When the Indianapolis Colts drafted Hugh Thornton in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, they hoped that he would be a long-term answer at guard, and while he played much of the past two seasons there, he enters the 2015 season competing for a starting spot.
Thornton was originally slated for a backup role in 2013, as the Colts wanted to take it slow and help him develop. But when Donald Thomas went down with a season-ending quad injury in week two, Thornton was thrust into the starting lineup at left guard. He played in 14 games and started 12, and while he wasn't great and did struggle at times, he at least showed promise entering 2014. Last year, however, was even more of a struggle for Thornton. He entered the season as the team's starting right guard (after another injury to Thomas, this time in training camp) and started the first three games of the year. From there, however, Thornton struggled to stay healthy. Ultimately, he played in ten games and started eight as he was in and out of the lineup due to injury. Late in the season (into the playoffs), the Colts stuck with Lance Louis at right guard despite the fact that Thornton was healthy enough to return. It wasn't a very good season at all for Thornton in his second year as he failed to improve like many thought he would.
Entering this year, Thornton is no longer a projected starter but rather a backup. Of course, that could change, particularly as there are questions about the health of Gosder Cherilus. If Cherilus, the team's starting right tackle, can't go, it's likely that the team would move Jack Mewhort to right tackle, as he has been working there this offseason. If Mewhort moves to right tackle, that would obviously leave a spot open at left guard, and during offseason work, Thornton and Lance Louis were getting reps at the left guard spot since Mewhort was working at right tackle. I would think that Thornton would have a bit of an edge there since he has been a starter the past two seasons, but it remains to be seen and will be a competition. So to sum it up, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Gosder Cherilus, and that leads to uncertainty about the Colts' starting offensive line. But there is certainly a scenario in which Hugh Thornton ends up starting once again this year, though based on his play last year, it's no guarantee. If we listed the projected starters right now, he would be a backup, but the health of Cherilus is the wild card that could change things.