Offensive Line – Boom or Bust?

The Colts have many things going in their favor as the 2014 season approaches.  The AFC South failed to improve which makes the Colts nearly a lock to repeat as division champions.  Andrew Luck enters his third season; and second with his former Stanford offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton. Not to mention the return of key injured players from a year ago – Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen, and Vic Ballard.

GM Ryan Grigson hard at work

GM Ryan Grigson working his magic to improve the roster.

GM Ryan Grigson was busy this off-season by bringing in defensive free agents Arthur Jones and D’Qwell Jackson to help bolster the team’s ineffective rush defense of a year ago.  The Colts addressed another weakness – the porous offensive line – through the draft and players returning from injury.

That brings us to one of the most exciting, and also the riskiest move by the team. The projected starting O-line will include three first or second year players anchoring the interior. Here is where we stand:

Going into camp (Projected Starters)
LT: Anthony Castonzo – 4th year w/ team
LG: Donald Thomas – 2nd year w/ team*
C: Khaled Holmes – 2nd year w/ team**
RG: Hugh Thornton – 2nd year w/ team***
RT: Gosder Cherilus – 2nd year w/ team****

*Started 3 games, placed on IR
**played 12 snaps with team in 2013
***Replaced injured Thomas
****FA from Detroit

2014 Projected Starters (Now)
LT: Anthony Castonzo
LG: Jack Mewhort – Rookie (Ohio State)
C: Khaled Holmes**
RG: Hugh Thornton***
RT: Gosder Cherilus

After the season-ending injury (torn quad) to Thomas, the rookie Mewhort has been penciled in as the starting LG. Mewhort has experience at all three O-line positions, but most recently played tackle while at Ohio State. Mewhort was expected to challenge for one of the guard spots but in reality was projected to be a back-up. Welcome to the league, Mr. Mewhort.

The Colts will be sending out one of the youngest O-lines in the league this season with an average age of just under 25. Holmes, for all intents and purposes, is a rookie. Mewhort is a true rookie. Thornton begins his second season as a starter with this group. Cherilus, a seven-year veteran, is in just his second year with the team and will be looked upon to help lead this group with Castonzo.

Castonzo begins his 4th season as starting LT.

Castonzo begins his 4th season as starting LT.

The youth and inexperience are concerns, but they also present great opportunity for growth and cohesion for years to come. If the O-line plays to a level that gratifies the front office then this season could be the start of something special. Fortunately, the loss of Thomas occurred early enough that this unit has a good chunk of training camp and all four preseason games to build unity prior to the Week 1 showdown in Denver.

On paper, this team has a solid foundation for years to come. Yes, there are major questions that will have to be answered, but if the interior pans out, Luck and his offensive juggernaut should be unstoppable. The O-line has been the Colts’ Achilles heel since the move from Baltimore, but this year there is a sense of optimism; optimism that will result in Boom or Bust.

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