The Colts are under new leadership this offseason, as Chris Ballard has taken over as GM. That naturally leads to questions about what Ballard thinks about the roster and what areas he might address, and he’s spoke multiple times this week at the NFL Combine.
He of course had his press conference on Wednesday that was filled with solid information, but he also did interviews with 1070 the Fan’s Dan Dakich and Colts.com’s Caroline Cann that probably holds more pertinence to Colts fans because of some of the questions asked.
One thing that both Dakich and Cann asked Ballard about was the team’s offensive line and what his thoughts were on the unit up front for the Colts. Is he comfortable with it?
“So I’m comfortable right now,” he told Dakich. “So Castonzo, Mewhort, and Kelly are good, solid pieces. Haeg is developing, and I think [he’s] got a chance to be a pretty good player. He got a lot of experience last year, it was fun to watch, and he’s been in the office every day working. Le’Raven Clark got some valuable experience and is a very talented kid, just needs to keep playing, developing his technique, and get stronger. And he’s been around working. Denzelle Good’s got some important playtime, but like with any position we’re going to continue to fuel the fire now. We’re going to continue to add talent to compete. We want to get to a point where we’re cutting players on this team that are going to play elsewhere. That’s when you know you’ve got it good; when you look up and you’ve got five or six guys that you cut that other people are claiming, that’s when you know you’ve got a roster that’s competitive and people had to earn their right on the 53.”
Ballard feels good with Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard, and Ryan Kelly at center, but that should have been expected - and earlier this offseason Ballard also mentioned that it’s the right side they need to solidify. He seems optimistic about guys like Joe Haeg and Le’Raven Clark, though at the same time he doesn’t seem fully committed to them either.
But he’s encouraged by what he’s seen. Caroline Cann asked him what he’s learned about the roster since he was hired, and he actually mentioned Haeg and Clark in response.
“You know, we’ve got some good young pieces to work with,” Ballard told Colts.com on Thursday. “Kind of like I said yesterday, we always want to be adding competition. But I was encouraged [by] what I saw from Joe Haeg, Le’Raven Cark, you know, those are two young offensive linemen that we need to come through for us, and I was encouraged to watch their play at the end of the year.”
Haeg and Clark were both starting by the end of the year and the line seemed to see some improvement, and Ballard was asked about whether he feels good about that.
“So getting continuity and getting five guys to play together is the ultimate goal, and that’s the key for having any success,” he said. “But we want to continue to add competition, at every position. Not just the O-line, every position. So we’ll continue to do that.”
Here’s what I think we can take away from Ballard’s comments about the offensive line:
- He feels good about the left side of the line, as he should. Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard, and Ryan Kelly at center is plenty good enough for this team to win with, and that shouldn’t be the focal point. Based on what Ballard has said, I don’t expect it to be either.
- He likes what he saw from Joe Haeg and Le’Raven Clark as rookies, but he knows that they need to continue to develop. He had praise for both of them and certainly didn’t give any sort of impression that he’s looking to move on from them, but he also didn’t commit to either guy as a starter either.
- Both times when he was asked about the offensive line, Ballard went back to what we’ve heard him say plenty of times already: they’ll always be looking to add talent. Earlier this offseason when asked about the offensive line by 1070 the Fan’s JMV, Ballard said they’ll continue to keep their eye on it going forward in free agency and the draft. And Ballard has also said that the trenches will always be an emphasis of his. Translation: expect the Colts to add players up front. Whether that’s a big-money free agent or not is uncertain, but the Colts will likely add talent to the offensive line room to increase the level of competition.
Nothing that Ballard said about the offensive line is surprising, as it’s clear that the left side of the line is good enough to feel comfortable about, the right side has some pieces in Joe Haeg and Le’Raven Clark, but they’ll always be looking to add competition. Those are Ballard’s thoughts about the offensive line, which basically leaves the door open to him adding other talent but at the same time is some public support for Haeg and Clark as guys they can work with.