When the Colts drafted Bernhard Raimann in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, they saw a player with the physical makeup to have success, but also someone who lacked traditional experience at left tackle.
He'd played just 18 games at the position after converting from tight end.
"That's another one [position] where a lot of times you tend to draw a tough matchup almost every week," Colts offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. "You kind of have 17 title fights. You're going up against really good players out there. Each guy's a little bit different in how they handle that. Obviously, some of the more veteran tackles that have been around the league for eight to 10 years have been through a lot of those battles. Bernie's sort of working through his early career portion of those things."
Raimann's first bout of the 2023 season came last Sunday when he spent most of the game blocking last year's first-overall pick, outside linebacker Travon Walker.
He played every offensive snap and on 47 pass blocking snaps, Raimann only allowed one pressure. That earned him a 98.9 pass block efficiency according to PFF, which would have been his second-highest rating last season.
He also had a key block on a screen pass to wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. which turned into a 39-yard touchdown.
"I thought Bernie played really good," head coach Shane Steichen said after the game. "I thought he had a solid game. Obviously [going into] Year two, just coming in there he played physical, he was good on the edges, I thought he was pretty good in the run game with his part of it."
His standout Week 1 showing was just the latest in what has been a great summer for the Austria native.
"I was just so much more comfortable," Raimann said. "I mean, you get used to everything. You know the guys now, you get kind of in a rhythm with the other guys, especially with Q [Quenton Nelson] playing right next to me. Then having an offseason with AR [Anthony Richardson] now and getting on the same page with everyone, that's helped a lot."
The progression in Raimann's game is a welcome sign considering how his rookie season went.
Raimann started 11 games. While he gave up four sacks from Weeks 9-11, he only gave up three in Weeks 12-18.
"My rookie year was definitely a roller coaster obviously with everything going on," Raimann said. "My ups and downs - I tried to learn from everything. I tried to learn from the good, but especially learn from the bad and just try to improve every week and get used to everything."
Since the season ended, Raimann has been hard at work to refine his game, gained 15 pounds in the process and even got married.
"He's taken a big step," center Ryan Kelly said. "Obviously the rookie year can be tough, especially when you're not starting Day 1, to go in there and rotate and then become a starter. From Year 1 to Year 2 is obviously a big, significant jump and he's prepared the entire offseason, during training camp, OTAs to be better than he was last year. That's all you can ask out of an NFL player and give it all you got. He's done everything."
Offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr. has seen many players make that jump before and attributes it to getting more adjusted to the competition they'll be facing every week.
"It's funny, the first year, obviously you're not quite sure what to expect," Sparano Jr. said. "You've heard a lot about how good this level of competition is, but I think till you're out here and you have to block some of the grown men you've got to block at this level who are top players and top professionals that will know you as well as you know yourself because they'll study you. That's a whole different challenge than it is coming from college and really, any level of college.
"Being a left tackle in this league is not easy. It's one of the hardest things you can do, which is play left tackle in the NFL and have to block some of the pass rushers he's had to block and that he will have to block. So, I'm just really pleased with how he's performing, how he's grown and that's a credit 100 percent to him and the work he's put in."
While he is proud of the work he's done in his fourth year playing left tackle, Raimann knows that he isn't a finished product, but he said he is on the right track.
"It's certainly getting easier, but some things I just haven't seen very often before," Raimann said. "So, sometimes I gotta focus on it a little bit more than some other guys maybe, but I'm getting there."