Thursday, November 30 2023

3. Will running it back with the same OL pay off? 

The Colts’ high-priced offensive line finished 2022 better than it started, but the overall product was still very underwhelming. 

Indy’s offensive line gave up 60 sacks, second-most in the league. The line simply couldn’t keep 37-year-old QB Matt Ryan upright. Furthermore, the rush lanes were smaller and showed up less frequently for star running back Jonathan Taylor

And the Colts have done little to upgrade upfront this offseason. The starters are expected to be the same as last year: left tackle Bernhard Raimann, left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Will Fries, right tackle Braden Smith. Indianapolis didn’t sign any offensive linemen in free agency. The team picked up two linemen on Day 3 of the draft — BYU‘s Blake Freeland (fourth round), Northern Michigan’s Jake Witt (seventh round) — but they’re depth moves at best. Freeland could be the swing tackle behind Smith and Raimann. Witt figures to be more of a project as he’s played offensive line for only a couple years (13 starts in college). 

Indianapolis’ O-line has a lot riding on the development of Raimann, who had a rough start to his rookie season (he allowed five pressures in his first career start, against the Broncos in Week 5, per Pro Football Focus). But it’s not uncommon for rookie offensive tackles to struggle, and Raimann gradually improved. The former third-round pick also added 15 pounds this offseason, which should help him hold up against opposing edge rushers. 

The onus is also on the Colts’ new offensive line coach, Tony Sparano Jr., to maximize the potential of a group that is largely the same. Before joining Steichen’s staff, Sparano spent the past five seasons as an assistant offensive line coach with the Jaguars (2017-20), Panthers (2021) and Giants (2022). 

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