For several years, the offensive line has been a problem in Indianapolis. That has been no different this season, as the Colts' offensive line has continued to struggle to protect quarterback Andrew Luck or pave the way for the running game. The unit isn't the only reason for the offense's struggles recently, but they're certainly a major part of them.
Due to injuries and coach's decisions all season long, the Colts have not been able to get any sort of continuity going along the line. In fact, on the regular season finale against the Titans on Sunday, the Colts started their tenth different offensive line combination in sixteen games.
At left tackle was, as always, Anthony Castonzo, who has started 56 consecutive games at the spot for the Colts and who played more snaps than any tackle in football this season. Head coach Chuck Pagano described him as "tough as damn nails" on his weekly Monday night radio show, and that's true - Castonzo is the line's iron man.
From there, however, everything has been a mess. On Sunday, A.Q. Shipley made his first start at left guard of the season. At center was Khaled Holmes for the second straight week, making his second career start at center. At right guard was Lance Louis, starting his third straight game at the spot even though Hugh Thornton was back from his injury. And at right tackle for the first time was Jack Mewhort, in place of the injured Gosder Cherilus and in place of the previous week's starter, Xavier Nixon.
Here's a chart of each of the Colts' starting offensive line combinations this season:
|Left Tackle||Left Guard||Center||Right Guard||Right Tackle||Combination|
|DEN||Anthony Castonzo||Jack Mewhort||A.Q. Shipley||Hugh Thornton||Gosder Cherilus||1|
|BAL||"||Lance Louis||Jonotthan Harrison||Thornton||"||3|
|DAL||"||"||Khaled Holmes||"||Xavier Nixon||9|
|TEN||"||A.Q. Shipley||"||"||Jack Mewhort||10|
It has been a continual struggle for the Colts this season to find any semblance of consistency along the line, and that starts with injuries - which we saw on Sunday again. Gosder Cherilus missed his second straight game as the team tries to get him healthy for the playoffs, as he has been dealing with injuries all year that have caused him to struggle. Joe Reitz also missed the game, and he's a valuable depth guy and spot starter. During the game, A.Q. Shipley and Hugh Thornton were injured.
Furthermore, however, Chuck Pagano has been trying to find players who can play well - and that's been just as big of a part of the line's struggles. On Sunday, he benched Xavier Nixon (who struggled mightily at right tackle the week before) in favor of rookie Jack Mewhort, who had started 13 games at left guard. It was a move the Colts likely weren't quick to make, as they wanted to keep the rookie in one spot to help him during this season. But as the Colts try to find players to actually protect Luck, they need to make some changes, and so they started Mewhort at right tackle, moving Shipley to left guard. The team continued to start Khaled Holmes for the second week in a row also after benching Jonotthan Harrison - who they had turned to earlier in the season after benching A.Q. Shipley.
There really aren't many answers at this point as to who will be starting on Sunday for the Colts as they enter the playoffs, but one thing is clear: they have more questions than they have answers along the offensive line right now, and that was just evidenced even more clearly on Sunday as the Colts started their tenth different combination in sixteen games this year.