Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Explaining The Nyheim Hines Deal, Strategy At Trade Deadline, Sam Ehlinger's Future And More

The Colts Mailbag returns for Week 9 with plenty of questions on this week's trade with the Buffalo Bills, what's next for Sam Ehlinger and more ahead of Sunday's game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough. 

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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:

Shelley King, Union, Ky.: Why would they trade off Nyheim Hines for someone who is not near the caliber of Hines?

JJ Stankevitz: I keep seeing this and a lot of folks are making unfair assumptions about Zack Moss, who the Colts got back – along with a conditional 2023 sixth round pick – in exchange for Hines. These things are hardly apples to apples, of course, but it's at least notable that Moss averaged 5.4 yards per carry with the Bills, while Hines averaged 2.0 yards per carry with the Colts this year; Moss' average of 4.9 yards per touch in 2022 isn't all that far off from Hines' 5.2.

And for what it's worth – which is something – Moss has been of the NFL's most accomplished pass-blocking running backs since debuting in 2020. Plenty of defensive coordinators will opt to throw unscouted, exotic blitzes at a young quarterback like Sam Ehlinger to see if he can handle it, and having a running back who can help stymie those pressure looks does carry some importance.

Anyways, on the trade, it's probably important to note Hines signed a contract extension last year – which kicked in starting this season – while Moss is still on his rookie contract, and the Colts added a draft pick to use in 2023, too.

Trevor Fugate, Terre Haute, Ind.: Are we throwing in the towel for the season?

JJ Stankevitz: Nope. Talking to players in the locker room this week, there's certainly disappointment that things haven't gone well, and the repercussions of a 3-4-1 record through eight weeks.

"We're in a results-based business," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "When you don't have the results that you, everybody expects of you and that you're looking for, things like that tend to happen. Definitely unfortunate. Definitely miss my guy Nyheim and coach (Marcus) Brady. But we gotta move on, gotta win on Sunday."

But instead of pointing fingers or dwelling on the departures of Hines and Brady, players are focusing their energy on what they, individually, can do to get the 2022 season on track. And none of that focus involves giving up and thinking about January vacation plans.

"At the end of the day with the changes, your job remains the same, your responsibilities remain the same," left guard Quenton Nelson said. "Just need to improve on doing our job, winning our one-on- ones and collectively as a group doing that."

So I can say this emphatically: In no way do I get the sense that anyone is throwing in the towel halfway through the 2022 season. You''ll be hard-pressed to find any player in the NFL who checks out or throws in the towel during a season, too – because the guys who do don't last long in the league.

The Colts return to the practice fields at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center as they prepare to face the New England Patriots in Foxboro in week 9.

Nathan Poyser, Walton, Ky.: Why did you trade Nyheim Hines for Zack Moss and why didn't you go after Chase Claypool like I hoped you would?

JJ Stankevitz: Why would the Colts trade for a wide receiver (and give up a second-round pick to do so) when they have Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce and Parris Campbell all playing at a high level? A lack of receiving weapons has not been why the Colts' offense has struggled in 2022.

Scott Hale, Hammond, Ind.: Why were the Colts not more active before the trade deadline? We need depth on the O-line to protect the quarterback.

JJ Stankevitz: I'll respond to another question with a question: How many offensive linemen were traded in-season, before the trade deadline, in the last three years?

The answer: Three. One per year. The Las Vegas Raiders acquired tackle Justin Herron from the New England Patriots in a late-round pick swap in September; in 2021, the Kansas City Chiefs sent guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif to the New York Jets for tight end Daniel Brown; and in 2020 the Cincinnati Bengals got center B.J. Finney back from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for defensive end Carlos Dunlap.

You just don't see offensive linemen get traded mid-season. No matter how poorly a team's season may be going, offensive linemen – even down-the-depth-chart guys – are rarely traded.

Jordan Kennerknecht, Roanoke, Va.: Now that the Colts have Zack Moss and Jordan Wilkins, who do you think is better suited to be RB2 behind JT?

JJ Stankevitz: Deon Jackson is listed as Jonathan Taylor's backup on the Colts' unofficial depth chart, and his performance with Taylor out – 25 carries for 104 yards, plus 14 receptions for 108 yards and one Angry Runs Scepter in Weeks 5 and 6 – was impressive. The Colts have confidence Jackson can not only step in if Taylor can't go, but play a role in their offense even if No. 28 is available.

It's TBD on how the Colts use Moss, who didn't practice on Wednesday as he was traveling to Indianapolis. Wilkins joined the practice squad, and Reich has long appreciated his skillset, so we'll see if he gets elevated to the active roster for gameday at some point this year.

Rick Geisler, Lafayette, Ind.: If Frank does the play calling, why was the offensive coordinator fired? How will this move right the ship? Interested Fan!!

JJ Stankevitz: I think there's a misconception out there about offensive coordinators – not all of them call plays. Reich didn't call plays while he was Doug Pederson's offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles; Pederson didn't call plays while he was Andy Reid's offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs. You can find a litany of examples – Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell didn't call plays while serving as Sean McVay's offensive coordinator; same with Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel in 2021 as Kyle Shanahan's offensive coordinator.

Anyways, the point is: All of those guys, despite not being playcalling offensive coordinators, had a significant hand in scheming their team's offense. The same went for Brady in Indianapolis.

"It's a collaborative effort," Reich said. "Marcus obviously plays a role. We all work together, we're all responsible for the work that we do. Marcus did a good job. Ultimately, I made a decision I thought was best for the team."

Reich was asked why he relieved Brady of his duties as offensive coordinator now, halfway through the season, and offered this response:

"Looking for certain dynamics," Reich said. "I almost liken it, sometimes if there is a player on a team and he is a good player, but there's not the right chemistry or something just is not gelling the way you thought it would gel and that player goes to another team, and he succeeds wildly. Why is that? They just fit better on another team and sometimes I think that happens in coaching. I'm thankful we have a really good staff and just had envisioned certain dynamics that we were looking for in the building, in the room, on the field. That's why we made the decisions we made. But I expect Marcus is going to have great success."

How will this move right the ship? That's a little more abstract. But the Colts are 30th in points scored per game (16.1) and recognize that number has to start trending upward for the 2022 season to turn around.

"When you're off track, there is no magic pill as we always say," Reich said. "You gain your confidence and your rhythm back one play at a time."

Harold Miller, Bedford, Ind.: What percent chance do you give Sam Ehlinger to be the starter next year or if you think he could be a franchise quarterback?

JJ Stankevitz: I don't know about a percentage, but it's certainly greater than zero because he has a tremendous platform to show what kind of player he is. If Ehlinger plays well in the second half of the season – and the Colts were encouraged by his debut against the Commanders – he could absolutely force a discussion about keeping his starting job and being looked at as a long-term answer at quarterback.

Edward Wright, Terre Haute, Ind.: With 9 game left do you believe that the Colts must go at least 6-3 to make a wildcard spot? Making them at least 9-7-1, knowing only 8 wins won't get you in most years. And with the schedule getting tougher, is it realistic?

JJ Stankevitz: So right now, the Colts have a 29 percent chance to make the playoffs per the New York Times' playoff simulator. If the Colts were to go 6-3 down the stretch, the NYT simulator gives them anywhere from an 80 to 92 percent chance to make the playoffs.

That difference is based on who the Colts lose to in this scenario – if it's three NFC teams (the Colts still have the Eagles, Cowboys, Vikings and Giants left) the odds are at 92 percent. If it's three AFC teams (from the group of the Patriots, Raiders, Steelers, Chargers and Texans) it drops to 80 percent. Any combination of three AFC/NFC losses puts the Colts' playoff odds at 9-7-1 somewhere in the middle of that range.

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