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Crowded Colts Offensive Line Coming In 2015

Intro: When OTAs begin in three weeks, the Colts will have 10 different offensive linemen who have started in the NFL.





INDIANAPOLIS – A cauldron of competition.

It's a phrase that Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson have wanted to create ever since they took over in 2012.

The phrase describes exactly what the Colts offensive line will be when OTAs open up in three weeks.

Yes, uncertainty extends to three starting positions up front but there will be no shortage of capable bodies fighting to be the lead five come September.

For argument's sake, let's say the Colts offensive line reads from left to right Anthony Castonzo, Jack Mewhort, Khaled Holmes, Todd Herremans and Gosder Cherilus when the regular season opener arrives.

Behind that starting five could include another handful of players who have combined for 112 starts in the NFL (Lance Louis-35, Jonotthan Harrison-10, Hugh Thornton-20, Joe Reitz-24 and Donald Thomas-23).

When the Colts open up their offseason program on April 20, the competition will be immense with specific questions applying to the center, right guard and right tackle spots.

At center, the starting battle will start with Holmes in the starting lineup. Harrison, who started 10 games as an undrafted rookie in 2014, will also have a say in who ultimately is snapping the ball to Andrew Luck next season.

"He's (Holmes) up for that challenge, just like Jon is and the rest of those guys," Pagano said at last week's League Meetings.

"It's about production. It's about playing well. (Holmes) came in and did a great job. I'm not going to discount what he did for us down the stretch, he played well. Again, he'll probably break the huddle with the first unit when we line up may be on April 20th but who knows what's going to happen."

Sliding over to right guard, it will be veteran offseason addition in Herremans competing with Thornton for the starting job.

Thornton, who was the Colts third-round pick back in 2013, has been a starter for the last two years but ended the 2014 season on injured reserve.

Grigson is very familiar with Herremans and, at the League Meetings, the Colts GM broke down how he envisions the race for the starting right guard spot.

"It's just nice to be able to have a guy with (Herremans') mental aptitude, too, to play with some younger guys and kind of be a stabilizing force in there, too," Grigson said. "That will provide some good completion for him and Hugh. I think Hugh will be able to learn from him as well.

"That should be an interesting competition. We were all upfront about that. Hugh knows he has to bridge a gap this year and kind of top all his loose ends to kind of get where he needs to be. That's all been made very clear to him. It's year three. It's time to go. Show us why we drafted you, and we expect you to be the great player we know you can be."

The final piece of the Colts offensive line in 2015 might take the longest to figure out.

Starter Gosder Cherilus was eventually placed on injured reserve in 2014 after trying to play through groin and knee ailments.

If Cherilus has to miss time this offseason, Joe Reitz and second-year pro Ulrick John would be the likely options at right tackle.

"We just have to monitor it, and see how (Cherilus) does," Grigson said of Cherilus' rehab.

"Once we get him out there doing field work, watch and see how he looks, see how he's come along in that dialogue because you know, tackles are hard to find. We really like Gos, but we've got to see how he comes back."

Some lesser-known story lines to keep an eye in the offensive trenches include:

-Can Donald Thomas (23 career starts) return from back-to-back season-ending injuries?

-Is second-year tackle Ulrick John (broken leg last year) physically ready after putting on weight last season?

-Where does CFL signing Ben Heenan fit in the interior of the line?

The Colts skill positions remains a major strength of this roster, placing many of the offensive questions in the trenches this offseason.

"We have a lot at stake this year, so I think all the players know that," Grigson said.

"We can't afford to put anybody out there that can't do the job. That's just the reality of the business side of this thing."

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