No Colts position group has been more talked about this offseason and in recent seasons as the offensive line.
That tends to happen when your quarterback has been hit more than any player in football at the QB position over the past four years, and the Colts have taken notice. From owner Jim Irsay on down through the organization, the franchise took a drastic approach toward improving their offensive line this offseason. That began with the hiring of Joe Philbin to coach the unit, and it also led to the Colts using four of their eight draft picks (including their first rounder) on offensive linemen.
The most notable addition, obviously, was Alabama center Ryan Kelly, who was drafted by Indianapolis with the 18th overall pick. The Colts are confident that Kelly can develop a chemistry with Andrew Luck like Jeff Saturday had with Peyton Manning, and Kelly is a player who is talented enough to be a long-term starter for the Colts. Kelly will slide in as the starting center, a role he’s occupied since the day he was drafted.
The left side of the line looks set as well, with Anthony Castonzo manning the left tackle position and Jack Mewhort at left guard. The Colts gave Castonzo a large contract extension last year that solidified their commitment to him as Luck’s blindside protector, and Mewhort continued to impress with very good play in his second season. With Castonzo, Mewhort, and Kelly on one end of the line, the Colts have a very good trio of players to build the unit around.
It’s the other two offensive line spots that have generated the most discussion this offseason, however, as both are still open to competition. At right guard, Jonotthan Harrison (who is making the move from center) saw the first team reps this offseason, though that could be misleading due to Hugh Thornton missing the offseason program. Thornton should still be considered the presumptive favorite to win the job heading into camp, but with plenty of competition and with Thornton facing a contract year his job isn’t very secure in either the short-term or long-term future.
At right tackle, it seems to be Joe Reitz’s job to lose at this point. He was working with the first team this offseason and Denzelle Good, his biggest competition, was even working some at guard. It seems like the Colts are comfortable with Reitz at right tackle and want him to win the battle, but it’s not guaranteed yet.
With that said, as we enter camp the projected starting offensive line looks to be Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard, Ryan Kelly at center, Hugh Thornton at right guard, and Joe Reitz at right tackle. That’s not a bad group, and the Colts should have better coaching and better depth to go along with the starters. That depth could be led by guys like Harrison and Good (if they don’t wind up starting), plus rookies Le’Raven Clark, Joe Haeg, and Austin Blythe. With more talent brought in and Joe Philbin to coach the players, there’s reason for cautious optimism heading into the 2016 season.