Mailbag: You steer the ship

Dan in Indianapolis writes: Just as any Colts fan realist should, I'm already looking forward to the next off season with great anticipation. (Not to say I won't watch every game this season). I'm excited about the prospect of all the cap space Indianapolis will have to play with. I know next season should and will be about building the defense, but there is one name out there that I am playing very close attention to right now. As most know, Ray Rice is holding out contractually in Baltimore right now. If all he does is sign his franchise tender... I look for Indy to court him strongly next off season. Thoughts on Ray Rice and other potential big free agent signings the Colts could pursue?

Paul Kuharsky: I think it would be a giant mistake for the Colts to invest big dollars in a veteran running back. The position is less and less important in terms of financial investment. Guys fall off suddenly when the wear and tear catches up to them. Running backs can be found in the draft (or after it: see Arian Foster).

They’re going to have money, and they’re going to have spots at which they need to use it. I imagine corner will be a big one.

As for who they will chase, I’m a lot more excited about the 2012 season than I am about the 2013 offseason. Can’t pretend to know guys who are heading for free agency beyond the major ones in the division: Dwight Freeney, Matt Schaub, Connor Barwin, Duane Brown and Daryl Smith.

Sam the Jaguars defender writes: In your "More or Less" piece you say the Texans' survived their injuries and the Jaguars' defense lacked the depth to do the same. Yet the team finished with the 6th ranked defense in the NFL, the back-up corners (especially Middleton) played very well, and the team was tied for 4th in the NFL in yards/rush allowed despite injuries to Alualu, Knighton, Roth, and Session. I would say they were an excellent defense before the injuries and a bunch of off-the-radar guys played exceptionally well on what was still a very solid unit up until the last 2 or 3 games of the season. I know you have a favorable impression right now, but the secondary has very good, and at this point, proven, depth. I don't understand what "much improved" will be, outside of maybe more sacks; they were a top-10 defense against the rush and pass. Just wanted some clarification, given the fact that the defense played well all year and you seem to imply that they could have been good, but weren't.

Paul Kuharsky: You have all kinds of exceptions in there. The last two or three games counted as part of the whole picture. You can’t just throw them out. You can’t dismiss sacks. Sacks are big plays. The Jaguars didn’t get enough big plays.

Yardage rankings are not important and that’s where they were sixth. It doesn’t matter if you give up yards. It matters if you give up first downs and points.

Jacksonville was roughly the same as Houston in third-down defense.

But the Jaguars ranked 11th in points allowed while the Texans were fourth. Big difference.

Jacksonville had one more takeaway than Houston, but 13 fewer sacks, which is another significant margin.

Yes, the Jaguars were more injured than the Texans. But they weren’t excellent before they were hurt. I’ve been saying I think they can grow into an excellent defense if they stay healthy this year.

Kevin in Brazil, IN writes: Why not give teams an incentive to play starters more in preseason games. If a team wins 3 of 4, how about an extra 4th round pick in the next draft. Win all 4 and it moves to a 3rd rounder. Scheduling would need to have teams playing other teams that are expected to be at the same competitive level. In fact why not have a panel of top sports analysts set the preseason schedule. I hate it when the fan vote/popularity contest gets involved.

Paul Kuharsky: Sorry, but I don’t like the idea at all.

It’s contrived. Preseason games invariably are going to include a ton of young guys. And artificially putting value on gems featuring guys who won’t be on the team come the regular season is a bizarre way to try to change things. Are the Patriots going to play Tom Brady and the people he needs on the field with him in the fourth quarter of a preseason game in order to gain an extra fourth-rounder? Whatever intrigue such a question would create is way too artificial for me.

I’d have no interest in setting the schedule, and don’t understand how “better” matchups would make meaningless games any better.

Robbie Womble writes ‏via Twitter: Who wins that WR spot for the Texans and what type of production is needed given the current weapons? I am pulling for LeStar (Jean).

Paul Kuharsky: Kevin Walter is still going to get a good share of the work as the No. 2, I expect. At this point, the guy who seems to have the best chance of being third and getting time in the slot is Keshawn Martin, but the Texans will be sorting through roles for Martin, Jean and DeVier Posey in camp.

David Farris writes via Twitter: Has Kendall Wright moved ahead of Damian Williams on depth chart? Is it possible Wright plays more slot and Williams stays on outside?

Paul Kuharsky: There isn’t really a depth chart at this point. But yes, Wright looks to be third in line after Kenny Britt and Nate Washington. Washington played a lot in the slot last year as the Titans got banged up. Wright, ideally, will have that role now. Williams looks to be fourth. But they’ll certainly get snaps for their top four or five in most games.