This week you all came through with some great questions for me to get to. Contrary to national opinion, I think there’s a lot to be excited about with this Indianapolis Colts roster heading into the season. If the team can stay healthy, and some who are lacking in their ability to impress can catch up, the team may turn out surprising even those who aren’t on board yet.
I understand the need to stay grounded after a week’s worth of practices, and every player can’t be a world beater right now — and they aren’t — but the Colts are progressing in the right direction regardless of how even keeled you want to be about their prospects for the season.
There will be an additional mid-week mailbag this week as well, so get your questions in either at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the fanpost here. Let’s go.
How much difference are 4th downs going to be without Pat McAffee? I realize most will point out that he’s “just a punter” – but I feel like he was an integral part of our team more than we'll know. We never worried much about punts or kickoffs and even had the fakes to look foward to when the opportunity arises. Have you seen anything "off" in camp for the 4th down guys? Are we screwed or will there be not a noticeable difference, if only slightly down grade? I'm not worried - but should we be?
Josh, I am completely on board with the assumption that we’ll have some sort of a downgrade in punting efficiency, though I don’t know if we’ll truly notice it. Locke has been a good punter throughout his career to the best of my knowledge. He was fifth in the league in punts inside the 20 yard line, fifth in punts fair caught and was ninth in return yardage amongst punters with at least 50 attempts last year.
Yes, Pat was a joy that most teams don’t get to experience and we also have other new aspects of the fourth down army, but so long as the longsnapper is accurate and Locke can get the ball off, I don’t think that this aspect of the punting situation will be an issue. On the other hand, Locke has also had only two punt attempts blocked in his career, and that is another situation entirely.
Additionally, we need our special teams group to be better than they’ve been in the recent past. I think that this is one of the aspects people tend to forget about when realizing how much perceived depth the team has this year. Better options for backups should help with tackling on punts and kickoffs. Keep your fingers crossed for that, and the rest should take care of itself.
Based on practice, how good has Johnathan Hankins been on the D-line? From what I'm hearing, he's been pretty good. Also, do you have your eye on any college prospects this year? I'm watching Royce Freeman from Oregon this year.
Luke, Hankins has been an absolute beast. Nobody can handle him through his secondary pass rush move, and if they’re lucky to once, a second time would be almost a miracle at this point. His run defense has been equally as impressive, he’s just so difficult for anyone to move him and he’s always got his eyes in the backfield waiting to shed the blocker and assist in the tackle.
He’s going to help our front seven so much that the complementary pieces around him are going to look even better because of his abilities.
Honestly, as much as I love the draft, and watching prospects, there’s no way I could get myself to do it this early. Towards the end of the season when some of the holes on the roster begin to become more evident I’ll be doing it pretty regularly and will have more to offer on who I’m watching.
Do you have an idea how many wide receivers we will carry in the upcoming season. I am interested in the development of JoJo natson and Bug Howard, as they both have specific skill sets that would be advantageous? I also wondered, if Kamar Aiken is not in the top four rotation, would it be worth cutting him and developing another player that is younger and cheaper?
Huntingdon81, this is one of the more compelling issues of the roster that I’m following really closely right now. Typically the Colts carry 6 receivers and I’d guess that they would this year if it weren’t for the possibility of needing those roster spots elsewhere. They still may, but I think it’s equally possible that they settle for 5 if they can find a backup position player who can excel in the return game as opposed to one near the bottom of the roster.
Speaking of Natson, he’s extremely fast, but he has so many limitations as a receiver that I don’t see it likely for him to be in contention for the roster. He’d have to blow people away in the preseason as a returner to have a chance in my opinion.
Howard is very interesting, but nothing that he’s done to this point has really stood out for me. He’s not been someone anyone is pointing out major flaws about either, but in order to make the roster as a UDFA is a tall task without looking special and I haven’t seen ‘special’ from any of the UDFAs.
Aiken is one of those I’ll be paying special attention to in the preseason. He also needs to impress as far as I’m concerned. He hasn’t thus far – but apparently had a practice Saturday – and his lack of speed and ability to create separation through the first few days of camp were disheartening for me.
I really liked the possibility of him offering some mid-field possession catches and an added red zone threat when he signed. Since, I’m just not so sure how much of that he’ll be able to provide. He could be on the bubble, and I’m looking to see who else could step up if he fails to improve through the preseason.
Zachary J. Vertefeuille (@SCColts)
(A) Matt, though it may be hard to tell until we see some games…with the new culture of competition and aggressiveness brought in this year which we’ve seen through the players, have you seen a new energy and style of coaching from Pagano, Chud or Monachino this offseason?
I can say that the coaching has seemed to be… easier this year as opposed to last season. With that I mean that the players appear to be catching on quicker and there hasn’t been as much vigor needed from the coaching staff. Everyone looks more comfortable and it seems that the position coach retention has paid off.
Last year there was a lot of yelling, not in the angry sense just the need to get the player’s attention in the process of coaching. The coaches and players alike appear to be working well together and I think the energy the coaches need to possess is that of an expanded playbook. Just my two cents.
(B) I was very surprised and excited to hear about Antonio Morrison’s development as a linebacker. So we have a better understanding, could you tell us some more and perhaps give an NFL comparison or draft value comparison on the level he could be playing at this season? Do you see Morrison and Anthony Walker as the future of our inside linebacker corps?
I have been very impressed with Morrison so far, and Walker has looked pretty good as well for a rookie thus far. I wasn’t high on either of them coming into the season so that should allow you to understand my joy in their respective development/initial understanding of scheme to this point.
Understanding that the mental part of the NFL game is more than half of the process, Morrison has grown by leaps and bounds and his read-and-react abilities have looked considerably more smooth and natural. I don’t really have any comparisons at this point until I can see him transition his improvements to the field in a real game situation, but I will offer that he looks better than fourth-round value.
If he were a rookie, we wouldn’t just be saying he looks really good this year, we’d be talking about him being the future of the position for the team. I still don’t feel comfortable offering much on Walker just because he hasn’t worked with the first squad all that much at all, but I do think he’s doing better than I expected him to.
(C) My amount of research is whatever google can offer… being more of an insider, have you heard anything more about Zachary Orr? In your opinion what’s the likelihood he plays football again? And, if relevant, the likelihood it’s the Colts he plays for?
I don’t mean to be short with this question, but with all of the questions surrounding Orr, there’s too much to lose with a contract he’d probably require right now. Many teams have looked at, talked to him and none have taken the bait. Does he not love the game, or is he too likely to be lost for his career with one more injury. Teams don’t want any part of either of those possibilities.
If he comes back it’ll likely be after some injuries pile up throughout the league, and even then he’ll have to pass a rigorous physical for teams to give him what he’d want.
(D) I was wondering if you were in contact with other writers and journalists from other teams. Are you able to offer any insight on how other teams across the league, their picks, prospects, and players are shaping up for the season? Specifically division rivals. It was something Josh once talked about doing as a weekly article, looking at the interesting developments amongst our division rivals and other teams. Thanks, love your articles, keep working hard!
I do speak to others who cover other teams and we will be pushing some of those type articles out once the season gets under way. As far as right now, I like the idea of getting some insight on how others who cover these teams – like you said, primarily division teams – to gauge their roster’s development through camp/preseason. I appreciate the idea, and will certainly look into something in the coming weeks. Thank you, Zachary, I will!
In Marlon Mack’s college film he often would bounce to the outside quite often, but I thought that it was more so due to the scheme that he played in. During camp has Mack still shown these tendencies? Or has he shown the ability to stay on the inside?
This was one of the things I noticed most about him as well Xavier. It’s also one of the main reasons I’m so impressed with him already. Mack has no qualms about getting inside with the big uglies. He hits holes hard and fast, and will fight through the scrum to try to break tackles.
He also will still break it outside if he needs to, but either way, he’s making his cuts in response to what the line is doing to create space for him and where the defense is getting pushed.
Mack doesn’t appear to be a guy who shies away from contact, and he’s got the speed to break any play long whether it comes between the tackles or on the perimeter. He won’t be a game breaker immediately, however, he could still provide some big plays this year which the team will absolutely need.
His future, though, is very bright if what I’ve seen from him thus far. We should all be excited for what his ceiling could provide the roster in the coming years.