New Indianapolis Colts assistant offensive line coach Kevin Mawae couldn’t have landed in a better situation as he tries to get back in the pro coaching ranks, as he will be tasked with making sure that studs like Ryan Kelly, Braden Smith, and All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson are performing up to par.
Nelson has been the subject of plenty of debate this offseason, as the retirement of Anthony Catsonzo has prompted some speculation that they could move the three-time All-Pro to left tackle in order to make up for the loss.
Mawae, a Hall of Fame center with the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans that moved from guard to center over the course of his career, doesn’t necessarily see the value in making Nelson do the same.
The Indianapolis Star reported that Mawae isn’t necessarily keen on mixing and matching on the offensive line, claiming the transition from guard to tackle is much more difficult than most fans think.
As the team’s new assistant put it this week:
"“It’s not as easy as everybody thinks it is. I think everybody is like, ‘Just plug them in at guard.’ Well, that just doesn’t happen like that. I think there are unique tools and attributes that a guard has to have versus a tackle and a center and just to plug and play is not the right way to go about it.”"
Indianapolis Colts coach Kevin Mawae might keep Quenton Nelson at guard
The Colts have the No. 21 and No. 53 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, and they could use one of those two selections on a left tackle.
If not, the most likely candidate to start on the left side next to Nelson is Sam Tevi, who the Colts brought in on a short-term deal after a very inconsistent stint with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Much like Aaron Donald at defensive tackle, the gap between Nelson and the second-best left guard in the league is as cavernous as any other position in the NFL. Instead of using their financial or draft capital to fix this problem, Chris Ballard seems to be considering plugging a square peg into a round hole.
If anyone can explain how difficult it may be to switch positions, it is Mawae. With Nelson’s new coach and a former Colts legend in Chris Hinton expressing similar concerns about the validity of playing Nelson at tackle, it is looking less and less likely that this move will come to fruition.
Drafting an offensive tackle to replace Castonzo is now looking more like the move if Nelson ends up sticking at guard.