One of the most highly contested position groups for the Indianapolis Colts is the offensive line. Quarterback Andrew Luck has been under duress far too much during his young career and he is without a doubt the most important piece of the team’s chances to succeed.
After numerous signings and attempts to fix the offensive line primarily through free agency, former General Manager Ryan Grigson finally got serious about addressing the problem in the 2016 NFL Draft. He drafted four offensive linemen and three of those offensive linemen were starting by the end of the year.
Still, questions remain and not just with the rookie and second-year linemen. Even the veteran linemen have been called into question with Luck under so much duress.
This feature will focus on Colts left guard Jack Mewhort. As with the other linemen, it will focus on his strengths and his weaknesses. Unlike the other linemen, it will be heavily reflective of his strengths. Why?
Well, I recorded 37 clips over 3 games, from a total of 192 offensive snaps that were not kneel-downs. From those clips, there are 3... 3 clips that show negative plays for Mewhort. Even if I missed a few plays that were not great, his efficiency is easily above 80% over these three games in that his block was either effective, not costly to the play, or a key reason the play succeeded. If I’m offensive line coach Joe Philbin, I’m begging for as many Jack Mewhorts as I can get.
In case you haven’t figured it out, there will be some gushing in this piece. Grab a towel.
We will be making pretty quick work of the negative plays for which Mewhort (#75) was partially responsible.
In this play, he is guilty of whiffing on his initial block on a screen play. He committed outside too early and Steelers defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (#79) made an athletic play to run down the screen from behind.
Here, Mewhort releases Hargrave a little too early. He was not beat on the play. In many respects this is more of a coverage sack, but if I had to place the majority of blame on a player it would be on Mewhort. If he maintains his block, Tolzien gets positive yards out of a scramble at minimum.
Similar to his mistake above, I get the impression that Mewhort simply let up quicker than he should have.
What is strange on this play is that Jack Doyle’s (#84) chip block re-positioned Leonard Williams (#92) to Mewhort’s outside shoulder, which game Williams leverage to the quarterback.
Also similar to the previous play, the ball was in the quarterback’s hands too long. Mewhort kept Luck clean for 4 or more seconds before he had to grab Williams’ jersey and get called for the hold.
Remember all of the complaints about offensive linemen for the Colts who failed to anchor against bull rushers? Check this play out.
Jets linebacker David Harris (#52) gets a full head of steam behind him and attempts to collapse the pocket. Think again! Mewhort stonewalls Harris, dropping only one step back before gaining control and allowing Luck to escape the pocket for an easy scramble.
Here, Mewhort takes on an interior defensive lineman one-on-one and controls him throughout the entire play. Again, only a couple of steps back into the pocket and Mewhort uses his base and strong arms to redirect.
Another key requirement for offensive linemen, particularly on the interior, is the ability to see and adjust to movement on the defensive line after the snap.
In this case, Mewhort engages the defensive end, passes him off to center Ryan Kelly (#78) and realizes there is a stunt that has just come across his face from Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan (#91). He quickly adjusts back to his outside to pick up the block on Titans outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (#98). This allows Anthony Castonzo (#74) to get a body on Morgan and, with help from Robert Tubin (#33), neutralize the pressure from the left side of the line.
All players played a key role here but if Mewhort doesn’t recognize the stunt and make a quick adjustment, Castonzo will be left to keep his focus on Orakpo and Turbin will be one-on-one with Morgan — likely not ending well for Luck.
Another trait that has been lacking from the linemen we’ve analyzed so far is functional strength at the point of attack. On this play, Mewhort gets beat to the inside by Steelers linebacker James Harrison (#92). However, he has a strong enough base and enough arm strength to neutralize Harrison’s initial burst, along with the balance and leg strength to redirect Harrison away from Tolzien in the pocket.
An offensive lineman with the strength and athleticism to recover and redirect? A comforting sight to see!
Similarly, on this play, Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (#99) slides inside of Mewhort and attempts to push the pocket. He has no chance.
Mewhort quickly recovers, engages Casey with his hands, and uses his legs to drive Casey out of the play.
In previous features on Colts linemen we’ve seen defenders have the ability to stop their momentum and redirect the play. Here, Casey has no prayer of doing that.
What about in the run game? Here too Mewhort shows the strength and athleticism to get off of the line and into Titans defensive lineman Angelo Blackson (#95). He gets the line moving and creates a huge cutback lane behind him for Gore.
The key on this play is not the result of the run. Focus only on Mewhort (#75) who drives back Hargrave three yards off of the ball. Once he gets help from Harrison (#72) they move him back another 3 yards.
My favorite quality for offensive linemen in the running game is the ability to seal defenders from the play. In this case, Mewhort’s block is easily the most important. Harrison (#72) does little or nothing to help, Allen (#83) does very little, Castonzo (#74) is only just getting to his man and the other important block is thrown by receiver Donte Moncrief (#10).
In this play, Mewhort’s ability to seal Ricardo Mathews (#90) allows Turbin (#33) to have a huge cutback lane to his right. If Mewhort does not get the edge here, Turbin does not have a backside alley and is likely tackled for 5 or 6 yards instead of running for 18 yards.
Similarly, on this play Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams (#92) attempts to get into the backfield to stop Gore (#23) from getting outside and around the edge. Instead, Mewhort gets out in front of Williams and stops his pursuit.
Again, Mewhort has Williams one-on-one in the hole and has to stop him from pursuing down the line. He seals just enough for Gore to find the seam and get solid yardage.
The reason Mewhort’s block is so pivotal on this play is because he has to do something the right side of the line does not. He has to get his body in front of the defender and hold the defender from moving in the direction of the play — he must hold against the grain.
Kelly, Good, and Haeg all get to simply run forward into their defenders to get push. Castonzo gets to release to the second level. Mewhort’s block MUST be successful or Gore goes nowhere.
Our final play shows Mewhort’s athleticism to get to the second-level. It’s unfortunate that this is a busted screen to Todman (#28) because I believe that if Luck hands him the ball instead, he has the speed to get the edge and do some real damage down the left sideline.
The important part for Mewhort is that he and Kelly both show excellent timing in releasing their initial block to get to the second level.
All said and done, I am comfortable saying that the Indianapolis Colts have their left guard position locked down. I am also comfortable saying that Mewhort will definitely get a new contract (maybe an extension before the seasons starts?) and is exactly the kind of home grown talent Ballard is looking to reward.
I don’t know how much different a Pro Bowl caliber offensive lineman looks than what we see from Mewhort in these three games but I can’t imagine there is much of a disparity. Assuming he is fully healthy to start the season, the Colts should lock him down and enjoy excellent O-Line play during the prime years of his career.
Pre-Draft Look at Colts Offensive Line Series: