Key Moves: Signed Dennis Kelly, re-signed Matt Pryor, drafted Bernard Raimann. Lost Mark Glowinski, Chris Reed, Eric Fisher, Julie’n Davenport in free agency.
Depth Chart: Matt Pryor, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Danny Pinter, Braden Smith ; Bernard Raimann (R), Dennis Kelly, Will Fries, Ryan Van Demark (R)
After enjoying two consecutive seasons of rather consistent offensive line play, the Colts were not so lucky last year, as starters Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, and Braden Smith dealt with several injuries that either limited their capacity to play at full strength or forced them out of several weeks alltogether.
Left tackle Eric Fisher was a major liability in the passing game all season long, and there were actually two singular plays where he literally ended up costing the Colts the game. Against the Ravens, he was absurdly late off the snap, resulting in a strip sack for Odafe Oweh when the Colts offense was had a first down near the red-zone. The same thing happened against the Bucs. First down, offense driving, strip sack and losing all the momentum. Factoring the poor play in pass protection and the impact it had in the Colts unraveling of the offense late last year, Ballard probably knew that changes needed to be made at the position.
First of all, having a quarterback like Matt Ryan, who knows when to get the ball away, and does so much more efficiently than Wentz, is already going to help the production of this line. Hopefully, having Nelson, Kelly, and Smith back at 100% and ready to go is also going to be massive, as those 3 are Pro Bowl talents, especially Big Q, who struggled with a lingering ankle issue and also seemed to have problems with his back.
Matt Pryor, who filled in for Eric Fisher and Braden Smith throughout the course of last year, looks slated to start at left tackle. He was solid both at right and left tackle, and he definitely earned the chance to show what he can do.
Quenton Nelson is a generational talent at guard, so if he is healthy, it is a surefire thing he will make an All-Pro team.
Kelly struggled a bit last season, but he has the talent and track record for Colts fans to feel safe about their center.
Danny Pinter is set to be the starting right guard at the moment, and this is the spot that gives me the most doubts, especially considering that Chris Reed signed a cheap contract with the Vikings. Pinter has no starting experience, and has not played much at right guard, so I have no idea what to expect from him.
At right tackle Braden Smith will be returning, and hopefully he can also avoid injuries this season.
The Colts will field 5 starters that were already on the roster last season, but there were plenty of moves made around the offensive line. Swing tackle Dennis Kelly was signed recently. Kelly provides some much needed versatility at the tackle position, as he can play either side of the line, and he was a serviceable lineman over the past 3 years.
In the draft, the Colts drafted Bernard Raimann with the #77 overall pick, and then signed UDFA Ryan Van Demark. Raimann was one of my favourite Tier 2 tackles this draft. After the top 3 (Neal, Cross, Ekwonu), I thought that Raimann was the best option. I was really surprised to see him drop to us at #77, and sitting a year and continuing to learn the game might be what's best for him long term. Van Demark looks like a nice UDFA that has a real shot of making the roster.
The main problem right now with the Colts is the glaring lack of depth at interior offensive line. Should any of the three starters go down, or if Pinter’s play is sub-par, then the Colts only alternative right now is Will Fries. Some viable veteran options include Billy Price and Quinton Spain, and there is not much more after that. Ballard will have to scrape the bottom of the barrel once again to find some depth in this area. Considering the fact that Nelson and Kelly struggled with injuries last year, and Pinter has no experience starting in the NFL, the alarms should start to go off in the Colts building, as we are one injury away from disaster.