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INDIANAPOLIS – When asked for the strength of the 2018 Colts, Chris Ballard points to an area that has been anything but that in Indianapolis over the past few years.
Ballard believes the strength of this year’s Colts will be on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Some premium resources were invested into the trenches this offseason, which certainly brings about a new outlook on those areas of weakness in recent seasons.
“We have some really good young talent up front,” Ballard says.
“I didn’t do a good enough job last year of getting enough talent in the building to make sure we have enough depth for the season. It’s going to be fun to watch those two groups compete and come together.”
Offensively, the Colts shelved out major draft capital with the selections of Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith.
Currently, Smith isn’t even starting after being chosen 37th overall back in April. That right guard spot is Matt Slauson’s, a veteran that Ballard is a major fan of. The GM calls Slauson, who has 108 career starts, the ‘consummate professional’ and someone who has been an ideal influence on the entire offensive line room.
Former top picks in Jack Mewhort (2nd round in 2014) and Le’Raven Clark (3rd round in 2016), or even a guy like Jeremy Vujnovich (who played every snap last season) are fighting for roster spots.
On the defensive line, the Colts want to play in waves. It’s why they spent two second-round picks on guys like DE-Kemoko Turay and DL-Tyquan Lewis.
The free agent addition of Denico Autry is a player Ballard is very high on. The Colts have actually moved Autry to the inside of their defensive line, with him starting at defensive tackle.
“He’s a legitimate defensive lineman,” Ballard says of the Colts’ first free agent signing this year. “He’s long, strong, passionate. I’m really excited to watch him play. He’s made up of all the right stuff.”
With Autry in that defensive tackle group, Ballard points to the depth of that group (Al Woods, Grover Stewart, Margus Hunt and Rakeem Nunez-Roches) as another positive.
Even before Ballard gushed about the trenches last week, the thought was the Colts would be cutting quality linemen in 2018.
Not only does Ballard acknowledge that, he thinks the depth up front is so strong, guys cut by the Colts will find jobs pretty quickly around the league.
That’s something we haven’t seen from many Colts’ linemen over the last half dozen years.
“I do believe,” Ballard says, “on the O-line and D-line, you will see guys go play other places in the league.”
If so, the Colts should feel very good about their trenches in 2018.
The offensive and defensive lines are about to be evaluated on an even higher level with full pads coming for the first time in 2018 at this weekend’s practices.
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