Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Shadowing Justin Jefferson, Bernhard Raimann's Crucial Evaluation, Parris Campbell's Revenge Game?

The Colts Mailbag is back heading into Saturday's Week 15 road matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. We've got questions about how to handle Justin Jefferson, the future at left tackle, how to exploit a struggling Minnesota defense and more.

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NOTE: I'm pinch hitting for JJ Stankevitz this week. Thanks for your submissions! — Andrew

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 next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Colts.com Forums. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Nicholas S., West Lafayette, Ind.: "People keep saying we need to draft our future qb but what is wrong with having us having a young qb in Sam Ehlinger as our future qb?"

Walker: Nicholas, Sam Ehlinger is under contract with the Colts for at least another two seasons. He will remain an option at the quarterback position for the team for the foreseeable future. I think the simple evaluation is you're mostly encouraged by what you saw out of him against the Washington Commanders, and then he had a tough outing starting on the road in that New England Patriots game. Beyond that, if Ehlinger doesn't play the rest of this season, there's no doubt how hard he will work this offseason to earn a job — whether it ends up being as starter or backup — moving into 2023.

However, the Colts need the answer at quarterback. Look around the AFC: the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers all have young studs at quarterback. Heck, the Jacksonville Jaguars with Trevor Lawrence are looking quite dangerous heading into next season, too.

It's so much easier said than done as a Colts fan to say "we need to draft our future QB," but in order to compete with those teams above — and, of course, you can't forget about the Tennessee Titans — then you've got to be able to match wits at that critical position.

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Jeremy F., Indianapolis: "JJ, is it possible that the team's struggles over this season and the past several extend beyond quarterback and head coaching? Has anyone ever noticed that the placement of head coach and/or QB bears some direct or indirect connection to either #18 and/or the winning culture from the early 2000s?

We need to remember: Andrew Luck was widely touted as the best QB prospect since Manning when he was drafted. Matt Ryan was steered here by Manning, and "Uncle Phil" knocked our guys out of the playoffs in back-to-back years.

Also, former head coach Frank Reich started his coaching career here from 2009 to 2011. Plus Saturday, Reggie, and Cato June are here now. Leslie Frazier, we know, is heading the Buffalo Bills defense and he was here for the Super Bowl run in 2006; his name has been brought up for the coaching vacancy.

Could all this adversity and frustration be the football gods telling Colts fans (and Irsay in particular) to leave the past in the past, no matter how good it is historically, and to not revive/reboot former success?"

Walker: Hey Jeremy, I think I see what you're getting at, but I guess my question would be: why wouldn't you want to surround your organization with greatness? With homegrown guys who can show the current crop of players what it takes to win a Super Bowl title right here in Indianapolis?

I can tell you right now: the Colts are looking at an upcoming offseason of change, starting at head coach, and then filtering on down through the coaching staff and almost every position on the roster, whether starting jobs or depth roles. But one thing that will never change about this organization is the emphasis and value it places on its beloved former players, coaches, and front office personnel who brought this thing over from Baltimore and eventually built Indianapolis into a football town.

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Nesjan3 on Colts.com Forums: "Has there been any whispers or rumors whatsoever of a possible Matt Ryan retirement after the season?"

Walker: Nothing of the sort. In fact, he was just asked this week about whether or not the pending decision to play next season has crept into his mind:

"I don't think so," Ryan said. "I've always tried to just handle the day that's in front of you and particularly during the season. It's one of those things that after the season, certainly as you get older those are always discussions that you have to have and that you go through. During the year, I think you try and make sure Wednesday is the best Wednesday it can be or in today's case, the best Tuesday it can be. So, I don't go much further than that."

chad72 on Colts.com Forums: "With all the cornerback injuries and illnesses, how do they plan to defend Jefferson?"

Walker: Well, I think first of all, you just have to acknowledge the fact that Justin Jefferson is going to make his plays. He's the best wide receiver in the NFL for a reason, and he's coming off an 11-catch, 223-yard performance against the Detroit Lions that, if not for a tough out-of-bounds call, would've added another 71 yards and a touchdown to his stat line.

But the task for Gus Bradley and his defense on Saturday is to limit Jefferson's big plays, and find the right mix of aggressive and clean against No. 18 in the red zone.

I'd personally start by shadowing Jefferson with Stephon Gilmore. Maybe not every single rep, but darn near most of them. Gilmore enters the game as Pro Football Focus' 10th-highest graded cornerback in coverage this season, and he's performed well in just about every single "shadow" opportunity to this point.

The true test will be when Jefferson lines up in the slot. Gilmore just doesn't go in there often — only seven defensive slot snaps in 2022 so far. So with Kenny Moore II out again with that ankle injury, does that mean safety Julian Blackmon, who played 48 slot snaps Week 13 against the Dallas Cowboys, continues that theme against Jefferson?

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Playful-Goat-2441 on Colts Reddit: "Yeesh. Alright can we have one topic where we don't discuss draft scenarios?

The Vikings defense has really struggled and is ripe for us to have, if not a get well game, let's say a Quiet Riot game ("we're not gonna take it..."). Which Colts player on offense would you predict is most likely to feast on their defensive woes with a break out performance?"

Walker: First off, THANK YOU for acknowledging the "let's avoid the draft scenarios." I'll admit: covering an NFL team in this capacity, it is almost impossible to have a solid grip on the upcoming draft prospects until your own season is over. I honestly probably won't begin diving into the 2023 NFL Draft prospects more in-depth until NFL Scouting Combine time. I mean, sure, I watch the college football season as a casual fan and have a good idea who many of the top players are, but there is such a thing as information overload.

To answer your question, though, I really, really want Parris Campbell to have a monster game on Saturday. Why? You'll recall back in Week 2 of the 2020 season, first quarter, when Campbell took a handoff from quarterback Philip Rivers, and was met near the sideline by Vikings safety Harrison Smith with a hard (but legal) shot to his left knee. Season over, in a blink of an eye.

So against this struggling Minnesota defense, I really want to see Campbell get some rightful revenge. Perhaps Parks Frazier can dial up all sorts of alignments that feature Campbell — motions, sweeps, runs, passes — and he can have a big day and lead the Colts to a road victory.

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Snuffy8 on Colts Reddit: "With Raimann's development seemingly trending in the right direction, is the possibility of going LT in the first round still high, or do we (hopefully) snag our QB of the future? I've seen a lot of mock drafts linking the Colts to Peter Skoronski and I don't know how to feel about it…."

Walker: I think these last four weeks of the season are critical for Bernhard Raimann. To this point of his rookie season, he's had seven starts, but I think since Week 10 against the Las Vegas Raiders, particularly, he's really started to show some noticeable improvement. In fact, his performance Week 12 against the Pittsburgh Steelers might've been one of the best overall games out of a Colts left tackle since Anthony Castonzo's retirement, and then he followed that up with a pretty solid performance against an extremely talented Dallas Cowboys defensive front.

As is the case with any young left tackle, Raimann needs to really hone in on the pass blocking — I think his run blocking is pretty solid — which is why I think getting four more opportunities against some tough competition should give the Colts a pretty clear evaluation of where they're at with their left tackle position heading into the offseason.

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