INDIANAPOLIS — Each week, Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.
Let's jump right into this week's questions:
Schmolo on Colts Reddit: "With JT breaking out, which RBs do you expect to be on the roster next year? JT, Hines, Wilkins? Which matchup do you like the best for the Colts when and if they get to the playoffs?"
Walker: Since Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins are under contract through the 2021 season, I don't see any reason why they wouldn't continue in their current roles until they hit free agency or even possibly have their contracts extended. Now, the Colts might really like a running back in this upcoming NFL Draft and then that person will compete for a roster spot against, let's say, Wilkins, but what I think gets lost sometimes is Wilkins' value on special teams; he plays a major role on the kickoff return and punt coverage teams, especially, not to mention his proven ability to gain yards in big chunks on the ground as a nice change-of-pace back for the offense. The wild card is the possibility of bringing Marlon Mack back, which we'll discuss below.
And the potential matchup I like best in the playoffs would be the Tennessee Titans. Just like in the 2018 season, when the Colts took on the Houston Texans in the Wild Card Round, there are tons of advantages to taking on an opponent with whom you're very familiar — although, to be fair, that obviously works both ways. But aside from a couple wrinkles you can throw in here and there, for the most part, you know what they're trying to do, and they know what you're trying to do. Taking that guess work out of the preparation allows you to focus more on yourself and less on the opponent. That's my opinion, anyway.
BenBlue98 on Colts Reddit: "Yes how can we utilize and develop Harris and Patmon in the future going forward? And is Michigan's Jalen Mayfield a possibility for tackle and Nico Collins for WR?"
Walker: I can really see DeMichael Harris developing into a true threat out of the slot, as well as expanding upon his current role as a shifty gadget guy who can make some big plays in the run game with those reverses and jet sweeps. While ideally you want a fully-healthy Parris Campbell being your future slot receiver, there are going to be opportunities to get a guy like Harris into the formation when you're moving Campbell around. As for Dezmon Patmon, I think he definitely has the potential to develop into a solid outside receiver for the Colts. Perhaps as Michael Pittman Jr. keeps evolving and adding to his repertoire, that'll open up opportunities for Patmon at the X-receiver role, where he can use his blend of size and speed to his advantage in one-on-one coverage down the sideline.
And I'm sure I'll be saying this a lot, but this is my annual message when it comes to the upcoming NFL Draft: I don't really start diving into the prospects until after the Colts' season is over. I am a casual college football fan, so I'm just naturally going to know a least a little about most of the big-time prospects, but I don't want to make it seem like I know more about these guys than I really do at this point — especially how I think they might or might not fit in with the Colts. I think there are a lot of "draft experts" out there who have relatively big platforms but really don't actually know what they're talking about, and I don't want to play into that narrative.
Andy_and_Vic on Colts Reddit: "Is the notion that Quenton Nelson could be our left tackle of the future reasonable? The way I look at it, he would be a great LT. But the way he impacts our running game (when healthy) would take a huge hit if he wasn't playing guard. What do you think? Side note: Even though it won't happen, I really want Ballard to trade up to #2 or #3 in the draft and take Penei Sewell!"
Walker: My personal take on Quenton Nelson being a potential left tackle for this team down the road is this: why the heck not at least consider it? Just like anything else, there are potential pros and cons, and I think one of the biggest reasons why you wouldn't end up doing it is the emphasis the Colts place on limiting interior pressure on the quarterback — and Nelson holds up his end of the bargain in this area better than any other guard in the league. Another con: you'd also be losing Nelson's elite ability as a puller in the run game if he were to make a move to left tackle (although, of course, he could still pull when lined up outside). But there are a ton of pros to consider for a potential move like this whenever Anthony Castonzo decides to hang 'em up. One that immediately comes to mind: you wouldn't have to use a premium draft pick on a left tackle and could instead use that valuable resource on another position (although I think you still need to have a couple young tackles ready to go if needed on either side). So, yes, I think Nelson at least gave the team something to seriously consider here in the next couple of years.
bodiepartlow on Colts Reddit: "How do we better contain the chunk plays that kept the Texans in the last matchup? How do we better contain Watson when he does step up then roll out of the pocket?"
Walker: Is the answer "I have no idea" acceptable? I mean, the Colts' defensive front did a terrific job getting pressure on Deshaun Watson the entire afternoon back in Week 13, but he's one of the best in recent NFL memory at eluding initial pressure, buying time and finding someone open — or just taking a huge chunk himself with his legs. In fact, the Colts not only had five sacks in that game, but their pressure percentage, according to Pro Football Focus, was 48 percent (!); in every other game this season, the Colts' pressure percentage has been about 28 percent. I mean, there's really only a couple things you could say to do "better" from that Week 13 game, and neither one of them are particularly helpful: to the defensive front, be better at bringing Watson to the ground and don't let him escape, and to the defensive backs, do a better job plastering to your receivers for longer periods of time. Both are very much an "easier said than done" scenario, however.
LightNinjaQT on Colts Reddit: "i have never asked a question but your tone rubs me the wrong way sometimes. same on the colts forum"
Walker: I'm sorry — what's your question?
justmeinstuff on Colts Reddit: "Now that TY has shown he can still be a #1 WR, will the Colts make it a priority to bring him back next year?"
Walker: I never thought it would be a question whether or not the Colts would seriously consider bringing T.Y. Hilton back on a new deal after this season, even before his recent ascension here over the last three weeks or so. What Hilton is proving now is that he very clearly still has a ton left in the tank and hasn't lost anything physically. Now, with any free agents, sometimes the question isn't, "Will the team bring him back?" It's: "Does the player want to come back?" I've never gotten the impression that Hilton wouldn't want to come back to the Colts beyond 2020, but these guys only hit free agency so many times in their careers, and so if the two sides don't work out a deal before mid-March, I wouldn't blame Hilton at all if he at least wanted to see what his market was.
PrideOfAthens17 on Colts.com Forums: "I don't sense this team being a group that needs anything extra to motivate them, so I think they're fine there. But do they do any things to try to prevent themselves from taking any opponents for granted, especially a team not playing well that they've already beaten, like the Texans this week? Or do they not even bring up such things, and keep each week the same, business as usual?"
Walker: I think it's just business as usual. This team knows what's at stake, for one, but here's probably the most important point: the Texans were two yards away from potentially beating the Colts just a couple weeks ago. I'm not sure anything else needs to be said. Beyond this Texans game, the Indy has the Steelers — one of the AFC's frontrunners — and then the Jaguars, whose only win this season came in Week 1 against … the Colts. So I don't see this team having any sort of lack of motivation or taking any opponent for granted to end the season.
John Hammonds on Colts.com Forums: "What about Marlon Mack? Taylor has started to show signs that he is a Feature Back. And you don't need two feature backs on your team, right? Still, I'm a lot more excited about a Taylor-Mack-Hines bullpen than a Taylor-Hines-Wilkins bullpen. Should we even spend the money on Mack when he will, at best, share carries?"
Walker: I personally would love to see Marlon Mack back with the Colts next season. I think the guy is a proven playmaker in this league, and guys like that don't exactly grow on trees; when you have one and you can keep him, you should. And I don't really worry about how many feature backs a team has; I mean, the Colts were fully prepared to roll this season with both Mack and Jonathan Taylor before Mack suffered his season-ending Achilles injury back in Week 1. I don't really worry about "stunting the growth" of a Taylor or anything along those lines if Mack were to return next season; yes, Taylor would get fewer touches on a week-to-week basis, but that's also less wear and tear throughout the year. As to your point about spending money to re-sign Mack — will it really cost all that much, in the grand scheme of things? Unfortunately, he's coming back from a torn Achilles, so I've got to imagine he won't be fully back until the early portion of next season, anyway, so I don't know how much of a free agent market Mack is going to have this offseason. I definitely think Mack has earned a nice pay raise moving forward, but my gut feeling is that he'd likely be within the Colts' range in 2021 if both sides wanted to go down that path.
holeymoley99 on Colts.com Forums: "With M.A.C and Trey Burton banged up along with Noah Togiai on I.R. and Hale Hentges recently claimed by Minnesota will we be seeing Farrod Green possibly elevated and has he been seeing extra action in practices ?"
Walker: It seems as though Trey Burton is going to be good to go for Sunday's game, so I wouldn't be surprised even if Mo Alie-Cox is limited or held out with his knee injury if the Colts just go with Burton and Jack Doyle at the tight end position. But I do know this: it would take a lot to keep Alie-Cox off the field. This guy is about as tough as they come. Farrod Green is a nice insurance policy to have on your practice squad — I was really impressed with his all-around game in training camp when the team was down a few tight ends and he was forced into action — but barring any pregame setbacks, I've got to imagine the Colts will be rolling with their usual three tight ends tomorrow against the Texans.
Jdroach88 on Colts.com Forums: "Our front office has been doing well. Their game plans efficient more often then not it seems. When they are inefficient, they make the proper adjustments. Going into this game, can we please, adjust our plan at the end of the first quarter if need be as well? Do they make adjustments sooner then the half?"
Walker: Not to crap on your question, but I tend to put "fast starts" and "halftime adjustments" in the same category as teams that drop a bunch of passes or commit a bunch of penalties on a given week — I just don't know what you're supposed to do about it. How do you actually practice starting fast? How do you apply that to a game? Some teams are better in the first half than others, but why is that? Do they just execute their assignments better? I can spit out all the numbers and facts and figures I want, but that doesn't really explain why it's happening. Not to discredit the coaches or the players, because there are little adjustments made here or there that can make a difference, but I'm not so sure the Colts' approach is any different in the second half of games compared to the first half — they just play better. Sometimes there's no rhyme or reason for it. It just is what it is.