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Stampede Blue Tweetbag: Defense, Coaching, Freeman, and More

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Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson answers questions about the Colts submitted via twitter.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Answering your twitter questions about the Colts:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> How do Pagano, Manusky, and Grigson have jobs? Irsay can&#39;t be pleased with product team has put out last two years</p>&mdash; Ryan Stroud (@Rpstroud) <a href="https://twitter.com/Rpstroud/status/534526698180456448">November 18, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Jim Irsay is surely frustrated with the loss on Sunday night just like the fans, coaches, and players are.  But one of the things Irsay has long demonstrated is loyalty.  He's not afraid to make the moves necessary to be a winning franchise, but he's also not the guy who will go about firing people without giving them much of a chance.  So he'll continue to give Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano plenty of chances.  I wouldn't even say they're on the hot seat yet, but here's the deal: there are plenty of questions about both of them.  While I think Grigson has done a worse job than Pagano has and while I think that Manusky hasn't been as bad as he gets blamed for, the Colts can't just continue to go about being an "average" team forever.  I don't anticipate any moves coming anytime soon - but I haven't been impressed, especially with Grigson.  I don't think either is on the hot seat.  Irsay is a loyal owner, and I think that's a strength.  Neither his GM or his head coach are on the hot seat - for now.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> How long before Art Jones makes an impact? it&#39;s going to take him a few games isn&#39;t it ?</p>&mdash; PMFGourmet (@PMFGourmet) <a href="https://twitter.com/PMFGourmet/status/534526674348818432">November 18, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Well, I know Chuck Pagano hopes that Jones can return this weekend.  I'll believe it when I see it.  Unfortunately, one of the Colts' biggest free agent additions in the offseason has played in just three games this year while dealing with a high ankle sprain, and even in the time that he has played he hasn't been too impressive.  I wouldn't freak out about that, however, as he needs some time to get adjusted and get into the flow of things.  He hasn't had that chance with the injuries he has been dealing with.  So Pagano hopes that Jones could go this weekend, but we won't really know until later in the week.  Either way, however, expect there to be a bit of an adjustment period.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> colts still look like a contender?</p>&mdash; Aaron Andrew Hankins (@AAHankins) <a href="https://twitter.com/AAHankins/status/534526846801809408">November 18, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

That's a tough question.  You never want to overreact to either a win or a loss.  And this loss really only showed the flaws we feared were there - it just hurt a lot more because of the situation.  Right now, this team looks very similar to last year's team: one that will win the division, host a first round playoff game, and perhaps even pull out a win in the first round only to go on and lose handily in the second round.  That's what they look like right now.  There are concerns with the team that are pretty hard to overlook.  The only thing they have to hang their hat on right now is Andrew Luck - and he's really good.  He's more than capable of leading a team to the Super Bowl - the question is whether the team around him will give him any help.  Right now, I think I'd list the Patriots and the Broncos as the "contenders in the AFC" with the Colts leading the pack among the "in the hunt" teams thanks to Andrew Luck.  If they can put it together, this team absolutely can go on a run to the Super Bowl.  But there are serious questions about whether they'll put it together against top teams - something they haven't done yet this year.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> should running back be a priority in the draft and if so who you like? It&#39;s a deep rb class this year. Good talent late</p>&mdash; Alex Bucksot (@bucksotrules) <a href="https://twitter.com/bucksotrules/status/534527131704123393">November 18, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

If by priority you mean using a high pick on a running back, then no.  I think Sunday night's game (with the undrafted Jonas Gray and the third overall pick Trent Richardson) should show that you can find running backs anywhere.  You don't need to spend a first round draft pick on a back, and I wouldn't recommend any team doing it unless there was a specific circumstance that made it necessary.  This is a very deep class at running back and there can be good ones to found in rounds 2-4 and beyond.  Is that too high for the Colts to take a back?  Right now, I absolutely think so - but this is very dependent upon several factors: does Trent Richardson improve at all as this year goes on?  How does Dan Herron look?  Is Ahmad Bradshaw going to come back healthy?  Is Vick Ballard going to come back healthy?  Those are questions that need to be answered, and ultimately, I think the Colts' would be better served taking a back in a later round and prioritizing defense (and even the offensive line to help the run game) before a running back.  But like I said - there are still a lot of things that need to be figured out.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/StampedeBlue">@StampedeBlue</a> Seems like we are missing a lot of key components to &quot;BTM&quot; what position do you see them addressing in the first round?</p>&mdash; John Prosenick (@dukecolts) <a href="https://twitter.com/dukecolts/status/534527283177222144">November 18, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Well, there are a couple that I could see the Colts targeting: safety, inside linebacker, defensive lineman, pass rusher - basically, a defender.  I think inside linebacker is a big need, but there are other factors in play there that would determine whether or not the Colts would use a first rounder.  Safety is a big need.  I could be talked into liking a pass rusher or a defensive lineman, depending on the scenario and player.  As long as it's a defensive player, I think I'd be happy - but right now safety and inside linebacker are two of the biggest needs.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> Is Jerrell Freeman not 100% like Gosder Cherilus? His play has dropped off significantly from his previous 2 seasons</p>&mdash; Ʊ Chris Petrovic Ʊ (@RebornRonnie) <a href="https://twitter.com/RebornRonnie/status/534528481695371264">November 18, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

This is a great question.  2014 Jerrell Freeman is certainly not the Jerrell Freeman that we had come to expect after his first two seasons.  He was definitely an above average inside linebacker, but this year he's been about average (at best).  There are a couple of ways in which Freeman's situation is very different from Gosder Cherilus' situation, however.  Firstly, Cherilus is the worst player along the Colts' offensive line, and that's pretty clear.  Freeman is actually the best inside linebacker the Colts have, and that's pretty clear too.  So while targeting a replacement for Cherilus would address the weakest link of the unit, targeting a replacement for Freeman would be ignoring the weak link.  Secondly, the contract.  If you look at the numbers for Cherilus' deal, the cap hit begins to increase greatly as each year goes on - so it becomes a big priority to find a replacement and part ways with the right tackle.  For Freeman, he's making $576,667 this year (per Spotrac), so there's absolutely no need to part with that.  Of course, here's the wrinkle in that discussion: Freeman is a restricted free agent at the end of the year.  Ultimately, I think the Colts should bring him back and I'm totally fine with him starting at inside linebacker.  I think it has been noticeable the drop-off in play from Freeman this year, but he's still a solid option for the Colts.  And they have much, much bigger needs to address defensively - perhaps starting with the other inside linebacker spot.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/StampedeBlue">@StampedeBlue</a> what can Pagano/Manusky do NOW to improve their defense and to have a realistic shot in the playoffs?</p>&mdash; Jorge Henrique (@jorge_hbr) <a href="https://twitter.com/jorge_hbr/status/534530999871635456">November 18, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

You're going to hate this answer, but I'm not sure there is much the Colts can do about it right now.  Ryan Grigson has signed the players he's signed and they're out there.  That's the group the Colts are stuck with.  Now, there are certain things the Colts can get better at and try, but at the end of the day against the top teams there's not much the Colts can do at this point - the time for that came in the offseason.  First, however, the Colts need to get better at in-game adjustments.  Too often they seem stubborn and try to continue doing what has been shown that game to not be working.  Getting better at adjustments can help put the defense in a better spot.  I'd give Jonathan Newsome some increased reps to see if he can continue to generate pass rush.  So things like that could end up helping a bit, but I think this Colts defense is what it is: a unit that can look good against some bad to average teams but that will look terrible when playing the top teams.  And I'm not sure there's much Chuck Pagano and Greg Manusky can do about it until the offseason, when they can look at the players.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> Stats abound about Colts record after a loss but is Jacksonville a trap/let down game after so much emotion last night?</p>&mdash; LovinBlue (@LovinBlue) <a href="https://twitter.com/LovinBlue/status/534540060931006465">November 18, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Absolutely.  Before the season started, I picked the Colts to lose this game because of that.  Of course, I also picked the Colts beating the Patriots and I can assure you I'm taking the Colts this week, but this is a candidate for a trap game.  The Jaguars have been known to play the Colts tough at times, and after a deflating loss like the Patriots one it's definitely a prime candidate for a trap game.  With all of that said, however, I don't anticipate it.  I think this is still a good football team - and a very good team when playing against bad to average teams.  They have too much pride than to watch their season go down the drain, and I think they'll use this week's loss to motivate them toward a division win.  So while this game certainly could be a trap game, I don't anticipate the Colts really falling into that trap.