The Indianapolis Colts will be without left tackle Anthony Castonzo for the remainder of the 2020 season, according to The Athletic’s Zak Keefer and head coach Frank Reich.
Castonzo is set to have season-ending ankle surgery sometime in the near future:
News— Colts' left tackle Anthony Castonzo is done for the year with an ankle injury. Surgery soon.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) December 30, 2020
Major blow for this team.
The surgery will repair a ligament that “popped off” Castonzo’s ankle, according to IndyStar Colts reporter, Joel A. Erickson:
Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo will undergo surgery to repair a ligament that "popped off" his ankle, a source says. Will go to Dr. Robert Anderson, who has been the premier foot and ankle specialist in the NFL for years.— Joel A. Erickson (@JoelAErickson) December 30, 2020
Castonzo is arguably one of the team’s most irreplaceable players, and the offensive line struggled mightily without him against the Steelers’ pass rush last Sunday. With their eyes set on making the playoffs, it’s imperative the team comes up with a plan for replacing the veteran left tackle quickly.
The Colts’ options are limited, though, as the only healthy tackles are Chaz Green and J’Marcus Webb.
If Webb or Green get the nod at that spot, I’d bet on the team leaving in an extra tight end or running back to help chip in certain situations. The left tackle spot is far too important not to give extra help when needed, and both Green and Webb have struggled as fill-ins these last few weeks.
Perhaps Indianapolis should consider temporarily moving left guard Quenton Nelson to tackle. Nelson fared well after filling in for Castonzo during limited snaps against the Las Vegas Raiders.
It should also be noted that without Castonzo in the lineup, the Colts look like an entirely different team offensively. When Castonzo plays, the team is 9-2, averages 29.5 PPG, and has allowed 9 sacks. When he doesn’t, the team is 1-3, averages only 24.8 PPG, and has allowed 10 sacks (per Josh Wilson):
Looking at games where the Colts played all or most of the time without Anthony Castonzo, it’s a very stark difference:— Josh Wilson (@JoshWilsonSB) December 29, 2020
Colts when Castonzo plays: 9-2; 29.5 PPG; 9 sacks allowed
Colts when Castonzo doesn’t play: 1-3; 24.8 PPG; 10 sacks allowed
Over the last few days, the team has done its fair share at trying to find a suitable replacement for Castonzo, bringing in veteran left tackle Jared Veldheer for a visit less than 48 hours ago.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the team is expected to sign the veteran tackle to their practice squad and elevate him for Sunday’s matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars:
The #Colts are expected to sign veteran tackle Jared Veldheer to their practice squad and elevate him for Sunday's game, per source. Help after Anthony Castonzo's season-ending ankle surgery.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 30, 2020
Whether it’s Green, Webb, or the newly-added veteran Veldheer, replacing Castonzo will be no easy task.
Failing to address the glaring need for quality backup offensive lineman may come back to haunt the Colts at the worst possible time. But we know Frank Reich, it’s always the “next man up” mentality.
For the team’s sake, let’s hope ‘the next man up’ can help guide the team to the playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons.