INDIANAPOLIS — One word you could use to describe the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line group is “versatile.”
Few of their players have carved out a niche at just one position along the line. It feels like we’ve seen Joe Haeg play just about everywhere possible, and guys like Le’Raven Clark, Denzelle Good and Braden Smith have proven their chops at guard and tackle.
However, there is another Colts offensive lineman that is now in the starting lineup after playing several different roles over the summer, and he could be there for the foreseeable future: Mark Glowinski.
Through the first six games of the season, injuries along the Colts’ line have dictated much about who they use and where, but it has created some interesting scenarios in the process.
Smith — drafted to be the Colts’ right guard of the future — filled in for Good at right tackle two weeks ago, but Smith has done such a nice job that he is sticking in the lineup for now. Meanwhile, right guard Matt Slauson was lost for the season with a back injury following that same game. Rather than interrupt Smith’s momentum, Glowinski was inserted into Slauson’s spot and has built some momentum of his own.
In Glowinski's first start with the Colts of 2018, the Colts' line kept pressure away from quarterback Andrew Luck, as he was sacked zero times. The run game also averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
The man Glowinski has replaced, Slauson, is now on injured reserve, but remains close with the group as a player/coach of some sorts. And Slauson has liked what he’s seen out of Glowinski thus far.
“His (Glowinski’s) ability to adjust is really good,” Slauson told Colts.com. “All spring and summer long, he’s been having to flip flop side — left and right — even get shoved out to tackle, play a little center. He is such an incredible team guy that just does everything the organization asks.”
Glowinski settling in at right guard should come as no surprise, however. He played collegiately at West Virginia and earned All-Big 12 honors at right guard following his senior season in 2014. He was then selected in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
Glowinski started 19-of-36 games in his first three years in Seattle — playing 1,233 snaps at left guard and 222 at right guard, according to Pro Football Focus — before being waived near the end of the 2017 season. The Colts would scoop him up just two days later.
Before the 2015 draft, NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein had this to say about Glowinski:
"Tackle-turned-guard who is still learning to play the position. Lack of bend will cause leverage issues, but he has enough pure upper-body strength to overcome and he has potential to be good in pass protection. The physical traits combined with the toughness and intelligence should give him a shot to become a starter at some point."
Could it be — as Zierlein said — that Glowinski’s physical traits, toughness and intelligence are now coming together to form a starting NFL offensive lineman?
That may be, but Glowinski knows that there is still room for improvement.
As with any offensive line, having the ability to communicate is critical, and Glowinski said he wants to see his abilities in that area contribute to improve as the season wears on.
“(It’s) just knowing the guys that you’re playing with, (because) you might be playing with somebody else, especially with everything that’s happened with guys getting banged up,” Glowinski said. “It’s just being able to communicate what’s going on with one another and how they may or may not communicate.”
If the Colts stick with the same starting five this week against the Buffalo Bills that they did last week against the New York Jets, as head coach Frank Reich said is the plan, then the Colts could be on the heels of some continuity on their line.
It’ll be just the second time all season the team has put out the same offensive line combination in consecutive weeks, and any sort of continuity will always be considered a positive.
“Definitely, if you want any kind of group to grow,” Glowinski said, referring to the importance of chemistry on the line. “Just being able to say a certain word or whatever it is and the movements that we make. Everything’s a lot smoother — just like the pass pro — being able to do things as many times as you can, just working through them so it feels natural. You know how the guy next to you is going to move and how he might be punching things and snapping off things.”
As for his continued individual growth, Glowinski said he’ll continue to lean on those around him — guys like Slauson, who has never been shy about sharing the invaluable lessons learned over the course of 10-plus years in the NFL.
“I feel like he’s — regardless of his position right now — always done that, and I appreciate that about him,” Glowinski said. “He’s always trying to help anybody and everybody, especially with the O-line.
“With his experience with some of the other guys that he’s encountered through San Diego and the Jets, just the way that they talk so he can either help us by explaining what’s going on or translating things. It’s no different at this point from what he was before,” Glowinski continued. “He was great in the classroom and on the field by communicating and making one another better.”