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2018 Colts Position Review: Offensive Line

From worst to best, the Colts offensive line took a giant leap this season.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, Braden Smith

Bench: Le’Raven Clark, Evan Boehm, Joe Haeg, Josh Andrews, Matt Slauson (now retired, played just 6 games)

The offensive line had been a concern for the Colts ever since Andrew Luck was selected with the 1st overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. This issue became even more evident after Luck injured his shoulder and was out for two seasons. When Chris Ballard took over as GM his goal was clear, build an offensive line capable of protecting #12.

He delivered on that goal.

The Colts offensive line had allowed a sack on a league leading 10.33% percent of passing attempts in 2017. Fill-in starter Jacoby Brissett was rocked to the tune of 56 sacks and 113 QB hits. Ballard knew that Luck needed better protection, so he drafted perhaps the best offensive line prospect in recent memory, Quenton Nelson. He also added a reliable starter, Braden Smith. Ballard also pursued and landed Mark Glowinski and Matt Slauson, two very productive players on bargain contracts.

In 2018, the Colts offensive line was arguably the best in the NFL. The unit gave up just 18 sacks, the lowest in the League, and Luck was taken down on just 2.86% of his pass attempts, the best mark in the NFL by a considerable amount. There are three factors to credit for this turnaround: the level of talent in the offensive line, the offensive scheme, and Luck getting rid of the ball quicker.

Offensive Line 2017/2018

///////////////////////// 2017 2018
///////////////////////// 2017 2018
Sacks Allowed 56 (32nd) 18 (1st)
Sack % 10.33% (32nd) 2.86% (1st)
QB Hits 113 (26th) 77 (10th)

As for the starters, the group really came together after a Week 6 loss against the Patriots. With Glowinski starting at right guard after Slauson went down with an injury, the Colts line stepped up. Slauson became more of a mentor/coach, and his veteran presence surely helped. Anthony Castonzo was as reliable as usual, excelling in both the running and the passing game. The presence of Nelson next to him must have also been helpful. Nelson was named first team All Pro as a rookie. The fact that he could improve in his second season is even more impressive.

Center Ryan Kelly became the key cog the Colts expected him to be when he was selected with the 18th pick of the 2016 Draft. Kelly was vital to the Colts success not only in the pass-protection side, but also running the ball.

With/Without Kelly

RYAN KELLY Rush YPG Rush TD/PG Sacks Allowed/PG
RYAN KELLY Rush YPG Rush TD/PG Sacks Allowed/PG
Starting 121,6 0,8 0,91
Out 64,5 0,7 1,75

On the right side of the line, Glowinski and Smith established themselves as the future starters. Glowinski filled earned a 3 year/$18 million deal while Smith has positioned himself as the right tackle for the next decade. Both should be expected to continue improving next season and further solidify the line.

The problem with the offensive line was depth. Haeg is an average player and his versatility helps him a lot, but behind him there is not much more. The drop-off in production when Kelly was down has to be a concern for the coaching staff. A solid backup center is an under-the-radar need for the Colts this offseason.

Overall, the Colts can finally say they found their offensive line. Once the main weakness, the line is now the Colts biggest strength after quarterback. Also, the hiring of Chris Strausser as the new offensive line coach and the return of legend Howard Mudd to a coaching role should mean even more improvements on the trenches.

Here is a quote from Quenton, that can sum up the mentality of this offensive line: