INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have had the top offensive line in the National Football League the last several weeks, and now it’s getting even deeper.
Head coach Frank Reich announced today that tackle/guard Joe Haeg will officially be moved to the active roster from injured reserve. The team will have to make a corresponding move to open up a spot for Haeg on the 53-man roster; that move is yet to be formally announced.
Haeg had started the Colts’ first three games of the season at right tackle before suffering an ankle injury during the team’s Week 3 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. He was placed on IR on Sept. 28.
Since that time, the team used its first of two return-from-IR spots on defensive tackle/end Tyquan Lewis, who had missed the first eight games of the season with a toe injury. Brought back to practice on Oct. 24, Lewis was officially activated about two weeks later, and the rookie has since started his first three career NFL games at defensive end for Indy.
Haeg, meanwhile, has slowly but surely been working his way back since being placed on IR. After working off to the side with trainers for a period, Haeg was officially labeled as the Colts’ second and final return-from-IR candidate and brought back to practice on Nov. 14, setting in motion a three-week window in which the team could decide to either bring him back to the active roster, or revert him to IR for the rest of the season.
Haeg’s return provides a shot in the arm to a Colts offensive line that has played better than any other unit in football the last eight weeks.
From Weeks 5 through 12, quarterback Andrew Luck attempted 239 passes without being sacked, which was the third-longest such streak in NFL history, trailing only the Washington Redskins’ Mark Rypien (252 in 1991) and the Miami Dolphins’ Dan Marino (759 across 1988-89).
The Colts currently have the lowest sacks-allowed-per-pass attempt figure (2.4 percent) in the NFL, and their 11 total sacks allowed are the fewest in the league.
The offensive line also paved the way for back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances in Weeks 7 and 8 against the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders, marking just the sixth time in franchise history the team had accomplished that feat — and the first time it had done it in the same season since 1985.
Just where Haeg will fit in as he makes his return is yet to be seen, but his versatility is perhaps his greatest asset.
The third-year North Dakota State product was a fifth-round (155th-overall) selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, and that year started 14-of-15 games at three different positions (left guard, right guard and right tackle), becoming the first league rookie to start at three different spots dating back to 1998 (Kyle Turley).
Last season, Haeg competed in all 16 games with 15 starts at right tackle and right guard.
Haeg added center duties to his repertoire this past offseason, and was oftentimes seen working in with the second team at that spot during training camp and the preseason.
The Colts have been rolling of late with the lineup of Anthony Castonzo (left tackle), Quenton Nelson (left guard), Ryan Kelly (center), Mark Glowinski (right guard) and Braden Smith (right tackle), but Kelly suffered a knee injury two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, and was replaced in the lineup last Sunday by third-year veteran Evan Boehm.
Kelly — who will be out once again Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars — remains more in a day-to-day mode at this point moving forward, but with Haeg returning to the mix, head coach Frank Reich has a player that he can confidently fill in at all five spots up front if need be.
“The good thing about Joe is he can fit in anywhere,” Reich told host Matt Taylor last week on “Colts Roundtable Live” on 1070 The Fan. “He can play all five positions, and that’s one of the things that is so valuable about him at this time of the year. You know, we’re pretty healthy up front — obviously, besides Ryan — right now, so when Joe gets back, we’ll see where the greatest need is.”