INDIANAPOLIS — It's time to walk the walk.
The Indianapolis Colts' offensive linemen — and even their coaches — have certainly done much talking this offseason about how close the group has become both on and off the field.
But now it's time for coach Joe Philbin's group to turn that cohesiveness into something tangible on the field.
The real work begins very soon for the big men up front in Indy, a group that was able to overcome a horrid, and injury-plagued, first half of the 2016 season to pull together and become one of the better second-half units in the entire league down the stretch, even as various factors put different faces in different spots from week to week at times.
Philbin said he saw that momentum carry over into the offseason workout program, and hopes to really kick it up a notch when training camp gets underway.
"I think they've made a lot of strides in things they can control," Philbin said in the spring. "Right now, they can't control how physical they are doing things because we are not at that phase yet. But in terms of the time, the effort put forth to prove themselves physically, whether it's change of direction, knee bend, physical strength, all those things we forget about, they are definitely making progress."
Here's a look at the state of the Colts' offensive line unit heading into training camp:
— Tackle Anthony Castonzo
— Tackle Le'Raven Clark
— Tackle/guard Denzelle Good
— Tackle Joe Haeg
— Center Ryan Kelly
— Tackle/guard Jack Mewhort
— Tackle Zach Banner
— Center/guard Brian Schwenke
NOTABLE CAMP BATTLES:
— Guard Deyshawn Bond
— Tackle Fahn Cooper
— Tackle Blake Muir
— Guard Adam Redmond
— Tackle Jerry Ugokwe
— Tackle Jeremy Vujnovich
— Tackle Andrew Wylie
— Center Austin Blythe (waived)
— Center/guard Jonotthan Harrison (free agency)
— Tackle/guard Joe Reitz (retired)
Last year, the Colts featured nine offensive linemen on their Week 1 roster — one fewer than the previous season. Those who made the cut were Clark, Blythe, Good, Harrison, Haeg, Castonzo, Mewhort, Reitz and Kelly.
The good news for the Colts' offensive line this time around is that it has a solid mix of returning — and healthy — starters on the left side and up the middle, while the right side remains open for competition (not that a couple favorites haven't already emerged for those spots, however).
Veterans Castonzo and Mewhort anchor the left side at tackle and guard, respectively, while 2016 first-round pick, Kelly, who didn't allow a single sack in his rookie season, returns at center.
One would figure that Haeg, then, will get a shot at either the starting right guard or right tackle spots. Last season, he became the league's first rookie to start at three different positions along the offensive line since first-round pick Kyle Turley did it in 1999.
So who's left? Going by how the 2016 season ended, as well as rotations seen during offseason workouts, it appears Clark would be a front-runner to win the right tackle spot, as well, though everyone knows Denzelle Good, who was a starter last year, doesn't want to be the odd man out.
Then there's the huge Banner, who at 6-foot-8 was taken in the fourth round this year after a stellar career at USC, while veterans Schwenke and Vujnovich provide solid depth at multiple positions.
That's nine offensive linemen right there; should they want to add one more to pad the depth even more early in the season coming out of camp and the preseason, they currently have six others hoping to do what they can to impress and earn a spot come Week 1.2017 Colts Training Camp Previews:
• Offensive Line
• Defensive Line
• Running Backs
• Inside Linebackers
• Tight Ends
• Outside Linebackers
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