Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Tying The Texans, Kicker Update, Nick Cross' Debut And More

The Colts Mailbag returns for Week 2 with questions on how to feel about Week 1's tie, if Nyheim Hines will be more involved in the offense and what we saw from Nick Cross' NFL debut last weekend in Houston.

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The Colts Mailbag is back! readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Forums. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Patrick Plummer, Fort Wayne, Ind.: How am I supposed to feel about a tie? Good because it wasn't a loss? Bad because it wasn't a win? I don't know how to act.

JJ Stankevitz: The sense I got from players after the game was they leaned more toward the "bad because it wasn't a win" side, while being encouraged with all the positives in the game (517 yards of offense, holding Houston to zero points and 75 yards of offense on 31 plays in fourth quarter and overtime).

"We have the talent, so that's great to know," center Ryan Kelly said. "We have the players who can do it, we just have to go do it."

But it's certainly a weird feeling to digest a tie. It's the first one the Colts have had since moving to Indianapolis, and ties are particularly rare: There was one in 2021 (between the Steelers and Lions), one in 2020 (between the Eagles and Bengals) and one in 2019 (between the Lions and Cardinals). In the 39 full seasons between the Colts' last tie (1982) and most recent tie (2022), there were 21 ties in 9,514 games – about one in every 453 games.

So odds are the Colts-Texans tie will be the only one in the entire 2022 season. But last year, because the Steelers tied the Lions, they earned the AFC No. 7 seed at 9-7-1 over the 9-8 Colts.

Joseph Dalloul, Terre Haute, Ind.: I don't think Sunday ended up being what a lot of us expected but I am excited at the opportunity to learn from it. Our offense and defense looked great in the last quarter, how is the team changing their practice and mindset to come out of the gate swinging rather than having to fight back during the last minutes.

JJ Stankevitz: The Colts felt like they fell behind 20-3 in Houston because of self-inflicted mistakes that were uncharacteristic of how they practiced and prepared for Week 1 – a drop in the end zone, some mis-handled center-QB exchanges, having five trips to the red zone and only scoring two touchdowns, etc. So step one is cleaning up those mistakes and executing better inside the 20.

I'm not sure the Colts need to make wholesale changes to anything in practice this week beyond cleaning up those mistakes. But good execution early in the game will be an emphasis this weekend in Jacksonville, since erasing a 17-point deficit and then still having to win is a pretty heavy lift for any team.

"We just can't shoot ourselves in the foot early so we don't have to exert so much energy coming back," tight end Mo Alie-Cox said.

Jordan Kennerknecht, Roanoke, Va.: What did you think about Nick Cross's 1st NFL game?

JJ Stankevitz: It seemed pretty solid to me. He only made one tackle against the run – there weren't a ton of opportunities for him otherwise with the front seven smothering Houston's ground game – but it was an impressive stop.

Late in the third quarter, on first and 10 with the ball at the Texans' 46-yard line, Houston lined up in I-formation with a fullback and handed off to running back Dameon Pierce. Cross identified where the run was going quickly and filled the hole, forcing Hairston to block either him or linebacker Bobby Okereke. Hairston engaged with Okereke; in tight space, he got a bit of his body on Cross, who fought through the contact and wrapped up Pierce for a gain of just one yard.

This is with the caveat that I don't know what Cross is being coached to do, but his coverage looked sound for the most part, too. Cross earned the start at strong safety – one day after his 21st birthday, no less – thanks to a strong, focused training camp in which he consistently made plays in Gus Bradley's defense.

Chance Daugherty, Terre Haute, Ind.: Do you think Nyheim Hines will play a bigger role in the offense this coming week? Seems like he didn't get too many touches.

JJ Stankevitz: Hines played 22 receiving snaps, catching all six of his targets for 50 yards, and had three carries for four yards.

Those 22 receiving snaps were more than Hines had in all but two games in 2021; he had more than 22 receiving snaps in three games in 2022. The point is: Hines was involved from a play count standpoint. And in overtime, quarterback Matt Ryan motioned him out of the backfield into the slot, where he was matched up against linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill. Hines exploited that matchup with a well-executed slant, and Ryan found him over the middle for a gain of 15.

Whether or not Hines is more involved in Week 2 depends on plenty of factors, but the Colts were more than willing to have him out there on quite a few dropbacks in Week 1.

Nick Cuccurullo, Ashland, Pa.: Will Chase McLaughlin be the Colts kicker this weekend?

JJ Stankevitz: We'll see. The plan this week is for the Colts to evaluate McLaughlin and rookie Lucas Havrisik, who were both signed to the practice squad after impressing the team during a workout on Tuesday. The Colts will elevate either McLaughlin or Havrisik to the active roster from the practice squad for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. We'll see if the team has made a decision by the time Frank Reich talks to the media after Friday's practice – if not, keep an eye out Saturday for either McLaughlin or Havrisik to be elevated to the active roster.

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