I bet you’re saying “If the Colts’ offensive line is one of the top pass blocking lines in the league, then why has Andrew Luck been injured and why did they go 4-12?” Well, I’m about to answer that right now.
Andrew Luck has not thrown a football in a game since week 16 of the 2016 season. Therefore, the offensive line has had major changes since then.
The most important part of an offensive line is by far the left tackle. The left tackle stops the quarterback from being hit from the blind side. So starting off this list of the offensive linemen is left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Pro Football Focus ranked Castonzo at number 10, with an overall grade of 82.0. Castonzo isn’t best at pass blocking but still has a great rating of 78.4. Like I said, pass blocking isn’t Castonzo’s best skill, his run blocking is with an outstanding 85.1 rating. In the 2017 season, Castonzo shined and had his best year yet. If Castonzo can perform like he did last season Luck has almost nothing to worry about from the far left.
The next key piece is the right tackle. College tackle and professional guard Jack Mewhort will most likely be moving back to the tackle spot as the Colts just drafted two guards with two of their first three picks. Moving Mewhort will even out the offensive line and with a 46.1 overall graded by pro football focus Mewhort isn’t a bad option at all. Mewhort was given a 78.3 pass block rating and a 37.0 run block rating which isn’t great but noting that he missed most of the 2017 season, those ratings are not too bad. Having a healthy Mewhort who is on a one year deal will hopefully make the Colts tackles one of the best pairs in the league, not to mention the rest of the offensive line.
Holding down the middle of the O-line is Ryan Kelly who like Jack Mewhort, was plagued with injuries during the 2017 season. Pro Football Focus has Kelly ranked #33 among centers with a 39.9 overall rating. Kelly ended the season with a 28.5 pass block rating and a 47.1 run block rating. Seeing those rankings aren’t necessarily impressive but when fully healthy his rookie season, Kelly did not allow a single sack. Just like Mewhort, having a healthy young center would help out the offensive line incredibly.
First of the two guard draft picks is Quenton Nelson who ranked number one out of all guards in college with a 95.1 overall grade. Nelson has great pass blocking ability with a rating of 87.5 and an outstanding run block percentage of 96.4. Having a guy that’s that good at blocking is incredible when trying to keep the QB clean. Nelson has been known to have a “bodyguard” type so hopefully, no one touches Luck come this season because of him.
The second of the two guards drafted is Braden Smith who got ranked number five at the collegiate level with an 88.2 overall grade. Smith just edges over his 85.3 run block grade with an 87.2 pass block grade which means he’s a great all-around blocker. Smith is as long as a tackle but “has the arm size of a guard” which is not something to be disappointed in. Having a guard who can pull around to block if needed is a great skill to have and having two great guards was a very smart move by Colts GM Chris Ballard.
A surprising but great sub for the tackles in 2018 will be Joe Haeg who ranked 45 among all tackles and had a 60.9 overall grade. Haeg achieved the 60.9 overall grade with a 66.4 pass block grade and a 48.0 run block grade. Haeg is young and played greatly while filling in for the injured Denzelle Good during the 2017 season. Having Haeg as a backup tackle provides great depth when heading into a season that follows up one of the most injury-plagued seasons in NFL history.
The first free agent signing that adds help to the offensive line is former Raider and Raven Austin Howard who ranked 36th among tackles with 71.6 overall grade, a 70.0 pass block grade, and a 74.4 run block grade which will prove to be another great backup if any of the tackles get injured.
The second free agent offensive linemen signed and the last person on this list is guard/center Matt Slauson who ranked 49 with a 45.0 overall grade. Slauson has a good pass blocking grade at 68.4 and a not so good run block grade at 39.9.
As you can see, there is a theme, great pass blocking among all these players. GM Chris Ballard wants players that will protect Luck no matter what and with this group even if a player or two ends up going down with an injury, the next man up will be able to protect him. This is the first installment of my” this is why the Colts have one of the top position groups” series that will be an every few weeks thing leading up to the week one of the preseason. I hope you all enjoy and stay tuned!