Offensive Linemen on the 2017 Roster:
$12.800m cap hit / 29 years old / LT / Anthony Castonzo
$02.500m cap hit / 32 years old / OT / Joe Reitz
$02.375m cap hit / 24 years old / OC / Ryan Kelly
$01.137m cap hit / 26 years old / LG / Jack Mewhort
$00.746m cap hit / 24 years old / RT / Le’Raven Clark
$00.628m cap hit / 26 years old / OG / Denzell Good
$00.600m cap hit / 24 years old / RG / Joe Haeg
$00.555m cap hit / 25 years old / OC / Austin Blythe
$00.466m cap hit / 24 years old / OT / Isiah Cage
$00.465m cap hit / 24 years old / OG / Adam Redmond
Jonothan Harrison is a Restricted Free Agent that the Colts have to decide if they wish to throw the RFA tag on or not. Harrison was an undrafted player as a rookie so there would be zero compensation for him if we gave him the lowest tag (compensation at the same round you were drafted in) at about $1.750m and someone else signed him away. The 2nd round tag or 1st round tag would be much more expensive and I would not anticipate the Colts using one on Harrison. Given that, I would sign him to the RFA tag because I think he is a pretty valuable backup to have in 2017.
My projected 2017 starting lineup = Castonzo / Mewhort / Kelly / Haeg / Clark
Projected 2017 depth O-Linemen. = OT = Reitz, Haeg OG = Good, Harrison, OC = Blythe, Harrison
That is only nine names and the Colts typically carry 10 on the active roster so there is room for one more.
As a draft class, it appears that Ryan Grigson actually did a nice job in his last season as the Colts GM. Picking proven college starters helped (Kelly started 48 games in college, Clark started 51 games, Haeg started 60 games) as well as picking guys who possessed incredible upside. Let’s be reminded about some of the things that the draft profiles were saying prior to the 2016 draft:
[quote]Kelly was a tenacious leader and three-¬year starter for a highly successful Alabama program that puts a heavy emphasis on physical and mental toughness. Kelly might not be a combine warrior, but when the pads are strapped on, he plays with enough strength and athleticism to thrive in both gap and zone running schemes. While he could use more mass on his frame, Kelly has the necessary skill¬ set and football intelligence to step in and challenge for a starting position right away.[/quote]
[quote] Clark is an ascending left tackle prospect with the elite foot quickness and length that NFL teams simply don't pass up for very long. Clark could still use more muscle on his frame and will need to be much more consistent with his technique rather than just relying on his length if he is to reach his full potential in the pros. Left tackles with his potential in pass protection carry first-round value and Clark has a Pro Bowl upside with the floor of an average NFL starter.[/quote]
[quote] Joe Haeg = While the pedigree and the body type look the part, continued tape study begins to uncover core strength issues that permeate several facets of his game. As a run blocker, his inability to drive and sustain blocks is a concern while his pass protection shows a good, initial pass set that turns into leaning to make up for his lack of anchor. While Haeg has the athletic traits of a zone blocking tackle, it won't matter without better functional power.[/quote]
All three guys were raved on about their college performance and mental ability to pick up the game with the biggest “hit” on them was functional core strength which is almost always a hit on college players. Those guys who are “physically ready” for the NFL are very few and far between.
I am pretty impressed with what Joe Philbin did as the Offensive Line coach playing 2 rookies pretty extensively (30 combined starts) and having two others (Clark and 7th round Austin Blythe) having a total of 4 starts and 9 games played in added to the mix. The jump in technique of Clark from a disastrous pre-season to what we saw in weeks 15 – 17 playing right OT was nothing short of remarkable. Having Joe Haeg ready to play at any of three different positions as a rookie was also pretty incredible as well. In addition, from StampedeBlue:
[quote] Kelly didn’t give up a single sack all season. That’s right, according to Pro Football Focus, Kelly didn’t allow a single sack in 626 passing snaps. That’s crazy impressive, and it helps demonstrate that Kelly was, for the most part, a good pass protector. Sure, like everyone else he had his ups and downs, and there were pressures he allowed that weren’t turned into sacks, but it’s still an impressive accomplishment nonetheless. Making things even more impressive is the fact that he also didn’t allow a single sack in his senior season at Alabama, so he’s on a streak of over two years without allowing his quarterback to get sacked. I’d say that’s pretty good.[/quote]
[quote] Kelly helped the run blocking get better too. Football Outsiders keeps a stat called adjusted line yards that basically attempts to put into a statistic how much credit the offensive line deserves for rushing yards versus how much credit the running back deserves. So in other words, it attempts to measure how good an offensive line was at run blocking. In this metric, the Colts were third in the NFL in adjusted line yards and had the fewest percentage of runs stuffed, but just as impressive was the splits. The Colts were 24th in adjusted line yards running to the left end, 19th running to left tackle, 21st running to right tackle, and 27th running to right end - and first running up the middle (with adjusted line yards of 4.95). The Colts also rushed up the middle on a higher percentage of their runs than the NFL average. Think that has something to do with Kelly? You’d better believe it.[/quote]
Jack Mewhort’s injury this season sort of sucked and robbed him of some valuable playing time under a new offensive line coach. I think Mewhort is one of our strongest (if not the best) linemen we have on the roster and is ready to start entering the conservations of being one of the best in the league. I hope that his recovery from injury is quick and that he can be 100% again in 2017. I think he will enjoy playing beside a 2nd year Ryan Kelly for a full season.
Anthony Castonzo had an up and down year but I was somewhat surprised to see what PFF had ranked him as 20th overall OT and 8th in run blocking. Considering 64 OTs strap on helmets every weekend, we could do worse. I certainly believe that the Colts need to start preparing to replace Castonzo if needed and I think we might have a kid in Clark that could do that sometime in the future, but Catonzo was not the problem child of the O-Line in 2016 and there is no reason to do something crazy in 2017 about him. Monitor and have a backup plan if required.
I really like the direction that the Colts are going with offensive line. I think Philbin was a great hire as coach and he appears to have done a pretty good job with the rookies. I think all three of the rookies who got extensive playing time looked like they belonged on an NFL field and, hopefully, all will grow greatly with a full NFL off-season and the “2nd year” jump many players get (and, apparently, an unchanged offensive system). I think that having a potential O-Line depth of: Reitz, Good, Harrison and Blythe is bloody brilliant because that is a pretty experienced bunch with a total of 82 games started between them which is some pretty great experience.
Do I think the Colts could add a quality player to the Offensive Line even with whom we have on the roster? Sure, I will always support making the offensive line stronger! Do we need to do that? No, not in my opinion but if we ended up selecting an offensive linemen during the first four rounds of the draft, I will not argue at all about the pick.
Until your offensive line is a top five line, you keep strengthening it when you can do so at good value. If an OT who the Colts have at a 1st round grade slides to their 2nd round pick? I will not be unhappy. Now, if the Colts select O-Line with their first round pick, I will scratch my head because I don’t think many pundits think there are any O-Linemen with early or mid 1st round grades. We are not “desperate” for O-Line help, IMO. We don’t need to reach for help. But if someone falls and is good value at our 2nd, 3rd or 4th round pick (like Clark did in 2016), then, yeah, I would fully support getting them.
I am a big fan of where the O-Line is heading. I think we found three winners from our 2016 rookie class and I think all three could be starters for us in 2017. I hope that Mewhort returns to full strength and that Castonzo rebounds to top ten left OT form. Our depth is pretty strong if we retain Harrison and while I would not cry to add a body from the draft, I think we are pretty set already for 2017.
If I were Ballard, I would look at our O-Line and then look at our Defensive Front Seven and keep their relative strength in mind when getting ready to sign free agents and the draft. I think the contrast would be pretty stark.
Now, if we can only get a better offensive scheme installed…
Next up, Special Teams.