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:
Glenn G. (Irmo, S.C.): "I have a question and a comment. After losing to the lowly Dolphins I have a couple of observations. One is the office was too vanilla against the Dolphins, second the Colts need to get a "real" backup quarterback and when are they going to get some wide receiver help with T.Y. down, Parris Campbell down and Fuchess still hurt. Until they can fix the offense they are not going anywhere. Also, I know Vinatieri is a Hall of Fame kicker but his time has come and gone and it is time to replace him. This is the second game this year that he has lost for the team. I know they club is staying loyal to him but it is a matter of either staying loyal to a player or having the team go down in flames. Replace Hoyer, replace Vinnie and get a decent wide receiver for Jacoby to throw to and enough or this crap that we saw the last couple of weeks. The club was not outplayed in either of the last couple of games but lost both...what is going on??"
Walker: Glenn, I respectfully disagree about the offense being too "vanilla" against the Dolphins last Sunday. I know the Colts were using a backup quarterback in Brian Hoyer, but he still attempted several timing patterns and fade routes, which aren't usually indicative of a team with a limited playbook. And you want a "real" backup quarterback? Who? Please tell me which player out on the open market you want the pursue as your backup QB? Same goes with wide receiver, and kicker for that matter? I'm all for debate and I love the passion, but let's see some names. The Colts' personnel folks have a beat on who's available, and are constantly bringing in players for workouts to ensure they're on top of it if and when a change needs to be made. With no additions (outside of wide receiver Marcus Johnson from the practice squad to the active roster last weekend) to speak of, that would lead be to believe the team is moving forward with what it's got.
Grant L. (Terre Haute, Ind.): "Do you think Darius Leonard will be in the Pro Bowl this year despite missing multiple games?"
Walker: I sure hope so, Grant. There are a couple factors that could be tough to overcome, however, and one of them is what you alluded to; how Darius Leonard missed three games earlier in the season as he worked his way back from a concussion. The other factor is completely out of Leonard's hands, however, and it's the way one could say those at the WILL (weak inside linebacker) position are unfairly lumped into the "outside linebacker" spot with all the other edge defender/pass rusher type players that, for the most part, are the more flashy options for fans and fellow players/coaches to choose (despite the fact they play completely different positions). What's even more perplexing is that these edge guys, who rush the passer probably 95 percent of their snaps in real games, usually end up playing out of position in space at linebacker during the actual Pro Bowl game itself — what's the fun in that? The funny thing is Leonard has openly complained about this on multiple occasions, and it came up again this week; this time, even a few notable former Colts chimed in:
Steve V. (Muncie, Ind.): "I never heard the rationale for dismissing the offensive line coach after last year. The line has had to learn different blocking techniques that Howard Mudd and the new coach prefer, but the line has been significantly less consistent in both protection and opening holes for the running backs than last year. I was concerned prior to the start of this season and despite relatively good health for our starting five, my worst fears seem to be happening. The Miami line featuring two starters cut by the Colts and coached by our ex line coach was at least the equal of our line yesterday. Was there ever an explanation for that coaching change?"
Walker: Frank Reich told Colts.com this about the decision to part ways with former offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo after last season:
"After the season, you know, just decided to part ways with Guge. And that was really hard, because I so much respect Guge as a person and as a coach. You know, he played a significant role in us coming in here and the success we had. And it's hard — it's hard to explain. It was really odd dynamics the way that he and I got connected, and it's no reflection on him or anything; it's just when I had envisioned getting this position, you know, there's certain things that you just are looking for, in ways that you just want to have 'my guy,' for lack of a better way to say. You always envision bringing in the guy that you had envisioned bringing in. But certainly appreciate the contribution Guge made, and I told him that, and love and respect him."
Asked on Monday about how the new approach in the offensive line room has contributed to the ups and downs for that position group this year, Reich said:
"I'm really happy with where we're at there. Of course I really appreciated everything Guge (DeGuglielmo) brought to the table last year and he really did help make us a better football team. But I think Chris Strausser is doing a great job. I think his strengths are being seen as evidence in how we're playing in many respects. Yesterday, even though running the ball in the first half was a little shaky, but we ran it pretty well in the second half. In pass protection, I think we're doing pretty well. We threw the ball 40 times and only had one sack. We took a couple too many hits but when you throw it 40 times and get one sack that's not too bad."
That's straight from the horse's mouth.
Michael D. (England): "Colts fan here in England!! I like reich's aggressive play calling, however I didn't understand what happened at the end of dolphins game. We had a minute a to go on their 16 yard line with 3 timeouts. Why take three shots into the end zone. If we'd have scored it would've left a minute and if we didn't then it left a tough 4th and 10. Surely it would've made more sense to run down the clock and get 5 yard or so on 1st or 2nd down. What are you thoughts?"
Walker: The way Brian Hoyer explained it, there were underneath routes on the three shots to the end zone at the end of the Dolphins game, but in each instance he liked the matchups he had against Miami's man-to-man defense. Simply put: he wanted to give his playmakers a chance to make a play. There might be something to adding in a run play, or a shorter pass, on one of those three plays and setting up better scenarios in the later downs — and I think both Hoyer and Frank Reich acknowledged that — but it wasn't in the cards. Put it in the books and remember it for next time.
Josh G. (Mountain Grove, Mo.): "With the lack of offense the past couple weeks, do you believe it is mainly due to Brissett and Hilton being out, or do you see other issues on offense? My hope is that Brissett coming back will stabilize our Offense, but I fear that our ceiling is not as high as it needs to be to really make a push in the playoffs. Thoughts?"
Walker: I didn't really notice a lack of offense against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9, although one could say the offensive performance the previous week against the Denver Broncos wasn't quite up to par. So that's two games in the last three weeks in which you've struggled to get into the end zone. I think it's fair to say that T.Y. Hilton's absence has certainly been a factor of late, and, of course, Jacoby Brissett missing last week's game against the Miami Dolphins was a major factor. But most of all, I think the Colts' struggles to move the ball on the ground consistently has been the biggest factor. Don't get me wrong, the numbers aren't bad at all — over the last three weeks, the team has averaged 125 rushing yards and 4.2 yards per carry, which is better than league average — but it's the negative runs that have really hurt and killed drives. In the last three games, the Colts have had 13 rushing plays that resulted in negative yardage, and eight of those came on first down. So I think getting a better push on early downs with the run game is certainly on the minds of the Colts Sunday and moving forward. "Offensively, we really believe that whether it is a dropped pass – I know you don't lose yardage there but you go from first-and-10 to second-and-10, right? Whether it is a penalty, whether it is a negative run, negative pass, a sack or a turnover – those are critical to the success of the offense," offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said Tuesday. "It is a full team effort, right? It starts with us as coaches and then it goes offensive line, receivers, tight ends, the backs and the quarterbacks. So we are working on obviously correcting those negative plays."
Bill C. (Mooresville, Ind.): "I really believe the Colts are missing the chance of being a viable contender in the NFL by not getting Chad Kelly into the backup position and moving Brian Hoyer to the practice squad. Brian Hoyer simply cannot perform at a high level because he cannot look off safety's and defensive backs. Look at his history and videos and starring down 1 receiver from snap to release is a recipe for interceptions. Many folks are perplexed at any decision to keep him as the primary backup. Your thoughts?"
Walker: Lots — and I mean lots — of questions about the Colts' backup quarterback spot this week. Look: Brian Hoyer is a coveted backup in this league for a multitude of reasons. On the field, he's a guy with a ton of experience over his 11-year career, including 67 games played with 38 starts. His career stats: 873-of-1,477 passing (59.1 percent) for 10,274 yards with 52 touchdowns to 34 interceptions for a passer rating of 82.5. Yes, he didn't have his best game against the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, but I think it's important not to overlook the job he did in emergency relief of Jacoby Brissett on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers the previous week; one doesn't necessarily cancel the other out. Off the field, Hoyer has been a trusted resource not only for Jacoby Brissett this season, but also for guys like Tom Brady, winning a Super Bowl in New England last season. Chad Kelly, on the other hand, has one regular-season snap to his credit in the NFL; that came early last year with the Denver Broncos when he took a knee to end the first half of play. Kelly is a developing, young quarterback with plenty of talent, and everyone saw how he turned it on during the preseason this year. But, at this point, with everything considered, Frank Reich is more comfortable with Hoyer as Brissett's backup.
Wayne P. (Middletown, Ct.): "Hi, Could u help us fans understand why Deon Cain was released and then later brought back to the practice squad?"
Walker: Deon Cain has a ton of talent and potential, which has been clearly evident in training camp the last two years, as well as in preseason play this year. After a first half of the season that included just four receptions for 52 yards, however, the Colts decided to make a move to get Marcus Johnson, a more established receiver, on its active roster last Saturday before the Week 10 matchup against the Miami Dolphins. But by bringing Cain back to the practice squad, the Colts clearly still think a ton about his future and his ability to develop into a major weapon in the passing game. Sometimes it just takes time for a receiver to translate positive results in practices into regular season games; let's not forget the fact that the Colts have also had three of their top wide receivers — T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell — miss a good amount of action this year, putting guys like Cain in larger roles than they were asked to play heading into the season. Maybe Cain can get some good perspective from Cris Carter: Carter, a fourth-round pick in the 1987 supplemental draft, played in just nine games with the Philadelphia Eagles his rookie year, catching five passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns. In 2013, after eight Pro Bowl and two All-Pro selections, Carter was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Don't count Cain out just yet.
Ray R. (Newark, Ohio): "Are the colts considering Kaepernick?"
Walker: Frank Reich on Wednesday about whether the Colts were sending any representatives to Colin Kaepernick's NFL workout today in Atlanta:
"That is Chris' (Ballard) job. I have not spoken to him about if we are sending someone there. I certainly wish him luck. But I have not spoken to Chris about that."
Lonnie B. (Indianapolis): "Who is considered to be the best kicker the colts have ever had. And was vanderjagt ever considered to be asked or thought to be back on the team because of Adam vinatieris miscues this season"
Walker: Well, Lonnie, the last time 49-year-old Mike Vanderjagt kicked in an NFL game was in 2006 with the Dallas Cowboys. So, no, I do not believe he was ever considered by the Colts to come in for a workout at any point this year.
Jim B. (Alexandria, Ind.): "Why do we continually use running backs by committee when it's pretty obvious Marlin Mack is the best back available for running the ball?"
Walker: It's rare to see a true three-down back in today's NFL, Jim. That being said, the numbers show Marlon Mack has far and away been the Colts' featured back this season; he's averaging almost 20 carries a game this year, compared to 16 last year; the next closest in terms of carries per game for the Colts this year? Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, at about five rushing attempts per contest. Jordan Wilkins (three carries per game) and Nyheim Hines (two carries per game) round out that list. Mack actually is tied with Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for the fourth most rushing attempts per game this year, so he's the undoubted bell cow for the Colts.
Jacob T. (Fort Worth, Texas): "Is there any updates on devin funchess, do you think he could be back this week or does he need more time."
Walker: The good news with Devin Funchess was that he was able to return to practice this week after spending the last nine weeks on injured reserve. But it doesn't appear he'll be making his return to game action on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Funchess said Thursday he's still waiting for his broken clavicle to completely heal, and, accordingly, he's been wearing a red no-contact jersey at practice this week. Fortunately, the Colts have 18 more days to allow that bone to fully heal and get him back on the field, or decide to revert him to injured reserve for the rest of the season. Stay tuned.
Jake W. (St. Louis): "Hi Andrew! After the game this weekend's performance, what do you see in store for Eric Ebron moving forward? Many fans were upset with his play Sunday, but I think much of his struggles had to do with the quarterback situation and the playcalling. I like Ebron a lot as a player with his attitude towards the game and I personally didn't have too many qualms about the way he played Sunday, but I am interested to hear what you think the final stretch of the season holds for him. Thanks!"
Walker: I don't expect much of a change to Eric Ebron's role moving forward. He's still a huge focal point of the offense, especially as it gets into the red zone. While his snap figures could fluctuate from week to week depending on his role in that game's offensive gameplan, the facts are the facts: since 2018, Ebron is first in the NFL among tight ends and 10th among all players in total touchdowns (17) and he's tied for second in the NFL among all players in receiving touchdowns (16) over that same span. The guy's a weapon, plain and simple.
Finda L. (Indianapolis): "It's not a question... I just want say this a great team and organization!! Can't wait for next season for Kemoko Turay to be back on the field again!! Good luck on Sunday!!!"
Walker: Darn tootin', Finda.
Dennis M. (Lynn, Mass.): "Will Ballard regret not making any moves at the trade deadline"
Walker: Here's Chris Ballard on Nov. 5 to Colts.com's Matt Taylor, when asked what made him decide to stay pat at the trade deadline heading into the second half of the season:
"We definitely had lines in the water. You always do. I mean, we all take calls, we all listen, and then we do what's best, we think, for the team. And at the time we just didn't think we found a fit, both from a compensation standpoint and also who we were going to bring in the building, just the timing and the fit didn't work out."
Whether it's the draft, free agency or the trade deadline, Ballard is very content with this approach, and it's resulted in a solid rebuild of the Colts' roster to this point. It would appear that philosophy isn't changing anytime soon.
Connor R. (Roanoke, Ind.): "Is Jacoby Brissett playing next game. Also when can we expect TY to be back from injury."
Walker: Jacoby Brissett was a full participant all week in practice, meaning he is good to go to start Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Very good news for the Colts' offense. T.Y. Hilton, meanwhile, will be missing his second straight game with that calf injury, but we'll see if he can make his return in Week 12 against the Houston Texans. The only thing I'd caution is that, yes, it's the Texans, and yes, Hilton has had his way against that division rival over the years, so it'd be great if he can make it back; but remember that this is a Thursday Night Football game next week, so the Colts will have minimal time to get ready, meaning Tuesday will likely be the only in-depth practice all week. Will that be enough for Hilton to get ready if he's cleared? We'll see.