As we mentioned yesterday, the Colts have placed an emphasis on the offensive line this offseason, and the man leading that charge is new offensive line coach Joe Philbin.
There has been a lot of talk this offseason about Philbin bringing his zone-blocking scheme to Indianapolis (where they have been running a man-blocking scheme), but in his first meeting with the media he made it clear that he's focused more on fundamentals than he is on scheme.
“There are a lot of different schemes in football obviously and no team just does one thing exclusively," Philbin said on Tuesday. "Right now the emphasis especially has been fundamentals. When you think of the rules of Phase II [of the offseason program] you can’t line up anybody against anybody so really we’re talking the focus and the emphasis has been let’s get into a good stance, let’s take good footwork, let’s have good pad level, those type of things as opposed to let’s do this against this defense and all those type of scheme things.”
Once they do get on the field, however, Philbin still wants the emphasis to be on fundamentals first.
“Again, the things in blocking that I want us to be known for are really fundamentally-related first and scheme second," he said. "So it’s really about how fast and decisive our guys can play. Can they get to their target? Can they play with leverage? Can they get movement? I don’t care really what the scheme – gap, man, zone, lead, turn – there are umpteen different schemes, but the real emphasis still for us even when we get to that stage is going to be moving people and creating space for our running back.”
That's what the Colts have been focused on so far this offseason, which has only allowed classroom and weight room work up to this point in the NFL's offseason program. Joe Philbin has focused on the fundamentals of the position so far, helping the linemen return to the basics. That's a good place to start for sure, especially for a group that has struggled in recent seasons and one that includes a number of newcomers (most notably first round pick Ryan Kelly). Philbin realizes how important fundamentals are, so he is returning the Colts to the basics before working on their new blocking scheme.
The Colts do have pieces to work with. Pride of Detroit recently looked at the Relative Athletic Score of each team's offensive line to determine who has the most athletic group, and the Colts were second on the list. That doesn't correlate to a good offensive line, but it does mean that there is athleticism to work with. Furthermore, the unit has Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard, and Ryan Kelly at center, giving them three very solid building blocks. From there, it's up to guys like Hugh Thornton, Denzelle Good, Joe Reitz, Le'Raven Clark, Joe Haeg, Austin Blythe, Jonotthan Harrison, and others to compete for the other two starting spots and depth positions. Regardless of who winds up winning those spots, it's clear that there is talent to work with.
"It seems like a really outstanding group of men to work with," Philbin said. "We started the offseason program April 18, I believe, so we’ve been at it for about a month and [I've] really, really enjoyed just being with them in the meeting room and being with them on the practice field. It seems like their work ethic is outstanding. They’re real serious about what they do. They’re good people. Especially given my set of circumstances to be on the field coaching [after being fired in Miami], it’s a real privilege.”