There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Indianapolis Colts' offensive line heading into the 2015 season, particularly after several years of below-average play from the unit. The hope is always that the unit will be improved, but the questions are still swirling about whether the unit will actually be improved from 2014.
If you ask head coach Chuck Pagano, he'll tell you that he really likes the unit. In fact, he said on Wednesday that, "I feel great" about it. "Again, we're going to have to stay healthy," he continued. "If we stay healthy, there's going to be great competition. We've got a bunch of guys out there battling right now and playing better football and more comfortable in the offense than they've ever been. So it's going to be some great competition once we get up to Anderson. But I feel really good about it. Again, like all positions, if we stay healthy, I feel like we're going to be able to get the right five in there and then have six, seven and eight that are going to be really, really good. If they have to play, there's not going to be much drop off."
Of course, we have to take this with a grain of salt because you wouldn't expect the head coach to say anything otherwise, but apparently Pagano likes where his offensive line is headed this season. Health, of course, is the big question mark, particularly when it comes to the right tackle position. The health of Gosder Cherilus is very much up in the air and the Colts are in a wait and see approach. If he could come back and play like he did in 2013, that would be a huge boost, but if not it's likely that either Jack Mewhort or Joe Reitz would take over at right tackle. At right guard it seems like Todd Herremans, the veteran signed this offseason, will be the starter. At center there is a competition going on, as Khaled Holmes and Jonotthan Harrison are competing for the spot. Pagano likes both of them and it will be interesting to see what happens with that competition as we get into training camp, but regardless of who wins the battle, Pagano should try to maintain continuity up front once that decision has been made. At left guard, then, is Jack Mewhort, though if the team were to move him to right tackle it would likely either be Lance Louis or Hugh Thornton starting at the spot. Finally, at left tackle is Anthony Castonzo, the team's best offensive lineman by far and an incredibly consistent player. The Colts also have solid depth along the line. Guys like Joe Reitz, Lance Louis, Hugh Thornton, Ben Heenan, Ulrick John, Denzelle Good, Donald Thomas, and whoever doesn't win the center competition will be competing for backup spots, giving the Colts depth.
To be fair, the offensive line does look better. Todd Herremans is an upgrade at right guard, while the right tackle position is likely to be upgraded too - whether that's by a healthy Gosder Cherilus, by Jack Mewhort, or by Joe Reitz, it is likely to be an upgrade over the injured Cherilus a season ago. And then at center, the hope is that both Holmes and Harrison will be improved after both seeing playing time last year, and then sticking with one of them and letting him develop would likely help too.
So it's understandable and perfectly fair to say that the Colts' offensive line is expected to be better in 2015 than it was in 2014. But to feel great about it? I wouldn't go that far.