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. (Quick reminder: the Colts play the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football next week, so you have much less time to get your questions in. I’m planning on a Mailbag piece for Wednesday.)
Let’s jump right into this week’s questions:
» Joshua M. (Indianapolis): “Why do you think they are not using Hines in the slot position? Seems to me that with his burst of speed and his mobility that would make him hands down the best option for slot position. And what do you think the odds are that colts try to pick up a L. Bell?”
Walker: I’d stay patient in regards to Nyheim Hines being lined up in the slot. He’s obviously capable of doing it, and the Colts have utilized him at times in that slot position the first few weeks (he’s played eight snaps in that spot over the first few weeks), but with the running back position the way it currently is, I think there’s more of an emphasis to utilize Hines more as a “traditional” back for now, and then when Marlon Mack is able to return and stay healthy, and when Robert Turbin returns from suspension and they start possibly incorporating him into the mix, then I think that’s when you’ll see Frank Reich start to move Hines around more often. Plus, the Colts already have a primary slot receiver right now in Chester Rogers, who played 43 snaps from the slot in Week 1, 22 in the slot in Week 2 and 39 last Sunday against the Eagles. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Hines’ opportunities in the slot increase here over the next few weeks.
And, OK, time to address the Le’Veon Bell situation. Perhaps it’s no surprise, but our inbox has been inundated with questions about whether or not the Colts should pursue Bell. And I totally get it — when the guy is on the field, he’s one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL, whether he’s running the ball or lined up as a receiver. Any team would love to have a talent like that in its lineup. But consider this: despite the fact he’s holding out, Bell is currently on another team’s roster. It’s not like he’s a free agent. Teams can’t really openly discuss wanting players from other rosters, so I couldn’t tell you what Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s thoughts are on the subject — and that’s the guy you’d want to hear from about stuff like this. But, yeah, I totally understand the questions and the intrigue.
» Robert H. (Evansville, Ind.): “Hello, the Colts have played really well with back up tackles but my question is; how long will it be before Anthony Castonzo is able to join the offensive line and help protect Andrew Luck? I feel like the Colts will be really tough with him back in the starting line up.”
Walker: Hello, Robert. Thanks for writing. The good news is Castonzo was able to put together back-to-back practice days, albeit in a limited capacity, this week for the first time since early August. The bad news, as we know by now, is that he won’t play on Sunday against the Houston Texans, which means he’ll be sitting out his fourth straight game to start the season. The down-the-middle news is the Colts face a short week after the Texans game, so they’ll only have two days to practice in Indianapolis before taking off for New England to take on the Patriots for Thursday Night Football. So I wouldn’t be surprised either way if Castonzo made his 2018 debut against New England, or if the team decided to hold him out one more week to better ensure his hamstring can hold up. One thing’s for sure: these absences have got to be eating at Castonzo, who, prior to this season, had rarely ever missed a game. Last season Castonzo didn’t miss a single offensive snap, and had perhaps his best overall individual season. He has a clear bond with quarterback Andrew Luck, and once he is able to return, that should pay dividends, as you alluded to.
» Cameron S. (Eastlake, Ohio): “Love the mailbag keep it up! Going into the season nobody thought our defense would be the stronger unit but as of right now they’re doing great for how young they truly are, why do you think our defense is carrying the team right now and what’s up with the offense? ”
Walker: Love the questions, Cameron, so I really appreciate the effort on your end. And I think you’re spot on about the Colts’ defense; even I had predicted this unit would take its lumps early, and then start to gel as the season wore on. But that hasn’t really been the case, as this mix of young, budding talent and veteran leadership has really gotten some nice results through three weeks. I think a bunch of credit definitely goes to defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and his staff; their roles as teachers, I believe, has been huge. Sure you want your coaches to hammer certain points home, but you also need guys in those positions who can relate with the players and actually teach them in an effective way. I also think the 4-3 system, in general, is just much simpler, and therefore, naturally leads to younger players being able to thrive earlier on. This is especially true for the guys up front, who aren’t really worried about gaps or complex assignments — no, their job is to find the ball and bring the guy carrying it to the ground. The season is still young, but the play of the defense, as you alluded to, has been a nice surprise for the Colts.
» Brenton C. (Richmond, Ind.): “Darius Leonard for not only DROY but DPOY. If he keeps racking up the stat book like he has, do you think there is a real chance for him win DPOY? I know all the rave is on Mack right now but if you compare the stats you will be amazed.”
Walker: Through three weeks, I think Darius Leonard is the clear frontrunner for the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He ranks first in the NFL in total tackles (41), solo tackles (30), is first among NFL rookies and tied for sixth in the NFL in sacks (3.0) and is second in the NFL in tackles for loss (6.0). Safety Derwin James (Chargers), linebacker Fred Warner (49ers), cornerback Denzel Ward (Browns) and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (Bills) are all putting in solid rookie seasons thus far for their respective teams, but none of them have made even close to the same impact Leonard has on the Colts’ defense. But NFL Defensive Player of the Year? That’s Lawrence Taylor territory right there — he’s the only rookie in league history to earn such accolades. Those voting for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award usually want to make sure a player isn’t just a flash in the pan, so pretty much every year it goes to an already-established NFL star. But if Leonard can keep up this pace — over the course of a 16-game season, he’s looking at an insane 216 tackles, not to mention his sack totals — then there’s no doubt he’d have to win the award, unless someone else (a la Khalil Mack) gets 20-plus sacks, or something along those lines.
» Daniel C. (Sellersburg, Ind.): “Why do you tackle people”
Walker: Um. It’s the rules?
» Michael A. (Noblesville, Ind.): “How many uniform numbers have had only player assigned to them?
Art Donovan – 70
Colts Media Guide 2018
All-Time Jersey Numbers”
Walker: OK, Michael — I’ll be doing the answering of questions around here. But nice nugget there.
» Ta’riq T. (Warrington, Penn.): “Does the Colts hold an open tryout for the public to be considered a member of the team? (Either on the 53 man roster or practice squad)”
Walker: Nah, this isn’t a common practice, Ta’riq. NFL teams put a lot of money into their scouting departments for a reason. That doesn’t mean diamonds in the rough don’t get missed every once in a while; but, pretty much, if you can play football, a scout is going to find you. The closest thing to what you’re asking about, I guess, is the annual local pro day the team hosts for area draft prospects from nearby colleges. These players are hand-picked by the team, however. This year’s local pro day, held in April at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., featured 38 prospects from 12 area schools.
» Alex K. (Clark’s Summitt, Penn.): “When is the offensive play calling going to get more aggressive and go downfield. It seems that the colts are only using half the field.”
Walker: Hey Alex, thanks for the question. I’d suggest reading this article from earlier in the week about this very topic. Long story short: the Colts are very well aware of this issue, and hope to get that yards-per-passing-attempt number back to where it needs to be as soon as possible.
» Marcus F. (Atlanta): “Are we sure Andrew is 100%? He just looks like his thows aren’t strong at times. His decision making is a little off too. But I think that’s to be expected considering the amount of time he’s been out. Would it be far fetched to say he’s not completely confident. No shade at all. That’s a question only he can answer. He’s a fierce competitor though so I’m sure that’ll come back in time too. Pulling for you Drew. Much kudos to the defensive about unit too. Playing very well! Good signs of making a playoff run??”
Walker: Well, Marcus — tell ya what. If Luck is the only one who can answer this question, I’ll give you his quote on this very topic from earlier in the week:
When it comes to the same zip on your throws, do you feel like you are at that level or is it still a work in progress?
“You know I think on one coin I think I will always be a work in progress and I would like to think that every day I can become a better thrower and whether that means more zip on a certain throw, whether than means putting it an inch to the left or an inch to the right or on his right shoulder or in the appropriate spot. I think the approach I am taking, the approach this team is taking is that we always can improve, that we always have to get better. At the same time I think, I know I am at a level where I can make all the throws and I feel confident that I am going out there with my full arsenal, if that makes sense. I don’t think anything is physically holding me back.”
» Jeff T. (New Castle, Ind.): “Colts, 4th qrtr drive with under 2 mins deep in the red zone goal line scenario. 3rd down 3yds to go for 1st down and 2-3 yds beyond that for TD. Andrew throws to #13 in the corner going for it all. WHY ? WHY ? WHY? Why not run for 1st down ? This now forces a 4th down . Throws again. WHY ? WHY ? WHY ? The 3rd down was a play to option run or throw and Andrew forces the throw. Oh yea, they said they make that all the time BUT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD NOT WHEN THE GAME IS ON THE LINE. ARE THE COLTS THAT DOUBTFUL THAT THEIR RUN GAME IS THAT WEAK OR IS ANDREW JUST TRYING TO FORCE PLAYS HE SHOULDN’T ? I wish I could get Andrew to answer this one personally.”
Walker: Jeff, you seem upset. I’ve been to New Castle many, many times (Muncie Central guy here). Why don’t you go take a stroll — maybe grab a bite to eat at the world famous New Castle KFC all-you-can-eat buffet — and relax a little? I know that always does me wonders. Anywho, Frank Reich actually explained what was going through his mind on both of those late-game calls against the Eagles. If you’re willing, check out that article here. Sometimes you’ve just gotta tip your cap to the opposing defense.
» Carson P. (Attica, Ohio): “What does it take to get an internship opportunity with the Indianapolis Colts?”
Walker: Hey Carson, thanks for reaching out. I’d suggest keeping your eye on this website, which will always have up-to-date Colts internship and job listings. Best of luck.