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Down Three Starters, Colts’ Offensive Line Depth Will Be Tested in a Major Way

New York Jets v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

It’s been one injury after another for the Indianapolis Colts during the first few weeks of training camp.

Darius Leonard has missed the first week and a half of training camp as he recovers from an ankle injury, Xavier Rhodes was placed on the team’s COVID reserve list prior to camp starting and has yet to be activated, and left tackle Eric Fisher, who the team brought over by way of free agency, is still recovering from a torn Achilles he suffered back in January’s AFC Championship game with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now, not even two full weeks into camp, the Colts are down even more starters. Center Ryan Kelly, who injured his elbow, will miss 2-3 weeks. Quarterback Carson Wentz, who injured his foot during last Thursday’s practice, had surgery to remove a piece of bone that had broken loose in his foot and will miss anywhere from 5-12 weeks, according to multiple team reporters. Guard Quenton Nelson also suffered a foot injury during Monday’s practice, and he’ll miss 5-12 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a similar injury to that of Wentz’s.

That’s now a total of five starters which the Colts have lost in less than two weeks of training camp. And while, yes, there’s a lot of pressure on Frank Reich and new starting quarterback — who’s practically a ‘rookie’, in Jacob Eason, Indy’s offensive line faces an immense amount of pressure, too.

For the last three seasons or so, the Colts’ offensive line hasn’t just been one of the NFL’s best, but they’ve also been one of the healthiest units as well. With a real possibility of being down both their starters at left tackle and left guard entering the 2020 season, we’ll now get to see how GM Chris Ballard’s depth investments along the offensive line will perform throughout the next several weeks.

Veteran guard Chris Reed will likely slide in place for the injured Nelson. Of all the offseason signings Ballard made over the last several months, the signing of Reed, who started 14 games for the Carolina Panthers last season, has a chance to be one of his best.

Sure, hindsight is always 20/20, but the signing of Reed looks even better now than it did when Indy originally signed him back in April. Reed, who played very well for the Panthers last season, has more experience than most backup guards in the NFL and gives the Colts a very strong replacement until Nelson can return to the starting lineup.

Second-year center Danny Pinter will take the place of the injured Kelly. Pinter started one game for Indy last season against the Tennessee Titans and played fairly well. Now, the 25-year-old has the chance to step in and, if anything, take some valuable reps with the starters.

In place of veteran left tackle Eric Fisher, the Colts are currently having an open competition between veteran Sam Tevi, who spent last season as the Los Angeles Chargers’ starting left tackle, and Will Holden, who filled in for Anthony Castonzo during a few games last season.

Left tackle, next to quarterback and defensive end, is one of the most important positions on an NFL roster. What’s also noteworthy is, unlike Wentz, Eason doesn’t extend plays nearly as well because he’s not as mobile, meaning that protecting the near-stationary quarterback becomes even more of an importance for the Colts.

The small silver lining — if there even is one in all of this — is the regular season doesn’t start until September 12, so each backup turned starter has a solid chunk of time to learn their roles within the offense.

Indy’s offensive line is now down three starters and is facing a ton of pressure moving forward. Combine that with the toughest five game stretch of any NFL team to start the 2021 season, and it pretty much goes without saying that the Colts need their depth investments along the offensive line to step up in a major way for them.