Coming into the 2022 NFL season, there were high expectations for the Indianapolis Colts, to the point some analysts felt they could compete for the Super Bowl. The roster was said to be one that's ready to win right now, and they brought Matt Ryan in to replace Carson Wentz at quarterback. That move alone was seen as something that could solidify the Colts as a true contender.
Instead of living up to those expectations, Indianapolis fell far short, ending the campaign with a disastrous 4-12-1 record. The horror show called the Colts regular season had episodes where their head coach, Frank Reich, was fired halfway through the season, being replaced by Jeff Saturday. We know Saturday was the long-time center for Indy during his playing days, but he was working at ESPN before taking over on an interim basis. Ryan, who was looked at as a calming influence, was benched for Sam Ehlinger, then re-inserted into the lineup when Saturday took over.
Long story short, the season could not end soon enough for the Colts, and a team with high hopes was left with a lot of questions to answer. The main one concerns what to do with a roster that's proven not to be as good as originally thought. As the first week of free agency has passed, it's time to discuss one need the Colts still have to address. Drum roll please…
The biggest need the Colts have to address after the first week of NFL free agency is offensive line
I understand if someone reading this wonders why quarterback isn't listed as the biggest need. There's two answers for that thought. The first is that would be the easy thing to say. It's obvious the Colts have been searching for a quarterback ever since Andrew Luck retired before the 2019 season, so that probably goes without saying. Secondly, it's almost certain Indianapolis will address that position when the NFL Draft takes place next month. The Colts currently have the fourth pick in the order.
With that said, if the offensive line is as bad as they were in 2022, whoever is drafted wouldn't have a lot of time to scan the field if they're constantly running away from hungry defensive linemen and linebackers. Indianapolis gave up 60 sacks last year, with only the Denver Broncos giving up more with 63. It's easy to pile on Ryan, Ehlinger, Nick Foles or anyone else who was playing QB for the Colts, but to say the protection was lacking would be an understatement.
We can’t forget no matter how much media and fans alike want to say it's a quarterback-driven league, the foundation of the team starts with the offensive and defensive lines. There really wasn't a good foundation with Indy's offensive line, especially when it came to pass-protection.
Before diving into specifics with the Colts, let's talk about what's good. It wasn't too long ago when this group was mentioned as one of the best in football. In 2021, it was this line that opened up holes for running back Jonathan Taylor, who ran for a league-leading 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns in the process. Quenton Nelson, even after a subpar season, is still one of the best guards in the game, and they resigned Braden Smith at right tackle.
In 2022, Taylor ran for 861 and four touchdowns in an injury-plagued campaign, the result of opposing defenses gearing up to stop the run. Teams knew if they could slow Indy's running game down, the offensive as a whole was in trouble because they couldn't hold up against their pass-rush, and in most cases, they were proven right.
This is a long way of saying the Colts have to bring someone in to upgrade the offensive line, especially if they plan on protecting their new QB (whoever that is). The second week of free agency is upon us, and there's still work left to be done. So who can Indianapolis add to the team address this need?
Maybe free agent offensive tackle Taylor Lewan can be called upon. When someone says it's never personal when it comes to business, it's probably not true. Lewan spent his entire nine-year career with the Tennessee Titans before being released. It would be logical to think an opportunity to play against the Titans twice a year could be enticing to Lewan, so why not gauge his interest? Dalton Risner could also be an option to play the other guard opposite of Nelson.
Not all hope is lost for the Colts. There are options for them to go through as they attempt to rebuild on the fly. While the roster isn't quite Super Bowl ready, it's not voided of talent. It just needs a little retooling, and it starts with the offensive line.