INDIANAPOLIS —The Indianapolis Colts had the continuity they wanted along the left side of their offensive line in 2017, where left tackle Anthony Castonzo and left guard Anthony Vujnovich played in and started all 16 games.
Unfortunately for the Colts, that same stability to the right of them didn’t exist in 2017.
Primarily due to a barrage of injuries, Indy was forced into using nine different starting offensive line combinations throughout the season for a unit that traditionally requires cohesion and consistency to get even a chance to show signs of improvement.
The group did have some highlights in 2017, however, including an eight-game streak, dating back to the 2016 season, with at least one rushing touchdown, something the team hadn’t done since a streak of nine straight such games from Dec. 31, 2006 to Nov. 4, 2007.
And for a team that plays at least half of its games within the comfortable confines of Lucas Oil Stadium, the line showed resiliency while playing in blizzard-like conditions Week 14 against the Bills in Buffalo, where they opened the game with 17 straight rushing plays and would total 163 rushing yards — the most in a game for the Colts in 2017.
Though the group also paved the way for multiple 100-yard rushing and receiving performances, it also had its obvious struggles in certain matchups, as the Colts allowed a league-high 56 sacks — two more than the second-place Houston Texans — as they worked to protect quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was added to the roster via trade just before the start of the regular season and was forced to learn the offense on the fly.
Here’s a review of the play of the Colts’ offensive linemen in 2017.
Castonzo wrapped up his seventh season in 2017, which happened to be one of the best overall performances of his career, as he was easily the strongest cog in the machine.
Rugged and reliable, Castonzo started in all 16 games — not missing a single snap the enitre season — and continued his strong run blocking while also, through Week 14, had allowed only three quarterback hits among 28 total pressures on the year, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Boston College product also started and played in his 100th career game Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans.
Vujnovich made the move over to left guard for the 2017 season and started all 16 games in his new position.
And, like Castonzo, Vujnovich didn’t miss an single offensive snap the entire season.
The Colts’ 2017 season opener against the Los Angeles Rams was the first start of his career as he showed his durability for the entire year.
Four different centers started for the Colts in 2017 —Deyshawn Bond, Ryan Kelly, Mike Person and Anthony Fabiano. This is a tough position to have to rotate through due to the line calls that must be made, especially with a young quarterback that had to learn the offense on the fly during the season.
With Kelly, the usual starter, out to begin the season after suffering a foot injury during training camp, Bond would start the first four games at center for the Colts in 2017 before suffering a season-ending quad injury in the Week 4 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. The Indianapolis native was one of only two undrafted rookie free agents to start in Week 1 in the NFL.
Kelly was placed on injured reserve Dec. 18 after working to come back from a concussion he suffered in Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans. This after the 2017 first round draft pick missed the first four games of the season due to that aforementioned foot injury. His second season ended having played, and started, in seven games after starting all 16 games his rookie season.
Down the stretch it was primarily Mike Person, who started three of the final four games. The Colts signed him on Oct. 3 after the Kansas City Chiefs released the seven-year veteran. He paid almost immediate dividends, being named to the Pro Football Focus “Team of the Week” after a strong individual showing against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13. He earned a grade of 88 after allowing zero quarterback pressures out of 41 passing snaps.
Fabiano logged his first-ever start as a member of the Colts and the second of his career when he lined up at center in Week 14 against the Bills.
As tentative as the starter was at center, it was even worse at right guard in 2017. Five different players started at this interior spot: Jack Mewhort, Le'Raven Clark, Kyle Kalis, Denzelle Good and Joe Haeg.
Mewhort opened the season as the starting right guard and played the first five games there before a knee injury led to his placement on injured reserve Oct. 14.
From there the Colts turned to Clark, a 2016 third-round draft choice who started training camp as the projected starting right tackle, but was not able to seize the opportunity during the preseason. Clark started three games at right guard after Mewhort’s injury.
Next up was Kalis, who was signed off the Washington Redskins’ practice squad Oct. 3 and started two games before being waived with an injured designation on Dec. 2.
Good stepped in for one game prior to moving back to right tackle and having Haeg start the next three games at right guard. The two played both line spots on the right side during 2017.
Eventually Clark, who played in 15 games, moved back into the starting role at right guard for the final two games of the season.
Good and Haeg tag-teamed the right tackle position as they showed versatility jumping back and forth when needed at right guard.
Good started at right tackle Week 1 and also Weeks 12-15, with Haeg getting the nod for all other games.
Isaiah Williams, a guard, was signed off the Chiefs’ practice squad on Oct. 14 and has since signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Colts, allowing him to be on the team’s offseason roster.
Number to remember
105: The number of games Castonzo has played — and started — during his seven-year NFL career, including 35 consecutive starts dating back to Dec. 20, 2015.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN - 2017 Review