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Stampede Mailbag: Do the Colts keep more defensive linemen on the roster than normal in 2017?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are again with some great questions for me to get to. We’re just over 24 hours from actually seeing something on the field in a real game situation to analyze what we’re seeing from some of the guys hoping to land a roster spot this year.

It doesn’t get much better than that, and in the meantime let’s get to these questions. Don’t forget to get your submissions in to in order to have your question answered in future editions. Let’s go!

Sean Mescall

Hey Matt,

Who has been the standout performer on both offense and defense during training camp? How has Ryan Kelly been getting on in training camp? Has he made any notable improvements this year? He’s a player that I think has All-Pro potential and will be at the Colts for years to come.

And how has Grover Stewart adjusted to playing against NFL competition after making the transition from a small school? His athleticism is incredible and I am really looking forward to seeing if he can force his way into some snaps this year. Thanks for all the hard work keeping us fans updated during camp, keep it up!

Sean, thank you first and foremost. But as for the standouts, for the defense I would have to lean Johnathan Hankins. Offensively, I’m going with Le’Raven Clark.

Hankins was just dominating all comers in the practices that I witnessed, and his natural chemistry with Al Woods is something to keep an eye on for sure. Clark has been so consistent in standing his ground and has been a breath of fresh air when considering our right tackles of recent. I’d bet both will have really good years.

My apologies for not getting to this before Kelly was injured the other day, but previous to that unfortunate event, Kelly had been as stout as ever. How significant his improvement from last year is very hard to tell, but you can see that he’s even more aggressive and will continue to be paramount to the chemistry for the offensive line this year.

Grover Stewart is another who has impressed me quite a bit so far. I was very reserved on him after watching his college tape, but I’ve been nothing but pleased with what I’ve seen thus far in camp. He’s far more athletic, he’s stronger and deceivingly quick with the ability to stop the run and rush the passer. He’ll be really fun to watch this weekend.

Zachary Vertefeuille

Matt, again thanks for doing the mailbag. It’s one of my favorite articles on the site. I got a few for you if you’re running thin. With the additions on defense, how are teams going to be attacking us now? What’s our best answer to these new strategies?

How is Hooker moving along with the limited practice? Assuming he starts the season, who do you think will be starting opposite him? Do you think it is the coach’s responsibility to carve a Tyreek Hill type role out of Dorsett, does Phillip just not showing that he has it?

How is Nate Hairston doing? He’s the only pick I haven’t heard anything about. How are you projecting him to end up contributing in the first year and the future? Just for fun, if you feel like it. Who do you got winning each division across the league?

Rapid fire.. I love it Zachary. Let’s get it.

Until the Colts prove they can stop the run, teams will try to get over on us just the same. Quick passes have killed us in the past and opposing coaches will want to see if the improvement in talent can mitigate the coaching if the playcalling continues to be stagnant.

Hooker has been good with his ability to diagnose quickly and accurately. It’s pretty remarkable to see his ability to read quarterbacks and their intentions. His instincts are what stand out the most right now with his limitations. I still think that Darius Butler is a starter at least if/when Clayton Geathers returns.

Dorsett certainly doesn’t have the consistency needed to make it thus far. He’s been very hot and cold unfortunately. I’m not sure that Dorsett is anything like Hill, though it would be fun to see if they could get more production out of him in another way. He’s so talented which makes it headscratchingly difficult to understand why he can’t blast off at some point.

However, it’s hard to help someone who either isn’t interested, or isn’t able to help themselves. With his athletic potential I think the coach does hold some of the burden to put him in a position to succeed.

Hairston is coming along, but slowly. He’ll likely hold primarily a special teams role, but don’t be surprised if he begins getting used a bit more at corner. He’s got good upside, but he needs time to grow in multiple areas of this progression.

Wow, it’s pretty early for that, but I’ll bite: Steelers, Patriots, Raiders, Titans, Falcons, Lions, Redskins, Seahawks — I’m glad you enjoy the mailbags, it’s my pleasure and thank you for the questions.


How is Edwin Jackson coming along? I like the guy but he was still pretty raw last year. He’s a guy I’m pulling for and want to see him become a reliable player whether it be as a starter or solid depth.

Jackson has been extremely consistent. He’s never really been a flashy player, but he’s a powerful hitter, he wraps up pretty well, can cover effectively and reads ball carriers well. His ceiling isn’t incredibly high, but right now consistency is something that is very highly valued.

His overall play speed has improved greatly and just out of observation, it appears that processing the offense has slowed down for him this year. Expect to see him a lot in sub packages and when coverage dictates it.


Do you see any scenario where we keep more D-line and run thin on LB'S? It’s about the best talent right, why let any of our D-line go if they are better resources then the back-up LB’S

Yeah I do, in fact, I currently have them hanging on to 7 which is more than they typically have in the past. At the same time, I also have them keeping 10 total linebackers as well. The linebackers are great for special teams help and depending on how those battles play out they could be very beneficial to an improved defense as well. Disclaimer: most people don’t take my approach to the roster so don’t expect many to agree with me.


This may be a question for later in preseason but do you see a player on a different team that gets cut and the Colts could bring him in?

It is a little early to try to pick any specific player, but yes, I most certainly do. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see multiple waiver claims by the Colts as the 53-man rosters get cut down. While I can’t really go with a player I will offer that it may seem odd right now, but watch for the safety and running back position, and maybe to even add an offensive lineman and pass rusher. I would be watching those positions very closely if I were Chris Ballard.


Are the Colts using 2 TE's? Chudzinski is known for his use of 2-TE sets, and featuring them in the offense. The Colts have 5 on the O-line, QB and RB, then 4 players that are generally TE or WR. I can see that using Doyle and Swoope is a threatening combination. Either can line up outside the tackle and put a little bit of muscle on the line (Doyle: 6’6" 262 lb, Swoope: 6’5" 258 lb). And either can slip into a pass route and be difficult to cover.

That base would have TY Hilton and Donte Moncrief as the 2 WR’s. Currently Chester Rogers would be the 3rd WR, and Swoope would be the guy that comes out to make room. So which is a better set? Hilton and Moncrief + Doyle and Swoope, or Hilton, Moncrief, and Rogers + Doyle? What do the Colts seem to prefer?

I personally like a 2-TE offensive base. But it does require 2 good TE’s. Doyle is good. Swoope has been a project for a while … and might finally be ready. I think a 2-TE set depends a lot on his readiness.

Votingmachine, the Colts and Rob Chudzinski do use 2TE sets a fair amount of time, however, his system is known for it because of the package’s success, not because of how regularly he uses it. Much like the rest of the league, 11-personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) – actually by player’s position, not where a specific player lines up – was far and away their most effective group (+5.6 DVOA vs actual offense DVOA) to roll out onto the field.

I don’t expect that to change in 2017, but I do expect Chud to play around with his weapons a little more now that the team has become more comfortable and familiar with it. With both Doyle and Swoope on the field together they can indeed present some interesting matchups primarily against the opponent’s base defenses.

As far as Swoope individually, he looks great physically right now. Stronger, faster, bigger and more comfortable than he’s been on the field yet. He’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this year, and he could even surpass the most gaudy of projections that have been made for him.