The Indianapolis Colts made two trades during the offseason to address two of the more important positions in the NFL — quarterback and edge rusher. But they didn’t do that for arguably the other most essential spot on an NFL roster — left tackle.
The Athletic’s Zak Keefer wrote after Indianapolis’ seventh non-winning game in 11 weeks that that decision has proved very harmful.
“The Colts gambled at one of the most essential positions to modern-day offensive football — the blindside protector for an aging, mostly immobile quarterback — and it’s cost them dearly,” wrote Keefer.
In the 17-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 11, the Colts allowed 4 sacks for the fifth time this season.
Colts Have No Answers at Left Tackle
Keefer lamented in his analysis of Indianapolis’ Week 11 loss that the team’s changes at head coach, play-caller and quarterback over the last couple weeks have made little difference because there’s fundamental elements of the roster that are broken.
“You can change the head coach, you can change the starting quarterback, you can change the play-caller — the Colts have done all three in the last month — but if you can’t protect and can’t score and can’t rush the passer, you can’t win consistently in this league,” wrote Keefer.
The Colts have tried changes at left tackle too.
Matt Pryor started the season at Ryan’s blindside. But in nine starts (some not at left tackle), Pryor recorded a 42.4 player grade out of 100 at Pro Football Focus. That’s the third-worst overall PFF blocking grade from an offensive lineman who’s played at least 50% of his team’s offensive snaps this season.
Pryor lost his job at left tackle in Week 5. Veteran Dennis Kelly played the majority of the snaps at left tackle from Weeks 6-8 and produced mixed results. Rookie Bernhard Raimann has also received his chances.
Raimann started his fourth game at Ryan’s blindside in Week 11, and he was the weak link along the Colts offensive line in the game. He allowed 2 sacks and committed 2 penalties. Raimann posted a 57.2 grade at PFF against the Eagles.
Nothing has worked at left tackle for the Colts this season, and they are officially out of options.
Colts ‘Wasting a Terrific Year’ From Defense
It would be one thing to see the Colts struggling at left tackle if the team was considered a year away from competing. But many analysts considered Indianapolis the front runner in the AFC South during the preseason.
Looking at Indianapolis’ roster, it wasn’t hard to see why.
Other than left tackle, there were veterans at several key positions, especially on defense. Those key players will be at least a year older by the time the Colts solve their problem at left tackle, and a handful of them will be free agents at season’s end.
“They are wasting a terrific year from coordinator Gus Bradley’s defense in the process, a unit that ranks sixth in the league in EPA and has, with few exceptions, played well enough to win every single week,” wrote Keefer.
The Colts held the Eagles, who averaged 27.6 points per game and scored at least 20 points in the first 10 weeks, to only 17 points. But that was one too many for the Colts offense, who scored 16 points — just a tad above their average 15.7 points per game this season.
Points have dried up for the Colts this season at least in part because the team failed to do a better job of addressing left tackle during the offseason.