Pro Football Focus has done a god job this off-season writing articles about players who make a living in "the trenches" along the offensive and defensive lines. Whether it's an article on Dwight Freeney's greatness or the devastating effect of Robert Mathis' outside pass rush, PFF has it covered.
Recently, they posted an article that flew under my radar. This article ranked the offensive lines for all 32 NFL teams. The Colts were ranked right smack dab in the middle at #16.
After the jump, see why the Colts were ranked where they were, especially in comparison to other teams.
No. 16 -- Indianapolis Colts (Run No. 23, Pass No. 17, Penalties No. 3)
The fact that this was our top-ranked team in terms of overall pass protection just goes to show how much a part the QB and running back play in limiting negative plays. The bottom line is the group was a fairly mediocre bunch made to look much better than it was by its other-worldly field general.
Best Player: Three years ago Jeff Saturday was the best center around, but he's regressed and others have come through. That said, he was still good enough to stand at the head of this unit.
Biggest Concern: Last year the clear weakness of the line was LT Charlie Johnson. It's almost as if the Colts are saying "better the evil we know," as they made no moves at all to upgrade in the off season so far.
PFF has made no bones about how they think Charlie Johnson seems to flat out stink. They have their own, subjective measurements of what plays count as "good" and "bad." So, knowing that, it's important not to take PFF's word as "Gospel." However, their attention to detail and their desire to be meticulous cannot be ignored.
The Colts made a very deliberate decision this off-season not to draft or sign a high-caliber talent at left tackle. They passed on USC left tackle Charles Brown twice in the draft, opting instead for reserve pass rusher Jerry Hughes in Round One and back-up linebacker Pat Angerer in Round Two. Brown was eventually drafted by the Saints with their pick immediately after the Colts took Angerer. Then (a few months later), the Saints traded one-time starting left tackle Jammal Brown to the Redskins. One of the reasons the Saints traded Jammal Brown is they (supposedly) feel very good about rookie Charles Brown and last year's starter for much of the season, Jermon Bushrod.
Entering training camp for 2010, the Colts seem to feel very confident in Charlie Johnson, who scored a -22.1 as a left tackle using PFF's system last season.
One indication that the Colts line is impeccably well-coached is the penalties. Ranking #3 is outstanding, and that is all Howard Mudd. With Mudd now retired, it will be interesting to see if new coach Pete Metzelaars keeps that penalty number low. The Raiders o-line is ranked dead last by PFF, and they are (predictably) ranked 30th in penalties.