INDIANAPOLIS – Just because there are zero undecided starting jobs for the Colts offensive line entering camp means we should refrain from watching that group this August.
Nope, that would be a mistake, and taking rare offensive line health for granted.
Good news though is the Colts realize this, and they are in full preparation mode for grooming a new 6th, 7th and 8th offensive linemen.
Yes, Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith started every single game together last season.
That happening for a second straight season though?
“We were very fortunate to get that done last year, combined with tough guys,” offensive line coach Chris Strausser says.
“I’ve said forever that the guys who aren’t the starters, ‘Hey, your time is coming pretty quick.’ Last year was one of those years that that didn’t happen. So I’ve got to remind them again that it’s coming. I don’t want it to come, but it’s coming. They know. They know the nature of this sport, at this level, that they know it’s very, very rare (to have all 5 guys start all 16 games together). It’s a huge part of where we are at right now in our room to develop legitimate next guys, our 6th, 7th and 8th guy. Our starters understand the importance of that. Is it even a bigger deal this year? Potentially. We don’t know what’s going to shake down in our room in terms of COVID. Not only is myself really in that mindset of developing the next guys but our (players) understand how important that is, so our guys are very anxious to coach the guy behind him and help them get better.”
Offensive line depth for the Colts was a worry entering the draft, and remains a question with the season less than a month away—especially for a group carrying a heavy burden in 2020.
Who are the Colts reserve offensive linemen competing for a roster spot?
-Le’Raven Clark: The 2016 third-round pick re-signed with the Colts this past offseason has started 12 career games, but didn’t dress for a single game last season. Clark has the most left tackle experience of any of these reserves. The Colts view him as a lead guy in taking the 6th offensive lineman role that Joe Haeg occupied last year.
-Andrew Donnal: Playing for four different teams over the last four years, Donnal has started 6 career games (in 2015 and 2016), but has played in just 4 games over the last two seasons. Currently, the Colts say they are using Donnal at guard, with his past tackle experience also helping him for a potential roster spot.
–Jake Eldrenkamp: The Colts had Eldrenkamp on their practice squad last season, before promoting him at the end of the year. Eldrenkamp, who is a guard and can play some center, figures to have a shot at making this team.
–Chaz Green: Along with Clark, the Colts view Green (7 career starts) as a candidate to compete for that Joe Haeg swing tackle role this camp. Green was a third-round pick in 2015. He got cut by the Broncos at the end of last year’s preseason and didn’t play in the NFL in 2019.
–Brandon Hitner: Bouncing around three practice squads since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2019, Hitner is listed as a tackle for the Colts.
–Carter O’Donnell: The Colts have some intrigue in their undrafted free agent from Canada. O’Donnell, 21, gives the Colts a young tackle who they could groom into a roster spot for the next few seasons.
–Javon Patterson: A torn ACL last spring ended Patterson’s rookie season. The Colts took Patterson in the 7th round last April. He was a center in college and figures to be an option for a backup C/G role.
–Danny Pinter: Body type wise, the Colts still think Pinter’s best spot in the NFL is in the interior, but he could offer an option at tackle, if needed, in a game. The Colts continue to be obsessed with Pinter’s work ethic and intangibles.