INDIANAPOLIS — Each week, Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.
Missed out on the party this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here.
Let’s jump right into this week’s questions:
Andrew O. (Jasper, Ind.): “How will our offense attack the Broncos high power defense? Will our defense be healthy against the struggling Broncos offense?”
Walker: When it comes to the Colts’ offense against a very talented Broncos defense on Sunday in Indy, it seems as if Denver is a bit of the opposite of the Houston Texans, the Colts’ opponent last week. While Houston has a strong front seven, the Broncos are particularly strong in the secondary. To me, that means that the slower-developing routes against man-to-man coverage that were so successful for quarterback Jacoby Brissett and the Colts’ offense last week might not necessarily be there as much against the Broncos. So I believe the best approach is to get back to your “run the damn ball” mindset and feed Marlon Mack & Co. over and over again, and then keep the defense honest with some play action passes and a couple deep shots. Denver’s defense allowed 113 yards to the Oakland Raiders’ Josh Jacobs, 245 yards to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette and 93 yards to the Los Angeles Chargers’ Austin Ekeler — why can’t Mack be next on that list? The X-factor for the Broncos’ defense, of course, is its extraordinary pass rusher, Von Miller, so you always have to account for where he’s lining up.
And, yes, health seems to be in the Colts’ favor on defense for the first time in quite a while. Safety Malik Hooker (knee) should be back for the first time in three games, and while cornerbacks Pierre Desir (hamstring) and Kenny Moore II (knee) are questionable, both were at least limited participants in practice for multiple days this week. So after seeing key guys like Jabaal Sheard, Darius Leonard and Clayton Geathers return the last couple games, more reinforcements seem to be headed Indy’s way on defense, starting Sunday against the Broncos.
Maureen F. (Greenville, N.C.): “I am a retired big time fan who lives in North Carolina. How can I see Colts games?”
Walker: Hey Maureen, we’ve set up a page on our site to help fans both in-market and out-of-market figure out the ways available to both watch and listen to live Colts games. Click here to check that page out.
Gary J. (Temple, Texas): “Are the Colts going to be wearing their color rush jerseys any game this year? Also, love the mailbag and since I live in TX, is there anywhere I can send something in to be signed by Big Q? He deserves league MVP consideration in my opinion.”
Walker: You’re in luck, Gary. The Colts are actually wearing their all-blue Color Rush uniforms tomorrow against the Broncos. The game has been officially ruled a “Blue Out,” so any fans attending are highly encouraged to throw on their Colts blue, just like the team. And if you want to send something to Quenton Nelson, or any other Colts player, send it to:
c/o Indianapolis Colts
P.O. Box 535000
Indianapolis, IN 46253
All items must be sent via mail. They should not be hand delivered. We can't guarantee that your item will be returned or signed, though most players will make every attempt to do so.
Michael R. (Indianapolis): “I see where Devin Funchess can become active in week 11 . I thought the IR term was 8 weeks, not 10.”
Walker: The rules were recently modified for players returning from injured reserve; they must sit out a minimum of eight games (not eight weeks), so that’s why the earliest wide receiver Devin Funchess could return would be Week 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Frank Reich said he anticipates Funchess returning to practice next week; click here to read more on that.
Peter B. (Fishers, Ind.): “I thought Deon Cain was going to be the number 2 receiver. what happened to that?”
Walker: When Devin Funchess went down in the Colts’ Week 1 game against the Los Angeles Chargers, the thought process at the time was that the remaining Indy receivers (other than No. 1 wideout T.Y. Hilton) would each see their opportunities increase, and that Deon Cain could possibly be the guy to step in as the “No. 2” at the position. Now, according to the snap counts, this has pretty much come to fruition: Zach Pascal (50 percent), Chester Rogers (49.5 percent) and Cain (48.4 percent) all have played about the same number of offensive plays this season, but that hasn’t necessarily turned into more targets or receptions for Cain, who has 12 total targets with four receptions for 52 yards on the year. At the moment, however, guys like Pascal and Rogers have been more involved. “We still view him as a rookie where he’s got to develop and continue to develop,” Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said of Cain. “That’s the case for all our guys that are early players. We’ve got to do a good job of developing them and they have to do a good job themselves of taking the mistakes that they make and the good things that they make and let those good things outweigh the bad things.”
“There still are plays that he is early in there and for whatever reason it’s just – sometimes that happens where the progression takes you somewhere else, the read or the coverage takes you somewhere else,” Sirianni continued. “Unfortunately for him right now that is just the way it is going. That is always an ever-changing thing.”
Howard G. (Indianapolis): “We saw a glimpse of Q56 lining up in the back field. Can we expect to see more of this setup on short and goal situation?”
Walker: That was fun, wasn’t it? Not just seeing Quenton Nelson lined up as a fullback in general, but then seeing him run a pass route in the end zone last week against the Houston Texans? The way Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni explained it, that might not be the last time we see Nelson utilized in a fashion other than at guard.
“It was good to get him back there,” Reich said of Nelson last Sunday. “You may see more of him back there in the future.”
“Moving him back there, we don’t have a fullback so we are experimenting with some different things,” Sirianni said Tuesday. “His ability to pull, they kind of go hand-in-hand so (we’re) just experimenting with that.”
Ricky H. (Richmond, Ind.): “How much are tickets”
Hezekiah C. (Norfolk, Va.): “Its good to be back texting The best mailbag in the NFL,hello my brother.My first question is about Paris Campbell-his health going forward,and do you think his will suffer?Second question-how are our young corners and safeties holding up so far?Do you think they will improve going forward?”
Walker: It looks like good news on the Parris Campbell front. The speedy rookie wide receiver was able to get back to the practice field after missing a couple games with an abdominal injury, and although he’s listed as questionable heading into Sunday’s game against the Broncos, he seemed pretty confident this week that he’d be able to go. So we’ll see if he can continue expanding his role within the offense, and then always adding the big-play threat as the Colts’ kick returner. And if you’re the Colts, I think you’re extremely satisfied with the work put in by the younger members of the secondary. Second-round pick Rock Ya-Sin has played more snaps than any other Colts rookie, and playing time is exactly what he needs to keep improving. Fourth-round pick Khari Willis has simply been one of the top defensive rookies in the league so far; he’s been as-advertised in the box and is a terrific tackler, but he’s also been solid in coverage. Then there’s guys like undrafted rookie cornerback Shakial Taylor and second-year safeties Rolan Milligan and George Odum, who have been asked to play much larger roles in recent weeks due to the injury bug hitting both positions, and have all made solid plays against two of the better offenses in the league in the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans. So even if the Colts are back to full health in the secondary Sunday against the Broncos, one can imagine the coaching staff is more than comfortable to go to any of these guys again if needed moving forward.
Michael W. (Veplen, Ind.): “With the way our run defense is sometimes a little giving why is Margos Hunt not playing as much as he did last year? Is it just position related or personnel match-ups. Would like to hear your thoughts. GO COLTS!”
Walker: The Colts have allowed on average about 3.5 yards per carry their last two games, so, while the defense had its issues at times against the run the first few games, I think it’s also fair to give the unit a chance to show improvements in that area — which I believe you’re seeing. As it pertains to Margus Hunt, it just seems that third-year defensive tackle Grover Stewart is getting an opportunity to show what he can do as a starter in that spot. Hunt is still playing more than 40 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, so he’s still a key rotational player for the unit, but he’s also still heavily relied upon on special teams, too.
Phillip B. (LaPorte, Ind.): “None”
Walker: Thanks for participating, Phillip.
Nick S. (Lafayette, Ind.): “Do I play Marlon Mack or T.Y. Hilton is fantasy this week? I'm thinking Mack destroys them on the ground but T.Y. has been a touchdown machine.”
Walker: I’m not really in the fantasy advice business, but it seems as if this matchup against the Denver Broncos, on paper, would be more favorable for the Colts’ running game than its passing attack. The Broncos are fifth in the league in net passing yards allowed per attempt (5.7), but are 14th in the league in rushing yards per attempt (4.1). T.Y. Hilton has mostly been held in check in his first five games against the Broncos, when he’s averaged about four receptions for 46 yards and has been held without a touchdown. That can all change on Sunday, but entering the game, I’d take Marlon Mack.
Matthew M. (Westfield, Ind.): “What do the Colts have to do to avoid a repeat of of Week 4?”
Walker: First off, I think we all need to acknowledge that the Oakland Raiders are much better than many people gave them credit for to open the season. They beat the Colts and Chicago Bears in back-to-back weeks, and really gave the red-hot Green Bay Packers a run for their money before Aaron Rodgers was able to pull away. So while I don’t think the Colts players or coaches believe there’s such thing as a “trap game” in today’s NFL — the Broncos, after all, shut out Indy’s AFC South rival, the Tennessee Titans, just two weeks ago — it’ll be important for the Colts to find the same fire they had Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs (a nationally-televised road game against one of the best teams in the league) and then again last Sunday against the Houston Texans (a crucial midseason divisional showdown with first place on the line). “Anytime you go against anybody in the NFL – anybody can beat anybody,” Colts center Ryan Kelly said. “They certainly have a really good defense. We played them my rookie year, 2016, in Denver. It was a really tight game and they had a good defense then too. Kind of similar and kind of different in what they do, but hell you never know. We have a good week of practice. The last two weeks we had really good practices and we’ve played pretty well. So that’s obviously key this week.”