If you were to ask someone what the Colts' biggest need is heading into the offseason, there's probably a good chance they would say the offensive line.
To be honest, a large part of that is likely due to the struggles in recent years. The Colts haven't had a good offensive line for several seasons, and with some of the issues continuing in 2015, it seems like a logical choice. Furthermore, the fact that quarterback Andrew Luck was injured and missed nine games gives yet another reminder that the team needs to protect their franchise quarterback.
Though all of that - the line's struggles and the need to protect Luck - is absolutely true, the Colts' offensive line actually had some positive signs in 2015 that could help them build the unit moving forward. For a stretch mid-season, the line was plenty good enough. Early in the season, the unit struggled a lot, but after week two the Colts made massive mid-season changes and switched three of the five starting spots. Moving forward from that, the line did a solid job, but changes to the unit later in the year due to injury led to the line getting worse once again.
The left side of the offensive line looks set for the Colts, as they have Anthony Castonzo at left tackle and Jack Mewhort at left guard. Castonzo was signed to a long-term extension last offseason and, though he had a down year in 2015, he's still a good left tackle who the Colts can build the line around. He dealt with an injury and missed his first game (three of them) since his rookie year in 2011 and then when on the field wasn't as good as he was in 2014. As for Mewhort, he was the star of the Colts' line in 2015 without a doubt. He started off the season at right tackle, where the Colts had worked him all offseason, but after the first two weeks they moved him back to left guard, where he should stay. That's not to say he was bad at right tackle, but he's better at left guard and the Colts' options at tackle were better than their options at guard. Once Mewhort moved back inside, he did a phenomenal job.
Speaking of the right tackle position, after moving Mewhort to left guard after week two, Joe Reitz took over the position. Reitz isn't the best lineman, but he has consistently proven to be a reliable player when he's inserted into the lineup. In other words, he was more than good enough to play at the spot. He played three games at left tackle in place of Castonzo and it didn't go too well, but at right tackle he did everything that could have been expected of him and more. For the three games that Reitz was at left guard, however, seventh round rookie Denzelle Good stepped in. Good also entered the lineup at right tackle for the final week of the season, when Reitz was moved to right guard and started there. Good had his rough spots, but for a seventh round pick he showed plenty of potential. Owner Jim Irsay noticed, as it is clear that Irsay has high hopes for Good.
At right guard, Hugh Thornton took over for Todd Herremans after the first two weeks. Herremans turned out to be a disastrous free agent signing, as he was the one significant move the Colts made along their line yet struggled massively in the first two weeks. He was bad enough that he was benched after just two games, then shortly after that was inactive for games, and then late in the season he was released. Thornton, however, improved on a very rough 2014 season by showing potential once again and doing a solid job as the starter.
Lastly, the center position was the weakest spot along the line, regardless of whether Khaled Holmes or Jonotthan Harrison was in the lineup. Holmes started the first seven games and Harrison started the final nine games, but neither one of them gave the Colts good play. If the team hopes to stick with either of them moving forward, they will need to make sure that the guard spots are improved to try to help make up for the struggles in the middle of the line.
Moving forward, the Colts have some pieces in place. Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort are both building blocks on the left side of the line, giving the Colts a good start. Denzelle Good could be the wild card of the group, as though the Colts seem to have high hopes for him, it's still unclear whether he can be their full-time starter at right tackle. It's also uncertain whether it could be Joe Reitz, as though he's a solid contributor he's also a guy who you could upgrade. Hugh Thornton falls into that same category - he showed enough last year to be a solid contributor, but the Colts could still stand to upgrade. And then, of course, the center position could be upgraded as well.
So while the offensive line still was questionable, they have two players they can build around and then a couple of others who could perhaps factor into the mix depending on what the Colts decide to do this offseason. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, however, the Colts absolutely must address their line. Just because it wasn't the disaster that some think it was and just because Luck's kidney injury wasn't due to the line doesn't mean that everything is perfect, because the line still wasn't that great. The Colts really need to add starter-caliber players who can help shore up their line, whether that means at center, guard, or tackle - or any combination of them. The more quality players the Colts add the better the line should be overall, so the biggest thing is adding talent. The Colts have other needs to, but they also have to make sure that their franchise quarterback is protected and that there are lanes to run through. So in other words, while the Colts have a lot of needs, if you want to call the offensive line the biggest area of need for the team this offseason, you probably won't get much argument from others.
For more in-depth analysis of the Colts' 2015 season, check out Josh Wilson's other position reviews: