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Colts Offensive Line Depth a Major Concern

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With the injuries the team has suffered in training camp and preseason, the Colts enter the regular season with the offensive line depth a major concern.

Bob Levey

Consider this offensive line for just a moment: Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Donald Thomas at left guard, Khaled Holmes at center, Hugh Thornton at right guard, Gosder Cherilus at right tackle, and then Jack Mewhort, Jonotthan Harrison, Xavier Nixon, Joe Reitz, and Lance Louis as depth.  That actually doesn't look like too bad of a line - not great, but it looks more than solid.  And that's the offensive line that the Colts entered training camp with just over a month ago.

Since then, Donald Thomas re-tore his quad and will miss the entire season.  Khaled Holmes went down on the opening drive of the preseason with an ankle sprain and would miss a couple of weeks.  Jack Mewhort missed some practice time and a preseason game with an injury, and we found out that he had a knee issue before camp began, too.  Jonotthan Harrison missed the final preseason game with a thumb injury.  Joe Reitz left the final preseason game with a high ankle sprain.  Xavier Nixon had a knee surgery and would miss about a month or so.  All of that happened in less than one month.

As it stands now, Castonzo and Cherilus are still the above-aveage bookends of the line, but then the rookie Mewhort will be the starting left guard, Thornton will remain at right guard (even though he is injured, I think he's ready to go for a real game), and then hopefully Holmes at center.  Here's the thing - we just don't know the status of Holmes yet, as he still hasn't practiced.  The team is hopeful he'll play week one in Denver, but if not they've got to be hopeful that Harrison can go.  I don't know how serious his thumb injury is, but I do know that you kind of need your thumb to play center.  The team worked Jack Mewhort at center last night to give him some work there.

Oh, and then the depth?  Well, they were playing a converted defensive lineman on the offensive line for much of last night's game (Tyler Hoover), if that tells you anything.  The depth has essentially vanished.  Mewhort has moved into the starting lineup, Reitz and Nixon will both likely miss some regular season time, and that leaves just Lance Louis and Jonotthan Harrison.  And, if Holmes isn't ready to play week one, that'll put Harrison into the starting lineup.

In other words, what I'm trying to say here is this: THE OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH IS A MAJOR CONCERN FOR THE COLTS RIGHT NOW.  It's not good at all.

Let's be clear on this point: the Colts, with all of their flaws, can make the Super Bowl this year.  It might be tough, but with Andrew Luck at quarterback I'm not ruling them out.  But regardless of how good you think this team is, they're going to go as far as Luck takes them.  And that means that, first and foremost, they have to give him a shot to do his thing.  There's nobody in the NFL better at playing behind a bad line than Luck, as he can move around, break tackles, buy time, throw on the run, and make plays with his legs.  Right now, this line should be better than it was last year.  But the Colts can't take it lightly that their hopes rest on Andrew Luck, and if he doesn't have the time to throw then it won't be a good thing at all.

The depth is so thin that one more injury along the line could be crushing.  What happens if Castonzo goes down?  What about Cherilus?  Or one of the interior linemen?  The depth only runs so far, and right now it's hardly there for the Colts.  One of the big problems they're going to encounter as they cut their roster down to 53 is what to do with the depth linemen.  Right now, they have Khaled Holmes, Joe Reitz, and Xavier Nixon there who are all injured, and at least the latter two will likely miss some time.  Do they keep those two on the roster because they're valuable depth when healthy?  And if they do that, can they add enough depth on the 53-man to still have some insurance in case of injury?  These are questions the Colts surely are asking today.  And they're incredibly important.

No, I don't think it's Richie Incognito time, because it was never based on the team's need for line help to me.  But I would be absolutely, completely shocked if they don't bring in a lineman or two (or more) from other team's cuts as depth.

I don't mind a starting offensive line of Anthony Castonzo, Jack Mewhort, Khaled Holmes, Hugh Thornton, and Gosder Cherilus in week one against Denver.  Again, it's not the best line, but it should clearly be better than last year.  But will Holmes play?  And who is going to be the depth behind them in case of an injury?  Those things are major concerns right now, and they're being discussed right now in the Colts offices as they try to figure out the 53-man roster.