Liam S. (New York City): “It seems that the team (management) is taking the Dolphins lightly in keeping Jacoby and Desir out. We can’t afford to overlook ANY team. I hope I’m mistaken and here’s to 6 – 3!”
Walker: That couldn’t be further from the truth, Liam. Just take a step back and look at both players’ situations. Jacoby Brissett suffered a sprained MCL a mere seven days ago, and while the team was relieved an MRI showed no major damage, he was a limited participant in practice all three days this week. There were several factors that went into the decision to ultimately hold Brissett out of today’s Dolphins game, and I can guarantee the opponent was not one of them. Then there’s Pierre Desir, who has been battling a nagging hamstring injury for more than a month, and could very likely miss his third straight game. Frank Reich had specifically said he wanted to see how Desir would handle two full days of practice before he returns to game action, and this past week Desir was limited on Wednesday, but was a non-participant on Thursday and Friday. Again, today’s opponent had no bearing on Desir being downgraded to doubtful. I totally get how one could look at the Colts’ schedule up to this point and come to the conclusion that the team has played up and down to its competition, but the narrative that the Colts would ever overlook any opponent is preposterous. This team needs a win today to get back into a tie atop the AFC South Division standings with three straight divisional games staring it in the face starting next week; not only that, but looking down the road, one of the first tiebreakers to determine playoff eligibility/seeding is “best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.” So simply put: the Colts aren’t messing around. They want to do everything they can to win this game, regardless of the opponent.
Armando N. (México): “Con el retiro de Andreu Loock y teniendo al Qb Jacoby al mando de la ofensiva qué posibilidades hay de llegar a postemporada”
Walker: So, thanks to my three years of Spanish classes in high school, I know this basically translates to: “With the retirement of Andrew Luck and having Jacoby Brissett in charge of the offense, what are the chances of reaching the postseason?” According to the New York Times, the Colts currently have a 58 percent chance of earning a playoff berth this season, and a 37 percent chance of winning their division. Then, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, since 1920, 327 teams have started the year 5-3; 174 of them (53.2 percent) have made the playoffs. The average finish of those teams is 9-6.
Rich I. (Martinez, Calif.): “Chris Ballard has done a really nice job acquiring talent through the draft by hitting on a high percentage of early picks. It’s probably fair to say that the jury is still out on two of his picks: Q. Wilson and T. Lewis. What do you think the chances are that either of these guys become contributors at some point for the Colts?”
Walker: Rich, I think it’s very fair to say the jury is still out on Quincy Wilson and Tyquan Lewis, both second-round picks who have been missing time lately for varying reasons. In Wilson’s case, the team has simply decided to give rookie Marvell Tell III an opportunity to show where he is at in his transition from safety to cornerback, and the results — particularly last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers — are promising. All indications from head coach Frank Reich and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus are Wilson has continued to practice well, and that he’ll continue to be counted on to step in and play a number of spots on the secondary here down the stretch. Lewis, meanwhile, has been working his way back from an ankle injury suffered Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons. This is actually the first week Lewis hasn’t appeared on the injury report since that game, so we’ll see if he’s active today against the Dolphins.
Pat C. (Greenfield, Ind.): “What time will this Sunday’s game start ? My tickets show 4:05”
Walker: Your tickets are correct; the Colts and Dolphins will kick off from Lucas Oil Stadium today at 4:05 p.m. ET.
Shawn T. (Terre Haute, Ind.): “Halfway through the season who (or what) do you think is the teams greatest strength and also who (or what) is the teams greatest room for improvement? As always thanks for being awesome and can’t wait to read your response!”
Walker: I think the strength of this Colts team is still up front, on both sides of the ball. The last couple games have certainly been challenging for the Indy offensive line — the team’s two quarterbacks have been sacked a combined nine times the last two weeks — but the run game has still been there, as the team has averaged more than 4.4 yards per carry against the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Colts are still 10th in the league in sack percentage (5.73 percent), so I have confidence they’ll get back on track in this area, and one can imagine Frank Reich will continue sticking with the run. Defensively, Justin Houston and Jabaal Sheard have been awesome to watch off the edge since Sheard got back into the mix Week 4. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Houston has five of his six sacks this season since Sheard’s return (and Houston has at least one sack in four straight games heading into today’s matchup against the Dolphins). The improvement over the second half of the season, to me, needs to come from the kicking game. Indy’s field goal percentage (71 percent) ranks tied for 25th in the league, and the team has missed five extra-point attempts; its 73.7-percent rate on those tries ranks last in the NFL. Whether it’s the protection, snap, hold or the kick itself, the entire operation has some work to do to get those averages up (and put those points back on the scoreboard).
Danny M. (Huntington, W. Va.): “Who will be the backup QB if Hoyer is injured and Brissett is not completely ready to come back? Will Kelly be available to step in?”
Walker: You’re right, Danny: Chad Kelly will serve as Brian Hoyer’s backup quarterback today against the Dolphins. The team on Saturday officially elevated Kelly to the active roster from the practice squad for this very reason. I did dig up this nugget, too: Kelly’s signing represents the first time the Colts have had more than two quarterbacks on their active roster since Week 17 of the 2015 season. At that time Josh Freeman got the start in Indy’s 30-24 season-ending victory over the Tennessee Titans; he was backed up that day by Ryan Lindley, while Matt Hasselbeck, Andrew Luck and Stephen Morris were all inactive.
Manny G. (Salt Lake City): “What formula determines that we play the Steelers and Dolphins on our schedule? They are not from the A.F.C. West nor the N.F.C. South. Thanks. Manny”
Walker: The Colts, Steelers, Chargers and Dolphins all finished in second place in their respective AFC divisions in 2018, so they all play each other this year.
F W. (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.): “I’m a hugh fan of Colts Mailbag, and have been a Colts fan since the Dickerson days. With all the Pass interference issues, why don’t they have the officials upstairs look at the call without knowing the call on the field? This would be a true review of the play, not just a review of the call on the field.”
Walker: Thanks for writing in, F — and this is an interesting scenario I’ve never really thought of, to be honest. I think there could be value in those reviewing the penalties not knowing the call on the field and simply just evaluating whether a foul did or did not occur. I don’t think this will ever happen, though, because I can see this potentially being viewed as undermining the officials who are making the call in real time on the field — and they get it right a lot much more often than not.
Joshua S. (Fountain City, Ind.): “Marvel Tell III has been playing more as of late and has been playing well. Has Ballard found another diamond in the rough with him or is it too early to Tell? Pun intended.”
Walker: After just two games of increased snaps, it’s probably too early to make any determinations — good or bad — about rookie Marvell Tell III’s play at cornerback. But one can certainly be encouraged, and I think that’s definitely the case here. General manager Chris Ballard made this assessment earlier this week when talking to Colts.com’s Matt Taylor: “Been really pleased with Marvell Tell here over the last two weeks. He had an unfortunate P.I. (pass interference) penalty in the Pittsburgh game, but saying that, he’s competed, had a big forced fumble, he’s been good in coverage and, you know, he’s really making strides. And that’s hard; when you’ve been inactive for a few weeks, you’ve gotta stay engaged and keep working, and when your time comes and when your opportunity comes you’ve gotta be ready. And he was ready to perform.” Tell III was one of the true athletic freaks in the 2019 NFL Draft class, and matched with his competitiveness, it’s no surprise he’s caught on to the switch to cornerback so quickly, so we’ll see if he can continue on this upward trajectory.
Michael R. (Indianapolis): “What are we goung to do at receiver? TY could be out as much as 3 mire weeks, Campbell seems to be an unknown time table for return, Funchess is at a minimum of 1 wedk away. Maybe Ebron us right to ask for more involvement.”
Walker: The Colts on Saturday made the decision to elevate wide receiver Marcus Johnson to the active roster from the practice squad, and waive wide receiver Deon Cain. So the team will have four wide receivers available today against the Dolphins: Zach Pascal, Chester Rogers, Ashton Dulin and Johnson. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if today’s game produced more pass-catching opportunities for both running back Nyheim Hines and tight end Eric Ebron, who can line up all around the formation and make plays, but perhaps haven’t been targeted as much through the first half of this season as they were in 2018. I think Brian Hoyer proved last week against the Steelers that he isn’t afraid to push the ball down the field, so T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell being out of the lineup doesn’t necessarily mean the other receivers can’t step up in their absence (although I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a heavy run approach today against the Dolphins’ defense, which allows 4.7 yards per carry on the ground, ranking 27th in the NFL).
Patrick C. (New York City): “With ty and funchess out, and a question as to when our QB will be back, why doesn’t Chris Ballard go out and get Antonio brown. I don’t know all the details as to his situation, but if his legal situation is resolved I don’t see the problem of trying him out. I am all in on our culture and love it, but wouldn’t it be worth a shot to see if ab would buy in? Imagine our offense with him and ty, it would be unstoppable and his acquisition would help mitigate risk while we have all these injuries. I would implore Ballard to look into it, but obviously if his legal situation is a mess I wouldn’t want any part of that, but if the only thing holding us back is his historical diva personality, I say it’s worth a shot, what do you think?”
Walker: I think you answered your own question, Patrick.
Steven S. (Seminole, Fla.): “Colts should be 7-1, but the kicking game has consistently proved unreliable. Also, there have been disciplinary lapses resulting in costly penalties. It appears that the Colts need to mature more before they can compete with the best teams in the league in playoff football. What should we expect from the management and coaches so that the Colts can improve to point where the confidence of fans can be restored?”
Walker: The Colts entered Week 10 ranked fourth in the NFL in fewest penalties committed (50) and seventh in fewest yards penalized (436). Don’t let one poor performance in this area — and the Colts did have several crucial penalties against the Steelers, leading to prime scoring opportunities for the opposition — cloud what has been overall a pretty disciplined effort from this team through eight games.
David H. (Fort Wayne, Ind.): “First time question here lifetime Colts fan love your answers read them often. My question is do you think Paris Cambell is a bust? Or do you think he could have a better year next year? I myself had high hopes for him coming into this year but he hasn’t been what I expected. I mean we are short at that position with not a lot of talent I figured he would stand out more then he has.”
Walker: Parris Campbell has played in six NFL games — you’re already breaking out the “b-word?” The dude’s had some tough luck with three different injuries over the last few months, and when he has been on the field, the staff has been working on trying to carve out the best role it can for him considering all the practice time he has missed, dating back to training camp. It’s OK to be frustrated, but let’s give this kid a legit chance before throwing around those types of labels on guys.
Gary J. (Temple, Texas): “Greetings from Texas, Andrew! We as fans appreciate the heck out of this mailbag. Gives us something to look forward to and it’s very inquisitive. My question is simple, do you think Big Q should be considered in the MVP talk this year? I wish there was more buzz going on about it because that behemoth of a human is wrecking D-lines like its nothing. (while being nice about it!) Keep up the good work my man! ”
Walker: Thanks so much for reading, Gary! And I like your outside-the-box thinking about Quenton Nelson as a Most Valuable Player candidate. It’s something I’ve actually looked into myself, and it’s fair to say the odds are against it: I believe the last NFL offensive lineman to receive an MVP vote was the Miami Dolphins’ Larry Little back in 1972. Anything can happen — heck, Mark Moseley won the league MVP award as a kicker with the Washington Redskins in 1982 — but, for now, it doesn’t seem promising that the voters would even consider an offensive lineman for the award, even one as dominant as Nelson.
Carter L. (Lubbock, Texas): “I appreciate the insight this column gives to us (the fans), especially since I live in the south with few other Colts fans to talk with! My question is on the WR group with the injury to my boi TY. With TY’s injury keeping him out ~3 weeks, will we possibly see Devin Funchess activated early, since he is eligible to return soon?”
Walker: Thanks, Carter! Much appreciated. The earliest Devin Funchess can return to game action would be next Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars; before that can happen, though, the team needs to first make the decision to designate the wide receiver as one of its two return-from-injured reserve candidates, setting in motion a 21-day window for the Colts to bring him back to the active roster or revert him to IR for the rest of the season (you can make that decision at any point during that three-week period). Funchess actually was eligible to return to practice three weeks ago, but has remained on IR as he fully works his way back from his clavicle injury/surgery. So we’ll see if Frank Reich is comfortable with Funchess potentially only having three days of practice before he makes his return to game action next week, or if they want to wait it out a little bit more.