For the last several years, the offensive line has been one of the most glaring areas of need for the Indianapolis Colts, with a struggling run game and an often-hit quarterback to show for it.
The Colts have tried and failed in the past to upgrade it, but for the first time in a while, it seems like there is true and legitimate hope for the unit entering the 2017 season. That’s thanks to Ryan Grigson’s final draft with the team, which added Ryan Kelly, Joe Haeg, and Le’Raven Clark to a group that already included Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort.
Though some nationally don’t see it (or more accurately, care enough to see it), there is reason for optimism. Owner Jim Irsay took that to another level at the team’s Town Hall on Thursday night, however, declaring the offensive line fixed.
“Let me say this: the offensive line is fixed,” he said, according to Colts.com’s Zak Keefer. “I’m telling you guys, the offensive line is fixed. The reason I’ll tell you it’s fixed is because Howard Mudd told me it’s fixed. If Howard Mudd tells you it’s fixed, trust me, it’s fixed.”
That certainly is high praise, if Howard Mudd - one of the great offensive line coaches - thinks that the offensive line is fixed. Really, the Colts’ offensive line hasn’t been that good since those teams with Mudd as the offensive line coach, as he presided over the unit in Indy from 1998-2009. In all, he spent seven years in the NFL as a player and then spent four decades as an offensive line coach, coaching seven different NFL teams and one college. He’s as respected as it gets for an offensive line coach, so his opinion is very valuable.
Like I said earlier, there’s reason for optimism with this unit. With Anthony Castonzo, Jack Mewhort, and Ryan Kelly, the team already has a good start. The success of the line really hinges on the continued development of younger players, especially Le’Raven Clark and Joe Haeg. They are the favorites right now to start at right tackle and right guard, respectively, and Joe Philbin is busy working with them on their development. We already saw remarkable progress as the year went on in 2016 (particularly from Clark) and hopefully that will continue.
In saying this, Jim Irsay opens himself up to some criticism if things don’t work out, but he’s right to be optimistic about this offensive line. I don’t know if I’d say it’s fixed yet, but if the current group of younger players continues to develop, then it just might be. There’s a lot of projection there, but at the very least there should be some optimism entering 2017 - which will be a nice change.