danny Pinter to possibly get his first NFL start at center.
• Linebacker Darius Leonard (groin): Leonard missed the last 2.5 games after exiting the Week 4 matchup against the Bears just before halftime, and then sitting out the Browns and Bengals games. The All-Pro linebacker was a full participant in practice Thursday and Friday of this week, however, and is expected to make his return to game action today.
• Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (lower leg): Pittman Jr. on Saturday was activated off Injured Reserve after he missed three games with a lower leg injury suffered Week 3 against the New York Jets; Pittman Jr., who did have surgery to relieve the pressure in his leg caused by compartment syndrome, could be good to go to return to the lineup today.
• Defensive end Kemoko Turay (ankle): Turay seems close to a potential return to game action — it just doesn't seem like that'll happen today against the Lions. He remains on the Colts' Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, though he did return to practice this past week. Reich has indicated it might take a couple weeks before Turay will be brought back to the active roster, so perhaps circle Week 9 against the Baltimore Ravens or Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans as possible return dates.
• Linebacker Matthew Adams (ankle): Adams suffered his ankle injury Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings and subsequently was placed on IR. Reich has said Adams is making good progress, so we'll check in on his status next week heading into the Week 9 matchup against the Ravens.
• Wide receiver Parris Campbell (knee): Campbell, who underwent surgery after suffering his knee injury Week 2 against the Vikings, remains on IR and is still considered out indefinitely. Reich has said he isn't ruling Campbell out for the rest of the year, however; we'll see down the road if there are any updates on his status.
dgiszewski on Colts Reddit: "How would you prioritize our list of free agents at the end of the year? Who could be the most difficult decision on whether or not to bring them back?"
Walker: Not a cop out, but I was actually planning on addressing the pending Colts free agents in a separate article at the halfway point of the season (after the Week 9 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens). Keep an eye out for it on Colts.com. But I appreciate the question!
mendezj85 on Colts Reddit: "With the trade deadline set to arrive on election day, are there any interests in the Colts being active in trading for players who can contribute on both sides of the ball? Chris Ballard has mention before that quality players can still be acquired even during the season. What are your thoughts?_"
Walker: As I mentioned above, I'm going to address the trade deadline as I think it relates to the Colts in article form on Monday. I will say, however, that while you're correct in mentioning Chris Ballard's belief that quality players can still be acquired during the season, he's usually referring to the waiver wire when he makes that claim, and not necessarily the trade market; Kenny Moore II is a perfect example of this. The Colts' pro scouts do a terrific job keeping an eye out for those opportunities.
a06cc on Colts.com Forums: "How well do you believe the defense will play as we head into the second half of the season? I commend Ballard on bringing in depth along the defensive front 7. We're getting more rotational pieces back."
Walker: It's going to be difficult — no doubt about it — as the Colts enter without a doubt the most challenging part of their schedule, particularly on defense, starting next week against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens (Week 9), Tennessee Titans (Weeks 10 and 12), Green Bay Packers (Week 11), Las Vegas Raiders (Week 14) and Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 16) all feature tremendous offensive attacks, and they all seem to get it done in different ways. I do see a couple encouraging signs for the Colts' defense heading into these matchups, however: first, their All-Pro linebacker, Darius Leonard, is expected to return to the mix today after missing the last 2.5 games with a groin injury. His presence on the field will obviously be critical coming up. But I also think you're starting to see the rotational pieces you alluded to up front really starting to take shape: Tyquan Lewis had a great game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and seems in line for some more playing time; and Sheldon Day is back from IR, and let's not forget about the fact this guy started throughout the postseason last year for the San Francisco 49ers. So it's going to be tough sledding for sure, but the Colts are confident they have the horses to get the job done.
EastStreet on Colts.com Forums: "Hi Andrew. Here's a few.
1) We've seen Johnson's snaps increase each week. Given his more than solid play, can we expect that trend to continue?
2) Will Mo be back for Detroit, and will we see his snaps return to week 2 and 3 levels. Also, can we expect more sail routes to him.
3) Can we expect to see Harris temp promoted again this weekend? Limited, but some really nice work by him vs Cinci.
4) Is it looking like Pittman will be back for Detroit, and if not, at least by Baltimore?"
Walker: If you haven't noticed by now, my selection process each week usually includes those who are able to limit their inquiries to one or two questions at most. But these four are generally pretty simple to answer, so I'll try to tackle them all:
1.) I hate basing this off anything other than what I've seen on the field, but I'm going to go there: just hearing Philip Rivers talk about Marcus Johnson these past couple weeks, it gives me the feeling that he's found a new receiver he really likes. I mean, when the Colts got down 21 points against the Cincinnati Bengals the first play into the second quarter, Rivers went Johnson's way over and over and over again to get back into the ballgame. So, long story short, yes, I think we can expect this trend to continue.
2.) I can't say definitively whether Mo Alie-Cox will be back today or not. If and when he does return, however, I'm not so certain he'll get back to playing the amount of snaps he was playing earlier in the season; you went into the year with Jack Doyle and Trey Burton as the No. 1 and 2 guys at tight end, respectively, and it seems like nothing has changed in that regard now that both are back and healthy. Now, that doesn't mean when Alie-Cox gets back that he won't play meaningful snaps and shouldn't get his opportunities in the passing game, because he clearly showed what a weapon he can be with those monster performances early on. He just might not be in quite as much as he was when Doyle and/or Burton were out.
3.) It seems as if DeMichael Harris at this point isn't going to be promoted to the active roster again for today's game against the Lions. What you have to keep in mind is that teams this season can only temporarily bring a guy up for gameday from the practice squad two times before they have to start subjecting them to waivers; that's why, other than his sheer performance meriting it, Johnson was permanently signed to the 53-man roster just before the Bengals game. Also, with Michael Pittman Jr. likely back today against the Lions (which answers your fourth question), that means Zach Pascal can kind of assume the slot receiver role moving forward, which is where Harris lined up against Cincinnati; I do agree with you, however, that he had a couple nice moments in his NFL debut and certainly seems like someone who could earn another gameday promotion here sooner rather than later.
4.) See above.
BornHoosier on Colts.com Forums: "1) Will staff unleash Rivers and this Off or continue to be so predictable and see 8 man boxes as a disrespect?
2) Will the D continue to rush only 4 & be exposed to the good qbs in this league? Minshew/Brees/Baker for an example. No pressure whatsoever unlike the top teams in the league.
3) Will the coaching staff continue to be outclassed & make horrible 4th down choices that cost our team victories? "
Walker: You know what? We're into November now, it's been a tough year for everyone — if you celebrate the Christmas holiday, why don't you go ahead and put your tree up today and enjoy yourself? Maybe throw on some holiday tunes? Eh? How about it?
Coltsman1788 on Colts.com Forums: "Kemoko Turay is back in practice. Reich has indicated that he would like to see Turay in at least two weeks of practices to assess his readiness. When do you anticipate we see him in the line up? I'm thinking the Thursday night game against the Titans, do you think he returns sooner than that?"
Walker: I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Kemoko Turay being back next Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Now, I can't say with any certainty that if he is able to return from the PUP list for that game that he'd play a major role, but how nice would it be to have that pure speed roaring off the edge towards Lamar Jackson on occasional third-and-long situations? To your point, however, perhaps there's a chance the Colts elect to go one more week and unleash Turay in that Week 10 Thursday Night Football matchup against the AFC South Division-leading Tennessee Titans? We'll see how it plays out, but it sure is nice for this defense to eventually get that proverbial shot in the arm whenever No. 57 is able to return.
@DanielBragg on Twitter: "Is Reich content with using Nyheim Hines in his newly limited role, or will we eventually see a return to the workload that we saw in Week 1, when Hines got in the endzone twice?"
Walker: This has actually been one of the more interesting week-to-week developments to me so far. Even before starting running back Marlon Mack went down with his season-ending Achilles injury Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Nyheim Hines was clearly a huge point of emphasis throughout that game; he not only logged 32 snaps in the backfield, but he lined up out wide four times and in the slot another three snaps, and had those aforementioned two touchdowns. But Frank Reich hasn't really unleashed Hines like that since Week 1; he played just 16 snaps in Week 2 (when the Colts were clearly content just pounding the football on the ground with rookie Jonathan Taylor), and has averaged just more than 25 snaps a week in the last four games, with no more than three snaps lined up out wide or no more than two snaps lined up in the slot since Week 1. Clearly the gameplan from week to week will dictate a lot of this, but perhaps to this point this is just part of the effect of Mack's injury?
@DaltonJames17 on Twitter: "Who's your least favorite co-worker?_"
Walker: It's definitely not Jeffrey Gorman — I'll tell you that much. Great actor, by the way.