INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have two young pieces — one each on offense and defense — that already have NFL experience under their belt and are primed for breakout seasons in 2016.
That's the opinion, at least, of Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson, who listed Colts defensive tackle Henry Anderson and tackle/guard Jack Mewhort among the 10 players younger than 25 he believes are in position to make his 101 best players in the NFL list next season.
Anderson is the first player on Monson's list, while Mewhort is the No. 7 player listed.
Here's what Monson wrote on Anderson:*
"I think if he had played the full season, Henry Anderson would have made the list after just his rookie year. Throughout their final seasons in college, I believed Anderson was a better player than Jets DE Leonard Williams, despite the disparity in their draft stock. Both players had excellent rookie years and were neck-and-neck in grading terms at the time Anderson went down injured, robbing us of a fascinating grading battle down the stretch. Anderson is a disruptive interior player for the Colts who was performing very well against the run, but should be able to bring pressure as a pass-rusher, too, in year two. If he can do that, I'd expect to see him make this list."*
Monson's referring, of course, to the season-ending ACL injury suffered by Anderson in the Colts' Week 9 victory over the Denver Broncos.
At the time, the Stanford product was piecing together one of the better defensive performances by a rookie across the league; in nine starts, he had racked up 35 tackles, a sack and two passes defensed, and as Monson alluded to, he was a monster against the run.
Now, Monson and the rest of us might have to wait just a little bit to see if Anderson is able to pick up where he left off. Although Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said this week Anderson is very close to being taken off the team's Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, it's likely he won't be ready for game action until at least Week 2.
But it's definitely exciting to see Anderson's hard work — and potential — recognized.
Now, here's what Monson had to say about Mewhort for this upcoming season:*
"The Colts have had a poor O-line for some time now, but Jack Mewhort was a bright spot for that unit last season. Starting 14 games at left guard and two at right tackle, Mewhort didn't allow a sack all season, and actually played reasonably at tackle as well as inside at guard. He ended the year with 1,129 total snaps and was very good as a run-blocker. That season was a definite improvement over his rookie year, but we have now seen back-to-back positively-graded seasons from Mewhort and his trajectory is trending in the right direction. He doesn't need much of a step forward over the next season to force his way onto the list."*
A look back at highlights from Jack's rookie season.
That pretty much says it all right there.
Mewhort has now settled in as the Colts' starting left guard for the 2016 season, as the team has been able to establish a better feel of consistency up front, thanks in large part to the addition of first-round pick Ryan Kelly at center.
The Colts will lean on Mewhort's talents this year to help ensure quarterback Andrew Luck — who signed the most lucrative deal in NFL history just a couple months ago — stays healthy, and to improve upon their overall running game, led by veteran back Frank Gore.
One item of note this season will be the offensive linemen's individual improvements under new position coach Joe Philbin. Perhaps Philbin can help Mewhort make that jump from very good young player to one of the best at his position across the league.
And finally, for a little perspective, we'll take you back to Monson's list of this year's "101 Best Players In The NFL Right Now" heading into the 2016 season.
Three Colts made the list this year: cornerback Vontae Davis (No. 93), quarterback Andrew Luck (No. 99) and punter Pat McAfee (No. 101).
With a little more team success this season, look for more Colts players to possibly make this list next year.