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Guard Quenton Nelson sees re-invigorated offensive line in training camp

Nelson credits new offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr. for helping the group grow tighter bonds.


WESTFIELD, Ind. – The play of the Colts' offensive line last season was not up to the group's standard.

Colts quarterbacks were sacked 60 times in 2022, the most since 1997 when they allowed 62.

While all of those plays were not because of the offensive line, All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson quickly began leading the charge to get the group back to where it wanted to be.

"I have to be and do better," Nelson said at the end of last season. "There's a bunch of plays this year I want back. I sat down and wrote down my goals for the new year and how I can have my best season next year individually. That's what I'm going to do this offseason, I'm going to attack and come back the best I've been."

To go along with the returners from last season, the front office spent a couple of their draft picks to bring in young linemen Blake Freeland and Jake Witt.

However, the biggest change was the hiring of Tony Sparano Jr. as offensive line coach.

"Coach Sparano has been doing a great job coaching us up," Nelson said. "He's letting us have a voice in the room and working [stuff] out together. And it's making us closer. Still, a lot of room to grow. There's always room to get better and improve and that's what we want every day."

Undeterred by the team's struggles last season, Sparano said that he views training camp as a fresh start for everyone.

"I'm not going to speak on last year because I wasn't here," Sparano said. "To me, that's irrelevant. What I'm focused on is from day one getting this group together and moving forward and building our identity. It's a different system, it's a different group than last year, there are different players. Certainly, myself and my assistant Chris Watt and our whole staff are new.

"To me, I have been really pleased with the way the guys have worked, the way they have bought into what we are doing as an offense and as an offensive line – the investment they have made into each other of truly trying to bond as a unit. Again, to me the offensive line scheme is really important, technique is really important. If you're not five as one or playing as a unit and not on the same page as each other, I think the other stuff is irrelevant. That's where it starts and that's where it ends."

That mindset has quickly won over Nelson and his fellow offensive linemen.

"I love Tony," Nelson said. "From the first day, he's honest with you and you can tell he cares about you on and off the field. You get a million texts from him a day. He texts you about certain plays and different things he's seeing. I mean, that right there shows how much he cares."

Since the start of camp, the offensive line has looked the same as it did at the conclusion of the regular season: Bernhard Raimann (left tackle), Nelson (left guard), Ryan Kelly (center), Will Fries (right guard) and Braden Smith (right tackle).

Not only does that consistency allow the group to gain chemistry with one another, but Nelson said it allows them the chance to prove that last season's showing was a fluke.

"[We're] very motivated," Nelson said. "Last year, we didn't meet our standards at all. And this year, we're doing our best to be our best."

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