The Indianapolis Colts were dealt a massive blow to their offensive line on Wednesday as it was announced that left tackle Anthony Castonzo would be out for the rest of the year due to an ankle injury. It has been a rough year for Castonzo with injuries as he has missed games with ribs and knee injuries earlier in the season. This injury happened during a full-speed drill in practice this past Thursday.
Due to this devastating news, we are going to be looking at the Colts’ options to replace him for the rest of the season and how confident I would feel in starting each of these players this upcoming Sunday against the Jaguars.
Option 1: Moving Quenton Nelson over
I am typically of the opinion that you don’t weaken two positions just to soften the blow of one position if that makes sense. Meaning that I typically wouldn’t move a player of Nelson’s caliber just to get adequate offensive tackle play. However, this is a special circumstance and getting average tackle play at left tackle would be a major win for the Colts going forward. There is also the line of thinking of simply getting your best five offensive linemen on the field and this move allows rookie OG Danny Pinter to slide in at left guard.
Nelson actually lined up for a handful of snaps at left tackle in the Colts week 14 match-up with the Las Vegas Raiders as he replaced Chaz Green in the first quarter. While it wasn’t noteworthy by any means, it didn’t in any way hinder the offense at all. His footwork was pretty sluggish but he was able to win every rep in pass pro once he got his hands on the defender. Like I said above, moving Nelson over gives the Colts the best chance at getting average play at the position which would be an absolute win at this point.
Every snap from Quenton Nelson at Left Tackle back in week 14 for the Colts. Nothing spectacular but he was perfectly fine and that is probably the best the Colts are getting at this point in the year pic.twitter.com/zjb1kDycke— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 30, 2020
Option 2: Newly signed veteran Jared Veldheer
The other obvious option at least for this Sunday would be starting Jared Veldheer, who was signed to the Colts’ practice squad this week. Veldheer is a 10 year veteran in the league who recently spent time with the Green Bay Packers and actually started a playoff game for them just last year. While he has been in and out of retirement the last few years, he still has some traits that can make him a passable starter for the Colts.
He has excellent length and size which allows him to be a solid pass protector without having great technique or athleticism. His athleticism was surprisingly not bad for a player of his age but it is still a bit below average for the position. In the game he started for the Packers last year, I was impressed by his grip strength and how well he held up defenders once he got his hands inside. He looked particularly good in one on one reps against Jadeveon Clowney. If he were to start this Sunday for the Colts, he should be perfectly solid protecting the blindside for Philip Rivers.
Newest Colts' LT Jared Veldheer actually started a playoff game for the Packers last season. And he was pretty solid! Great size and length and he can still move a bit for his size. He should be adequate if he starts at LT on Sunday pic.twitter.com/gNtFOPElf1— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 31, 2020
Option 3: Give Will Holden a chance (after this weekend that is)
The other option for left tackle could be to start Will Holden for the second time this season. Holden made his first start for the Colts this past Sunday against the Steelers and performed fairly well when one on one with a talented rookie pass rusher in Alex Highsmith. Holden will be out this week with an ankle injury but would be eligible to return for the playoffs if the Colts were to make it.
While I was happily surprised with Holden’s play on Sunday, I would definitely prefer one of the other options above to play over him at tackle. If it were to come down to him starting a game in the playoffs though (if the Colts make it), it could be much worse. He looks to be a solid swing tackle type who can perform well in a pinch.
Will Holden looked like a typical backup NFL tackle who isn't Chaz Green or J'Marcus Webb. He was fine enough to not be a major liability but not great by any means. He's a huge and lengthy tackle who could at least hold defendersaway long enough in pass pro pic.twitter.com/HET09Gnj4U— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 30, 2020
Option 4: Chaz Green
Don’t you dare Colts.
Other Options (?)
Outside of the options listed above, there really isn’t any other direction the Colts could go. Rookie IOL Danny Pinter started at right tackle for Ball State in college but the Colts have been very adamant that they view him strictly as an interior offensive lineman in the NFL.
Rookie tackle Carter O’Donnell has sat on the Colts’ practice squad all season but I would assume that the team doesn’t think he is near ready to play. O’Donnell played his college ball in Canada and was a first-round pick in the CFL Draft this past Summer. He passed up playing in Canada for a spot on the Colts’ Practice Squad this offseason.
The only other option is veteran J’Marcus Webb who should never take another snap again in the NFL.
The only thing to keep in mind for this weekend and for the potential playoff run when it comes to left tackle is that whoever the Colts start at the position just doesn’t have to be awful. The standard isn’t being as good as Anthony Castonzo, it is not being as bad as Chaz Green or J’Marcus Webb. A very low bar to clear but it is vital that the Colts clear it. I expect either Nelson or Veldheer to start at LT on Sunday and be perfectly manageable at the position.