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:
Hezekiah C. (Norfolk, Va.): “What’s happening my brother?Hey I read last week’s mailbag and it was assume.Great questions and great answers on your part.You made me look at few things a little different about the Colts going forward for the remainder of the season.I have 2 questions for you-1 Can Marlon Mack finally get a thousand yards this season with that broken hand.2-T Y and Paris have they lost any of their speed with those leg injuries?We really need some good route running wide receivers.Thanks take care 👍👍👍. ”
Walker: Thanks for reading, Hezekiah, and thanks for the questions.
1. As it pertains to Marlon Mack getting to 1,000 yards, without any sort of timetable for return, it’s tough to say. Head coach Frank Reich did mention this week that Mack going on injured reserve wasn’t being discussed, which could lead one to believe that him returning late in the season is still a possibility. For Mack to get to 1,000 rushing yards — he currently sits at 862 — I’d say that he needs to play in at least the final two games of the regular season. That Week 16 game against the Carolina Panthers will have been one month and five days since he fractured his hand; Mack would need to average 69 rushing yards against the Panthers and in Week 17 against the Jaguars to get to 1,000, which would be about 17 yards per game fewer than he averaged through the first 10 games of the season. Definitely doable when you look at it that way, but, again, it’s tough to say without knowing an actual general timetable for Mack’s return.
2. There’s no worry about guys like T.Y. Hilton or Parris Campbell losing speed due to their leg injuries (Campbell, for what it’s worth, had a hamstring injury back in training camp; his injuries since then have been abdominal and a fractured hand). The reason Hilton has missed the last three games with a calf injury — and sat out a game and a half earlier in the year with a quad issue — is so he can get back to as close to 100 percent as possible and not risk any sort of setback that could cost him more games down the line. Hilton is very in-tuned with his body and knows when he can push it, and when he can’t, so the Colts are very fortunate in that regard.
Jesse H. (Wabash, Ind.): “Big Q had a great touchdown celebration despite the score being overturned upon official review. Will we see him in this role again as The Juggernaut? Also, who would you like to see as a featured ball carrier in the future? Personally, Maniac or Margus Hunt would prove to be entertaining.”
Walker: That keg stand celebration was epic. But I’m not so sure we’ll see Quenton Nelson running the ball again anytime soon, just based off what Frank Reich has said in the days since he was stuffed at the goal line, always with a smile on his face.
Reich after the game: “I think he’s a really good left guard. I think we’ll keep him there.”
Reich on Monday: “Since he will probably never be back there again, I’ll tell you guys this…”
Mike N. (Boiling Springs, S.C.): “Hi guys its been a while and couple cities since ive written in. I am surprised in how effective and consistant the defense has been. I think we have some emerging pieces in the secondary. My twobiggest concerns are our lack of ability to find a wide reciever, or consistant pass rush. We have a guy step up here or there but very inconsistant. Thanks look forward to seeing your response”
Walker: At the wide receiver position, the Colts definitely seemed set coming into the season, but have been hit by the injury bug. Devin Funchess went down Week 1 and T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell has been in and out of the lineup all year. Those are arguably your three top receivers right there that have missed a combined 17 games so far this season (that will increase to at least 19 after tonight’s game against the Houston Texans). I think to have a guy like Zach Pascal step up like he has for this offense has been tremendous, and one would hope that the team will see Funchess, Hilton and Campbell all return down the stretch here to make a run. So I don’t think it’s a lack of ability to find a wide receiver; they’re there, they just need to be healthy.
As far as the pass rush goes, the Colts have been about middle-of-the-road in terms of sacks (they rank tied for 15th in the league with 25 heading into tonight’s game), while their 51 total quarterback hits ranks 24th, and their QB pressures per dropback figure of 21.2 percent ranks 25th. So, yes, you’d like to see a little bit more pressure on the quarterback out of this Indy defense. But I think you’re starting to see defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus sending more blitzes to try to generate added pressure; the Colts blitz on just 22.8 percent of opponents’ dropbacks, which is the sixth-smallest figure in the league, which could very well continue to increase moving forward.
Karsten W. (Ottawa, Canada): “Why aren't the Colts using Mo Alie Cox more? I know he's great as a blocker but with his speed and size he's dangerous in space. Any insight into why he hasn't been used more as a receiving TE?”
Walker: Simply put: he’s the third tight end. Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron are going to be involved so much in the gameplan that Mo Alie-Cox, while he’ll get his occasional targets, won’t typically be among the team’s leading receivers on a weekly basis. Now, that could very well change heading into next season, as both Doyle and Ebron are in the final years of their respective contracts, but as for now, Alie-Cox will continue to be depended upon to play his role as a dependable blocker and occasional receiving threat.
Shaun B. (Plattsmouth, Neb.): “How many Colts offensive drives have started inside their own 20 this season? It feel like the offense has had a lot of 80+ yard drives.”
Walker: The typical formula for success for the Colts’ offense this season has been moving the chains and finding the end zone after decently long drives. The team ranks seventh in the NFL in first downs per game (22.5), sixth in average time of possession (31:09), tied for third in touchdowns off 10-play drives (11), sixth in total 10-play drives (20) and third in average number of plays on scoring drives (8.95). So you’re not all that far off in your assessment, Shaun.
Marquis J. (Woodbridge, Va.): “If Ty doesn’t play do you see Zach Pascal having another career day against this Texans defense? Does Gareon Conley change things?”
Walker: I can see Zach Pascal having a big game with or without T.Y. Hilton playing tonight. While we all know Hilton’s stats against Houston, Pascal has also found a great deal of success in four career games against the Texans, logging 18 receptions for 236 yards and four touchdowns. And Gareon Conley could be an X-factor for the Texans tonight. He was a member of the Oakland Raiders’ secondary back in Week 4 when he had his best performance of the season, according to Pro Football Focus, which assigned him an elite coverage grade of 90.1 in the matchup; he was in coverage on five passes thrown his way, broke up one of those passes and allowed just two total receptions for six yards — and just one yard total after the catch. Since that time, and since being acquired by the Texans via trade, Conley has been pretty good, earning a 67.8 coverage grade in three games in Houston. So with the possibility of Hilton being back, and with Pascal obviously a focal point of the passing game either way, it’ll be interesting to see Conley’s assignments tonight.
Stephanie W. (Johnstown, Penn.): “I heard a rumor the game against the Titans will be a white out game. Does this mean fans should plan to wear white similar to Penn State's white out games?”
Walker: You heard right, Stephanie. It’s a white out next Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. You can get your tickets by clicking here.
Josh G. (Orlando, Fla.): “Hey guys, just curious on your thoughts about Jonathan William's breakout performance. Do you think he'll be implemented into the trio at RB with Mack (when he returns) and Hines instead of Wilkins if he continues with another good showing in Houston?”
Walker: Let’s see how things play out tonight in Houston. The plan, according to Frank Reich, is to split carries between Jordan Wilkins and Jonathan Williams, and one can imagine if either of them gets some momentum, Reich will stick with that guy. This team thinks a ton about Williams, and he proved why last Sunday against the Jaguars, but let’s not forget how well Wilkins has done with his opportunities as Mack’s backup the last couple of seasons; he ranks second in the NFL this season among running backs with at least 20 carries with a 6.1 yards-per-carry average.
Finley W. (Carmel, Ind.): “Is there an estimate as to when Devin Funchess returns from his injury?”
Walker: There hasn’t been any sort of estimate, Finley, but the Colts do face a hard deadline of Wednesday, Dec. 4, to decide whether to return Devin Funchess to the active roster or revert him to injured reserve for the rest of the season. Funchess, who went on IR after Week 1 with his broken clavicle, returned to practice Nov. 13, setting in motion that 21-day league-mandated deadline. So we’ll see how this plays out; if he does return to the active roster, the team will need to make a corresponding move to open up a spot.
Jeffrey P. (Highland, Ind.): “_Hi, wanna make a few points. _
1. What a great Job Ballard and Reich are doing!
_2. Jacoby is way better than people thought! _
_3. Colts have the best O line in the NFL. _
4. Chad Kelly needs to be the backup!
_5. TY is the most underrated WR in Football! _
Question, will you be in New Orleans? I am going. So excited! Jeff”
Walker: That’s the plan, Jeffrey. Hope to see you there — safe travels.
Nic R. (Venice Beach, Calif.): “How did the Steelers get dion cane when he was on our practice squad ”
Walker: Players on practice squads are eligible to be signed to every team’s 53-man rosters at any point during the season; that player must be counted on his new team’s 53-man roster for at least three games.
Floyd G. (North Charleston, S.C.): “Seems like the offensive line is not playing as aggressive last they did last year. Is it coaching or is it something else?”
Walker: Hey Floyd, for reference, here’s the boxscore from last Sunday’s 33-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in which the Colts had their most rushing yards in a game since 2004.
Roubbins-Jamal L. (Boston): “I'M A DIE HARD INDIANAPOLIS COLTS FAN SINCE 1998!!!!!!!!!!! I WOULD LIKE TO ATTEND A COLTS TRAINING CAMP THAT'S OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. MY QUESTION IS HOW WOULD I GO ABOUT DOING THAT? THANK YOU.”
Walker: Just walk right in, buddy! Colts training camp at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., is free and open to the public. You can receive more information about 2020 training camp by clicking here.
Percy M. (Stafford, Texas): “Will T.Y. And Funches play Thursday night? P.S. next time can we give Quenton Nelson a five yard running start to push the pile in for his Touchdown! ”
Walker: T.Y. Hilton is trending up to play tonight against the Texans, but it still seems like it’ll come down to a gametime decision. And the Colts are yet to make a move to get Devin Funchess back on their 53-man roster before tonight’s game, so it looks like he’ll be out at least another week. And Quenton Nelson was lined up at fullback on the play, so he had a little head start! I was hoping for a little Refrigerator Perry hop into the end zone, but Nelson said he was so concerned with just hanging on to the ball that he didn’t want to try anything fancy.
Michael M. (LaGrange, Ind.): “What is the status of Rock Ya-sin”
Walker: Rock Ya-Sin is questionable heading into tonight’s game against the Texans with an ankle injury. After being estimated as a non-participant in the first two walkthroughs of the week, though, Ya-Sin was upgraded to limited on Wednesday. So check back about 90 minutes before kickoff for a definite answer. One definite plus for the Colts’ secondary, though, is the anticipated return of top cornerback Pierre Desir, who has missed the last four games with a nagging hamstring injury. Desir wasn’t even given a questionable/doubtful/out designation for the game, which would lead one to believe he’s good to go for tonight.
Donald J. (Indianapolis): “Did I notice Kharri Willis starting at strong safety against the Jags instead of a healthy Clayton Geathers”
Walker: That was certainly the case, Donald. In fact, Khari Willis got the start in the last two games against the Miami Dolphins and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The rookie has impressed the Colts’ coaching staff since the day he walked in the building, and he’s been used in a variety of roles both in the secondary and in the box. Here’s to hoping these few days away will help Willis get back from his concussion as soon as possible.
Jonathon P. (Denton, Texas): “Do you think the Texans game is a game the Colts can afford to lose? If not, are there any games for the rest of the season the Colts can afford to lose?”
Walker: Here are the numbers I’m seeing from Football Outsiders: a win for the Colts tonight against the Texans, and their odds of making the playoffs are 86 percent; a loss, and their odds to make the playoffs are 43 percent. This is a huge, huge matchup — for both teams.