INDIANAPOLIS — Versatility has been a huge point of emphasis for the Indianapolis Colts' offensive linemen under first-year position coach Joe Philbin.
That flexible mindset is one rookie Joe Haeg has certainly embraced.
Haeg, the Colts' fifth-round (155th overall) selection in this year's NFL Draft, has earned his first career starts the past three weeks along the Indianapolis offensive front, playing Weeks 3 and 4 at right guard before sliding over to right tackle in last week's victory over the Chicago Bears.
"When you're a young player, the more you can do — that's what they always say around here — the more you can do, the more you're going to be able to play, especially on offensive line where you only have seven guys active in the game," Haeg said this week. "You've got to be ready to play multiple positions, especially when you're a young guy. And that's something I've kind of embraced the last couple of games, and it's been good so far."
Haeg was a tackle in his college career at North Dakota State, starting at right tackle his first two years before switching over to left tackle for his redshirt junior and senior seasons.
So while he certainly has roots at tackle, Haeg wasn't phased at all when he signed with the Colts and realized he was expected to be able to perform at a high level both outside and inside. He says he doesn't particularly prefer tackle over guard, or vice versa.
"It's hard to say," Haeg said. "Run blocking is all the same anyway, but it kind of just depends on what I practice the most that week, you know what I mean? And I think I've just gotten so much more comfortable at both positions that it really isn't too much of a trouble for me to switch it up."
For Haeg, the work each week starts in the film room, where he's able to start breaking down that week's opposing defense. After getting a good read on what to expect, Haeg carries those mental notes out onto the practice field.
The overall goal, of course, is by the time the game rolls around, Haeg has prepared enough that he's doing less thinking on the field and more reading and reacting.
"There's so much you can tell from a film standpoint, just based off everything from their tendencies in pass rushes to knowing what to expect out of certain defensive fronts, to just understanding their whole mentality," he said. "There's so many things that, you put the time in to watch film and really take note of what they're doing, it can definitely help you out in the field and help you play faster."
Haeg has not only put in work as a starter along the offensive line the past three weeks, but he's logged the most total snaps (235) between offense and special teams of any player on the Colts' roster, including a season-high 83 combined snaps Week 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He's taken pride in his hard work and development, but knows there's much more in front of him to become a polished pro.
"It's something where I'm proud of the work that I've done in that area," Haeg said. "Now it's just kind of continuing to develop."