INDIANAPOLIS — Unsung hero (noun): a person who makes a substantive yet unrecognized contribution; a person whose bravery is unknown or unacknowledged.
That's the definition of the phrase, at least according to our friends at Dictionary.com.
So Conor Orr, the Around The NFL writer for NFL.com, set out to find the unsung hero (or heroes) for each NFL team throughout the 2016 season.
These are oftentimes the guys that do the dirty work that get little — or no — recognition, but without their efforts, the team would be way, way worse off. These can be All Pros and Pro Bowlers, but for the most part, it's the guys that are at home this week, while the Pro Bowlers, like wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, are in Orlando getting ready for Sunday night's game.
Orr's selection(s) for the Indianapolis Colts? The left side of the offensive line: left tackle Anthony Castonzo and left guard Jack Mewhort.
While you can click here for his entire list of AFC unsung heroes, here's Orr's rationale for his Colts picks:*
"The offensive line is a constant source of ridicule in Indianapolis due to a general lack of understanding about all the factors currently befalling the Colts' offense. Needless to say, Mewhort and Castonzo played well this season. Though it is just one opinion, Pro Football Focus rated the pair (along with rookie center Ryan Kelly) as above average in its player-grading system this season. That's a whole lot better than they're getting credit for."*
Orr is right. For all the criticism the Colts' offensive line received this season from the outside, there were some solid individual performances up front when breaking it down game-by-game.
For the season, Castonzo was rated by Pro Football Focus as the team's top overall offensive lineman, earning a grade of 84.2 (ranking 20th overall in the NFL). Kelly, the team's first-round (18th-overall) pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, was the team's top overall pass blocker (with a grade of 83.1, ranking 12th), while Castonzo was one of the best in the league at run blocking, with a grade of 84.1 in that category, ranking ninth.[
Click here](https://www.profootballfocus.com/pro-ranking-all-32-nfl-offensive-lines-this-season/) for PFF's total ranking of all 32 NFL offensive line units, but here's what they wrote about the Colts' linemen this season:*
"The starting five for the Indianapolis Colts was significantly better than any combination they were forced to field that included backups; unfortunately, bench players were called into action for much of the season. LT Anthony Castonzo had a good season, especially as a run blocker, while rookie C Ryan Kelly had a solid first season in the league, and has yet to allow an NFL sack. Jack Mewhort was decent at LG, but he played in just 10 games, and wasn't the same player after returning from injury in Week 11. Every other lineman the team was forced to use this season struggled to one degree or another, some having the kind of games that can single-handedly wreck an offensive game plan."*
Castonzo, a sixth-year veteran out of Boston College, played and started in all 16 games at left tackle for the Colts, while Mewhort, a third-year Ohio State product, battled a number of injuries in 2016, playing and starting in 10 games before a knee injury placed him on injured reserve.
With Mewhort — and others — injured, the Colts were forced to go young up front for the final few games of the season, but the group, for the most part, responded. After allowing the most sacks in the NFL the first half of the year, the Indy offensive line went into its Week 17 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars allowing just nine sacks over its previous seven games, a total that ranked tied for the fifth-fewest in the NFL over that span.
So while the Colts' offensive line certainly took its lumps in 2016, those who dig deeper have found it wasn't quite as bad as it looked at times on the surface. Andrew Luck turned in the best overall season of his career, while Frank Gore became the first running back 33 years old or older to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since John Riggins with the Washington Redskins in 1984. Those kinds of things don't happen if you don't have guys performing up front.
On a similar note, when trying to determine the Colts' unsung heroes from 2016, it'd be hard not to at least mention tight end Jack Doyle, as well.
Doyle, who became the team's No. 2 tight end last offseason after Coby Fleener signed with the New Orleans Saints as an unrestricted free agent, blossomed in 2016 to the tune of 59 receptions for 584 yards and five touchdowns — all by far career-bests.
Doyle also does all the dirty work as a blocker and on special teams, so he screams "unsung hero," as well.
The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.