INDIANAPOLIS – The first time the media watched the Colts in a 11-on-11 session this offseason, you got a glimpse of how close rookie Blake Freeland is to playing in Year One.
And playing a pretty darn important role.
With the Colts wrapping up their offseason program this week, we saw Freeland running with the starters in each of the first two weeks of OTA, with Braden Smith returning to team work last week, after missing some time due to a leg injury.
Yes, when everyone is healthy, Freeland is a backup.
But he might be the most important backup on the entire roster.
It looks like Freeland will be the team’s swing tackle in 2023, serving as the backup at both the left (Bernhard Raimann) and right tackle (Braden Smith) spots.
Entering the 2023 Draft, the Colts certainly needed an investment in a versatile tackle.
Freeland was a guy we mocked to the Colts for his left/right tackle background, and because he fits what Chris Ballard looks for in that position—length and athleticism.
“Getting Freeland at tackle we thought was important,” Ballard said after taking the BYU tackle in Round 4. “We think he’s got really good upside. He’s a very talented athlete. Of course, he needs work, like all guys do, but we’re excited to get his ability in the building and have him compete.”
Per usual with Colts draft picks, Freeland tested extremely well at the NFL Combine.
He also had ample experience at BYU playing both sides, with 26 starts at left tackle and 15 at right tackle.
Similar to Raimann, Freeland’s growth to becoming a tackle included quite a weight gain.
In high school, Freeland initially played quarterback and tight end. But as Freeland’s body begin to develop, so did a late-night routine in aiding to a frame that is now over 300 pounds.
”It was a lot of late-night shakes, early-morning shakes,” Freeland explained. “Just like 2,000-calorie protein shakes, always eating, always working out. As I got heavier, it was easier to keep weight on and keep gaining that weight. It was an uphill battle at first, but I was able to figure it out.”
Another similarity between Raimann (a 2022 third-round pick) and Freeland is the main NFL question for the duo revolves around their ability to handle power rushers, more than the speed guys.
But unlike Raimann, Freeland brings ample college playing time at both tackle spots.
“I feel good playing both,” the 22-year-old says. “I played two seasons, both at right and left. Most recently at left, so I feel comfortable at left. I was able to play both sides at the Senior Bowl and they felt really, really good both ways.”
And, if the spring is any indication, Freeland is just one play away from having a huge rookie role.
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