The main focus of this offseason for the Indianapolis Colts has been their offensive line. They wanted to improve the protection for Andrew Luck and the running lanes for Frank Gore, and I think most would agree that they have done so.
Of course, around this time of year it's all about projection, as we haven't yet had the chance to see these players on the field. There are certain things that can help in determining how good a unit could be, and one of those is athleticism.
Pride of Detroit's Kent Platte has thus developed Relative Athletic Scores for each lineman, using data from the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days to determine how athletic a lineman is. Then, he looks at the overall rating of each team's starting offensive line to rank the units. This isn't a perfect metric to highlight athleticism, as it doesn't factor in play on the field, but it is a very good and helpful way to look at how athletic players are. It's also important to note that athleticism by itself doesn't guarantee a good offensive line, but that an unathletic line is almost always guaranteed to be poor. He also notes that of the linemen to make the Pro Bowl since 2000 and have a RAS available, 88% of tackles, 76% of guards, and 57% of centers have had an above-average RAS score.
Platte recently published his findings for each team's projected starting offensive line for the 2016 season, and he found that the Colts boast one of the most athletic lines in football. The Colts' projected starting lineup of Anthony Castonzo (LT), Jack Mewhort (LG), Ryan Kelly (C), Hugh Thornton (RG), and Denzelle Good (RT) have an overall RAS score of 7.97. That score is the third-highest in the league, behind only the Eagles (9.27) and the Browns (8.18). After the Colts, the Buccaneers (7.75) and Falcons (7.72) round out the top five.
There is some variable in these rankings because we don't know for certain the starting five for each team at this point in the offseason, but either way it's a helpful metric. As for the individual players, Anthony Castonzo has an RAS score of 8.62, Jack Mewhort has a score of 5.69, Ryan Kelly has a score of 9.29, Hugh Thornton has a score of 9.26, and Denzelle Good has a score of 6.99. The Colts' ranking is similar to what their starting offensive line was last year, as they had the second-highest RAS score last year (behind the Eagles) at 7.91.
So what does this mean? Possibly nothing, as we know that last year the Colts didn't have a great line despite having a great RAS score. But at the same time, having an athletic unit is important because it makes success even more possible. As Platte has found, having an unathletic line is almost never good news for an offensive line, so this does mean that the Colts have the talent to work with. Now, with the addition of offensive line coach Joe Philbin, the hope is that he will be able to help mold that talent into a good unit. It's unclear whether that will actually happen, but the athletic score of the Colts' line gives a little more reason to hope that it might.