INDIANAPOLIS – It's not often you hear the predecessor of an NFL general manager go out of his way to praise the man before him.
But that's what Chris Ballard did earlier this offseason.
The topic was the offensive line.
Ballard wanted to make sure he complimented the work that Ryan Grigson had done in leaving some ingredients in the kitchen.
"Ryan Grigson did a heck of a job last year identifying some good linemen in (Ryan) Kelly, (Le'Raven) Clark and (Joe) Haeg and bringing them in the building," Ballard said.
"They are all developing nicely."
After acknowledging Grigson's work, Ballard went on to point out the necessary time it takes to build a quality offensive line.
Has that time arrived?
Jim Irsay thinks it has.
Center Ryan Kelly says the line is "light years ahead" of where the group was this time last year, working with position coach Joe Philbin for a second offseason.
With three second-year players starting during the offseason program (C-Ryan Kelly, RG-Joe Haeg, RT-Le'Raven Clark), the next step is continuity.
Last year, the Atlanta Falcons had the same starting offensive line for every game and finished second in the NFL in total offense.
The Colts have not even sniffed that stability in Andrew Luck's tenure.
A total of 35 different starting line combinations have greeted Luck in his 70 career starts.
Going into 2017, the coaching staff in Indianapolis needs to see the confirmation of full pads before crowning a definite starting line.
Nonetheless, it's hard to find another season since Luck's arrival that the Colts have felt better about their offensive line.
"Improvement in that area is necessary," offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski says. "We have some guys I thought that came a long way last year and made significant strides and improvements. But as I've said before, what was understandable yet not acceptable last season is not going to be understandable this season. As guys grow, and you expect that kind of growth and improvement out of them as time goes and who grows and who improves the most and how it all plays out in the spring.
"We'll get our chance to find out whether we're ready to go or not and I expect us to be ready to go."
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