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Indianapolis Colts

Colts 2022 Position Recap: Offensive Line

The Colts struggled to find continuity on their offensive line early in the season, but improved after settling on a starting five in the second half of 2022. 

Bernhard Raimann

2022 Depth Chart

  • G Quenton Nelson (17 starts)
  • C Ryan Kelly (17 starts)
  • T Braden Smith (16 starts)
  • T Bernhard Raimann (16 games, 11 starts)
  • G Will Fries (16 games, 9 starts)
  • G/T Matt Pryor (16 games, 9 starts)
  • G Danny Pinter (17 games, 3 starts)
  • T Dennis Kelly (16 games, 3 starts)

3 Things To Know

  • The Colts, as a team, allowed 60 sacks. First things first: Not all 60 of those sacks should be tagged to the Colts' offensive line. Pro Football Focus attributed 41 of those sacks to the O-line – but that total is third-highest in the NFL. And, notably, 14 of those sacks came in the fourth quarter, tied for the most allowed in the NFL. Back to the sack total, though: Only the 1997 Colts allowed more sacks (62) than the 2022 Colts.
  • Early-season instability hurt the Colts. This is something general manager Chris Ballard pointed to after the season – the Colts weren't able to settle on a starting five offensive line until November, and that hampered the entire offense over the first two months of 2022. "Early in the season we had some changes to the offensive line, and that's where our struggles occurred early and we just never really recovered from them," Ballard said. "It took us awhile to get some continuity. I probably underestimated that. I thought we've been so good up front for the last few years, I thought with the three really good players we had coming back in Braden, Ryan Kelly and Quenton, that we would absorb those other positions and they would come up to speed right away. It just didn't occur that way, and that's a mistake."
  • Things did improve in the second half of the season. Once the Colts landed on a consistent Raimann-Nelson-Kelly-Fries-Smith starting five, their offensive line played better. From Weeks 9-18, the Colts earned a 70.4 Pro Football Focus pass block grade, 16th in the NFL and a significant improvement from Weeks 1-8 (55.3, 5th-lowest). "I thought they played better down the stretch," Ballard said. "I know they've taken a lot of criticism, but down the stretch that wasn't the reason we were losing."

1 Big Stat

There were nine rookie tackles who were primary starters in 2022. Here's how they ranked by PFF pass block grade:

  1. Jamaree Salyer (LAC): 76.4
  2. Bernhard Raimann (IND): 71.4
  3. Braxton Jones (CHI): 70.5
  4. Abraham Lucas (SEA): 69.0
  5. Ikem Ekwonu (CAR): 67.5
  6. Tyler Smith (DAL): 65.4
  7. Charles Cross (SEA): 64.8
  8. Nicholas Petit-Frere (TEN): 50.0
  9. Evan Neal (NYG): 42.1

From 2017-2021, there were eight rookie tackles who had a pass block grade of 70 or higher – and on average, their career pass block grades have increased by 3.7 points.

"Early was rough, as it is for most left tackles," Ballard said. "I mean, we want them to be Jonathan Ogden the second they walk in the league or (Anthony) Castonzo. We forget Anthony had his struggles early. Most left tackles do have their struggles early.

"But to his credit, I'll never forget leaving New England and Bernhard is passionate, cares and wants to do the right thing. He's got tears in his eyes walking to the bus. I remember telling him, I said, 'Look, you're going to have days like this in this league.' And I said, 'But your mental toughness and your ability to reset is important.' And I said, 'And for you to make it, you have to do that.' To the kid's credit, he battled his (butt) off. He got better each week.

"Sure, he's got some things he's got to work on. He's got to get a little bit bigger, little bit stronger, but we thought he performed at a winning level the last seven, eight weeks of the season. I know there was a couple of plays and some mistakes out there, they all do. Look across the league, players make mistakes. They're not perfect."

What's Next

We'll leave you with what Nelson, the five-time Pro Bowl left guard, said in the Lucas Oil Stadium locker room at the end of the Colts' season.

"I have to be better and do better," Nelson said. "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."

A look back at the Colts' offensive line through photos from the 2022 season.

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