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Stampede Blue Tweetbag: Talking Bjoern Werner, Trent Richardson, Offensive Line, and More

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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> will colts go far in the playoffs? Is it offense that is holding them back?</p>&mdash; Aaron Andrew Hankins (@AAHankins) <a href="https://twitter.com/AAHankins/status/544668831646744576">December 16, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

How far will the Colts go in the playoffs?  It's impossible to tell right now.  As we all know, when it comes to the postseason anything can happen.  I can see a scenario in which the Colts make some noise.  However, at this point the Colts don't look like a team that will do much in the playoffs with their recent issues.  As far as whether it's their offense that is holding them back, in the recent weeks it has been.  Against both the Browns and the Texans, the offense was clearly the unit that was struggling - in fact, get this: the offense has given up 21 points in the past two weeks while the defense has given up just 13.  So yeah, recently it has been the offense holding the team back, so to speak (even though they've been winning).  But when it comes to the playoffs, this defense won't have the luxury of playing sub-par offenses and likely will show many signs of weaknesses.  Then, the only hope the Colts will likely have is scoring a lot of points.  So while it's easy to look at the past couple of weeks and say the offense has been the problem, I still think the defense will prove to be the bigger problem in the playoffs.  We all know the offense can and has scored plenty of points and been dominant this year, and all along it was going to depend on them anyway.  The defense, however?  They've still got issues, and I think that in the playoffs those issues might re-surface.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> When Mathis is back next season, do u see Werner starting on the strong side over Walden? Seems to be playing great run-D</p>&mdash; Jordan Harris (@Harris2732) <a href="https://twitter.com/Harris2732/status/544670218547523584">December 16, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

This is a great question when looking forward to next season and the return of Robert Mathis.  I think you're right in saying that Werner has been a pleasant surprise against the run and has looked good in that area.  It's nice to see and it certainly opens up the possibility of having Werner play opposite of Mathis - which is where they initially slotted him last year with Mathis healthy.  I think we also have to consider Erik Walden's future with the Colts, as they could release him this offseason and save $3.75 million.  I'm not sure how likely it actually is that the team would cut him, especially with how he has impressed as a pass rusher this year, but I don't think we can just overlook that possibility, either.  But let's assume that Walden comes back - what do the Colts do?  I think we'll see them use a rotation of sorts.  I would expect Werner and Walden to both see significant time at one of the linebacker spots with Mathis playing at the other, though having the flexibility to play Werner at Mathis' spot too (because, keep in mind that Mathis will be 34 years old and coming off of a torn Achilles next season).

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> How would you evaluate Werner&#39;s season so far?</p>&mdash; Steven Pearlstein (@SPearlstein2) <a href="https://twitter.com/SPearlstein2/status/544678315978543104">December 16, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Well, by a lot of measures Werner has improved from a disappointing rookie season last year.  He's recorded 47 tackles, 4 sacks, forced a fumble, defended a pass, and perhaps most importantly, stayed healthy - playing in all 14 games so far.  Earlier in the season, when Werner had a stretch of three games in which he recorded four sacks, it looked as if he was finally showing why the Colts drafted him in the first round a year ago.  In the last seven games, however, he doesn't have a sack (though he almost got one on Sunday, as the only reason it wasn't was due to a stat technicality).  He did look better on Sunday against the Texans, and hopefully he'll get hot again as the season draws to a close.  Ultimately, I still have questions about Werner as a pass rusher, and I think many other Colts (including Jonathan Newsome) have shown more in that area.  The encouraging part about Werner, however, is that he's no longer just a pass rush specialist but rather his strength this year has actually been against the run.  He's looked good in that area all year long but particularly in the past month.  So I think Werner has become a much more complete linebacker this year and has definitely taken strides forward, but the pass rushing still is a question mark.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> I&#39;d ask about the decision to make Shipley IA on Sunday, but we never get a straight answer about the O-line.</p>&mdash; Rod Stayner (@RodStayner) <a href="https://twitter.com/RodStayner/status/544678520417689600">December 16, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

It's a really hard decision to explain simply because there's really no justifiable explanation for having A.Q. Shipley inactive.  I did think Lance Louis played better than I expected him to at right guard, but that's not saying a lot and I still don't think he was the best option there.  The decision to start Louis seemed to have been overshadowed by the decision to have A.Q. Shipley inactive, however.  I actually think Shipley not starting at center is worse than Shipley being inactive, but the uproar from fans is what really drew the attention to this particular instance (as it should have).  Quite simply, I don't think there is a justifiable reason for having A.Q. Shipley inactive, and even if there were Chuck Pagano wouldn't tell anybody.  So we're left just to speculate, and one thought I had was whether the decision to have Shipley inactive came about because Pagano and Ryan Grigson were tired of being proved wrong in their decision to bench Shipley for Jonotthan Harrison.  Every time that Shipley came in as a backup (which included just the week before), Shipley outplayed the player he was replacing.  That just continued to add fuel to the fire, and perhaps Pagano and Grigson figured that by having Shipley inactive they could quiet the fire a bit by not even allowing the opportunity to arise for Shipley to play.  That's just speculation, of course, because we really don't know what the thinking was behind the decision.  I do know for a fact that a lot of thought has gone into the line, but I don't know what's scarier: to have the coaching staff not put much thought into the lineup or to have the coaching staff put in a lot of thought and make these decisions.  I know that with the Colts' it's the latter that is actually true, but I'm not sure that makes me feel any better about it.  The coaching staff and management have mishandled the offensive line majorly all year, and Sunday was just another example of it.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> why do the Colts refuse to bench T-Rich in favor of Boom? is Grigson playing a role in him starting?</p>&mdash; Joshua Connelly (@joshuakconnelly) <a href="https://twitter.com/joshuakconnelly/status/544678753037987843">December 16, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The Colts, in a way, are beginning (very slowly) to make the shift towards Boom Herron, and I expect that to continue.  On Sunday, though Trent Richardson saw more snaps than Herron, Boom saw more carries than Richardson.  And I don't really have a problem with that.  The whole conversation about "benching" Richardson is really a moot point if you mean sitting him down and not having him on the field at all, because that won't happen and the Colts don't have someone else to really put out there instead of him (besides Boom, but the Colts run a two-back approach).  When I say they need to "bench" Richardson, I mean they need to stop giving him so many carries.  In short yardage situations?  Fine.  At the goal line?  Ok, I can live with it.  But too many times giving him a carry kills a drive by putting them in second or third down and long.  Clearly (and I don't think it's an argument at all), Boom Herron deserves the bulk of the carries for the Colts.  But Richardson can still play a role as a pass protector, receiver, and short yardage back, and I don't have a problem with the Colts continuing to use him as such.  As for the second part of your question: yes, Ryan Grigson is playing a big role in Trent Richardson continuing to start, see so much playing time, and see so many carries, etc.  But here's the thing with how the Colts' franchise currently is structured: most of the decisions are made by both Grigson and Chuck Pagano - they work together.  Now, some things are clearly Grigson and some things are clearly Pagano, but for the most part they're both involved.  With Richardson, though, Grigson does play a significant role, which makes sense considering he's the one who sent a first round pick for the running back.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> Hearing anything about #4 hanging up the kicking cleats?</p>&mdash; JimSavage (@boileralum1) <a href="https://twitter.com/boileralum1/status/544682011860819968">December 16, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Adam Vinatieri isn't the Colt I'd be worried about retiring, let's put it that way.  He's kicking at arguably the highest level of his storied career, converting all 28 field goal tries this season and his last 34 overall - the fourth longest streak in NFL history.  He's having an incredible season, despite being the oldest player in the league (he'll turn 42 later this month).  When you get to that point in your career, every player will be considering retirement after every season.  But with Vinatieri, he signed a two-year contract last offseason and I think that he intends on playing out the duration of that contract.  Like I said, with someone who has played as long as he has and for his age, retirement is always going to be a thought and something to contemplate and I know that he will do so this offseason, but at this point I definitely expect him to return and play the final year on his contract.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/Coltsfanwilson">@Coltsfanwilson</a> All I&#39;ve heard the last 2 weeks is about the poor play of the offense. What about the great play of our defense?</p>&mdash; Jay Hall o&#39; Fame (@Justin_Ray_Hall) <a href="https://twitter.com/Justin_Ray_Hall/status/544689963535990784">December 16, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Without a doubt, the Colts' defense deserves a lot of credit for their recent play.  In the last two games, the defense has been a major, major part of the team winning.  They've allowed just 268.5 yards per game and allowed the Browns and the Texans to convert just 29% of third down tries (while allowing 0% of fourth down tries to be converted).  They've forced four turnovers and the defense itself has allowed just 13 points combined.  That's impressive, and without a doubt they deserve credit for their play recently.  But here's part of the reason for many holding off on over-the-top praise of the defense: Blake Bortles, Colt McCoy, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tom Savage.  Those are the quarterbacks the Colts have faced in the past four games, and that's pretty representative of their respective offenses.  All season long we've seen the Colts dominate average to below average offenses - which is certainly a good sign and shows that they are absolutely improved.  It has been against the top offenses that the defense has collapsed, and that's why it's really hard to tell much from the past few weeks other than that the defense has looked good in those games.  That's been the story all year, yet they've still been torched by great offenses.  When the playoffs roll around, they'll be facing good offenses, and there are still a lot of questions with this defensive unit when that happens.  So absolutely the defense deserves a ton of credit for their play recently, but I know many are holding off on getting too excited about the unit until they show they can play well against a good quarterback, a good offense, and a good team.