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Colts Mailbag: Kicking Competition, Impact Of Drew Ogletree's Injury, Plan For Starters In Final Preseason Game

The Colts Mailbag returns with questions on the kicking battle, O-line depth, Gus Bradley's attacking defense and more. 

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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:

Richard Wilcox, Winamac, Ind.: What's up with Hot Rod?

JJ Stankevitz: Blankenship didn't play in the Colts' second preseason game Saturday against the Detroit Lions, which was by design. Head coach Frank Reich told Colts Media's Larra Overton before the game the plan was for Jake Verity to take all the kicks in the game after he attempted just one PAT (which he missed) in Week 1 against the Bills.

Verity made field goals of 26 and 40 yards, as well as both his PAT attempts, on Saturday against the Lions at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Colts will have another round of roster cuts on Tuesday (four players need to be waived or released) before assembling their initial 53-man roster by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Aug. 30. We'll learn what the team's decision on the kicking competition is some time in the next eight days.

Jon Shreves, Seattle, Wash.: I was able to fly out (to visit family) and attend Back Together Saturday and was so impressed with the whole set up! My thanks to all the Colts staff who made such a wonderful experience possible!

How do you think a trenches focused roster architect like Chris Ballard will respond to the loses of Mark Glowinski and Eric Fisher when roster cut day rolls around, given that he has clearly put an emphasis on stability given moves made in the draft and free agency especially at the tackle position?

JJ Stankevitz: Reich said on Sunday the plan is for Matt Pryor to be the Colts' Week 1 starting left tackle. Pryor played 10 snaps in Saturday's preseason game and has worked with the Colts' first-team offensive line throughout training camp.

"Matt's done a good job and I think he's given us a lot of confidence in him going into this week and into the season," Reich said. "I think that's our mindset right now. Obviously, we've got to get through this last game healthy and since the first guys are going to play a good bit in this game, I think we'll put the final stamp on things after we get through this game.

"I feel like Matt has deserved and earned the spot that he's in right now as the No. 1 left tackle. He's done a good job. I thought it was great for him to get a little bit of extra work this week and given that he was newer to the lineup than everybody else. I like the progress that he's making, and I feel good about the opportunity for him going forward."

Danny Pinter is in line to be the Colts' starting right guard, replacing Mark Glowinski, who signed with the New York Giants in free agency.

The Colts played their 2022 preseason home opener against the Detroit Lions.

Dylan Durnal, Lebanon, Ind.: Will Matt Ryan and the starters get some playing time against the Bucs?

JJ Stankevitz: Yep. The Colts will play their starters for the first half of Saturday's preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lucas Oil Stadium.

And for those wondering: It sounds like a decision on whether or not the Bucs will have Tom Brady play will be made later this week.

Christopher Burton, Greenwood, Ind.: Now that we've lost Andrew Ogletree, what player(s) have the opportunity of making the 53 man roster now that we won't have 4 tight ends? I am a STM and was at the game and thought Rodney Thomas played pretty well.

JJ Stankevitz: First of all: It's not a guarantee the Colts won't carry four tight ends on their 53-man roster. They're still evaluating guys like Michael Jacobson and Nikola Kalinic, and could also add a player to that group on waivers or via a trade during final roster cuts next Tuesday and Wednesday (the Colts last year, for example, acquired Pryor in a late-round pick swap with the Philadelphia Eagles; five years ago, they claimed an undrafted free agent cornerback named Kenny Moore II after he was waived by the New England Patriots).

It is a good question, though, because Ogletree had not only played his way on to the 53-man roster, but he played his way into a role with the Colts' offense prior to his season-ending ACL injury. What Ogletree's injury might do, too, is open up a roster spot elsewhere for someone to make the team as a special teams contributor – again, if the Colts don't keep a fourth tight end or add one next week.

One other note here: Reich on Sunday explained how Ogletree's injury may affect third-round tight end Jelani Woods.

"I really don't see his role changing much," Reich said. He and Drew are kind of different cats as far as what they would contribute. Not like, completely different but slightly different players. It might mean that – I would say it would mean this, that Jelani will probably get even more playing time.

"Obviously, Drew was looking like he was going to contribute significantly to our offense in certain ways. Now with him having this injury, it's just going to slightly alter certain things. I think one of those things that will be slightly changed is, it probably means an increase in playtime for Jelani, which I think he's ready for."

Also, good observation: Thomas, the 2022 seventh-round pick, looked athletic and moved well over 41 snaps on Saturday.

Brian Jenkins, Fort Wayne, Ind.: We all know imperative it is for the Colts to get off to a fast start this year. What differences have you seen or expect to see this training camp to prepare them to win those early games?

JJ Stankevitz: I wanted to revisit this question with training camp wrapping up this week (the Colts' final three practices at Grand Park are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). Because it is imperative for the Colts to have a fast start with five of their first seven games against AFC South opponents – including both meetings with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

The Colts have started the vast majority of their training camp practices at noon, with the goal to get players used to being at peak performance levels as close to 1 p.m. as possible (six of the Colts' first seven games kick off at 1 p.m., including all five against the AFC South). But it also gives players more time to rest, with an emphasis on allowing for guys to get quality sleep. And the Colts have built a number of walkthrough days into the schedule, too – like on Monday, instead of returning right back to practice after a game Saturday, the Colts have more of a ramp-up day ahead of Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday's practices.

"I think the schedule has been good," Reich said. "Some of it is we're letting them out earlier, getting them a little bit more time at the end of the night and a little bit more sleep time in the morning. ... Then the other thing that we changed was after a day off, this ramp-up day has been a walk-thru and not a short practice, and I think that's been a good adjustment. I think that's been a really good adjustment."

John Bennett, Boynton Beach, Fla.: Mr. Stankevitz, Colt fan since 1964 in Palm Beach, Fla., so any info on the 'Shoe is a blessing-appreciate your reporting. My question is with the emphasis on aggressive penetration for the D-Line, how has coach Bradley's previous defenses handled screens and draws?

JJ Stankevitz: Great question, John, given like you said the Colts' emphasis on attacking the quarterback with their defensive line. Let's look at the Raiders last year – Gus Bradley was their defensive coordinator – to answer this question.

The Raiders' defense saw 26 halfback screens (T-11th most in the NFL) and defended them extremely well. Las Vegas held opposing offenses to 4.9 yards per play on screens, tied for the third-lowest in the NFL. 

The Raiders' defense saw 10 draws last year – so not a small sample size – and allowed 5.8 yards per rush, below the league average on draws of 6.6. 

The most important thing here, then, isn't necessarily having four defensive lineman penetrate toward the quarterback on every play – it's that the back seven of Bradley's were sound in their assignments when opposing teams ran these plays.

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