Colts planning to make scheme changes to offensive line


Arguably the number one need for the Indianapolis Colts this offseason is to improve the offensive line and the team is set to make some big changes to this unit.

Over the past four years, Andrew Luck has been hit 450 times and the Colts have ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing. GM Ryan Grigson has made just about every move possibly to try and fix the offensive line to no avail. Now with a big investment in Luck looming, the team has to do whatever it takes to improve his protection.

The first move they made was bringing in former Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin to work with this unit. Philbin and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski have to figure out a scheme that plays to the team’s strengths and improves the blocking in both phases of the offense.

The first step is improving the personnel.

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The left side of the line is set with Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort, but from the center on it is a series of question marks. Neither Khaled Holmes nor Jonotthan Harrison seem to want to take over the reigns at center. Hugh Thornton hasn’t played well at right guard and can’t stay healthy. Joe Reitz played well at right tackle at time, but is a better fit as a guard and Denzelle Good is a bit of an unknown.

This means the Colts are going to be making some moves in free agency next week or using a number of picks in the draft on linemen. The best way to solve the line problem is some combination of both. There are a lot of “fix this in free agency and draft this player” scenarios left to be played out.

Also contributing to these moves is going to be the kind of player the team is looking for along the line. According to Kevin Bowen, the Colts are going to start changing up their schemes by mixing in some zone blocking.

Zone blocking, as opposed to man blocking, is where the offensive line essentially moves as a unit to take on defenders and can move through the defense depending on how the other team reacts. The benefit is that the blockers can be more flexible and adapt on the fly, the drawback being it is a generally more complicated blocking system. It also requires more athletic linemen and a running back willing to take was is given to him instead of dancing and waiting for a hole to develop.

For more on the differences in blocking schemes, head to Football Outsiders.

There have been teams in recent history that shifted blocking schemes and saw a dramatic improvement in their protection and rushing attack. If the Colts can find the right personnel ( a big if, which seems to be a theme this offseason) then we might finally see an effective dual threat on offense.

Grigson talked about the type of linemen the Colts need in a recent interview.

"“What is perceived as a guard to one team is very different to another,” Ryan Grigson said. “We have a different skillset now required for our guards than we did previously with (Pep Hamilton), so we are looking for different type guys.”“We have to add some players to that group. Those (edge) guys can protect. We have to be able to establish a run game (though). We haven’t really been able to do that. That’s no secret. We have to get some guys that have some punch, that can move bodies off the line of scrimmage.”"

When Chuck Pagano took the job back in 2012, he talked about building a tough team that ran the ball and stopped the run. Heading into his fifth year, neither of those things have happened. It also doesn’t help that neither of those concepts really fit into the team’s strengths, which are almost exclusively related to passing the ball.

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There are a number of free agents who might be able to check off the boxes of what the Colts are looking for and the draft is particularly deep in the trenches. This is an ideal offseason to shore up the line problems, but whether or not the Colts front office and coaches can resolve those issues remains to be seen.