Despite poor 2022 season, there’s reason to be optimistic about Colts offensive line

Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

The Indianapolis Colts had arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL during the 2022 season, but there’s reason to be optimistic about the line this season.

The offensive line for the Indianapolis Colts was horrible in the 2022 season; there’s no way to sugarcoat that. The Colts allowed 60 sacks, the second most in the league last season, and were also bad at run blocking, the one thing the line was expected to be able to do. The offensive line was probably the biggest reason why Indy only won four games and looked as bad as it did last season.

However, that line didn’t undergo much change this offseason. Indianapolis added a few rookie linemen, but Bernhard Raimann, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, and Braden Smith are all expected to return as starters. The lone open spot is right guard, and that will likely go to returning veterans Will Fries or Danny Pinter, or a rookie. Either way, the Colts will be trotting out most of the same offensive line from last year that played a big part in the season being a disappointment.

Despite that being the case, there is reason to be optimistic about this offensive line. While the line was really bad for a lot of last season, it significantly improved as the year went on. The offensive line’s performance in the second half of last season should have people optimistic about what they can do this year.

Colts offensive line significantly improved throughout last season

As stated earlier, Indianapolis allowed 60 sacks in 2022. Indy also only ran the ball for just 109.8 yards a game, 23rd in the NFL. However, a closer look at the numbers shows something important for Indy’s outlook. The Colts were much better in the second half of the season than they were in the first half.

In the first nine games of the 2022 season, Indianapolis allowed 35 sacks and ran the ball for 86.7 yards a game and 3.7 yards a carry. If the Colts played at that level over a 17-game stretch, they would’ve given up 66 sacks, what would’ve been the most last season, and would have averaged the second-least rushing yards in the NFL.

However, things changed in the second half of the season. After the surprise hiring of Jeff Saturday as interim head coach, his hands on approach with the linemen must’ve made a difference, because the line improved, even though the Colts were still losing games.

In the final eight games of the season, Indianapolis allowed 25 sacks and averaged 135.8 yards a game on the ground and 4.8 yards a carry. If Indy had played like that for 17 games, it would have allowed 53 sacks, which would’ve been fifth-most last season, and averaged the ninth-most rushing yards per game.

The rushing is great, but to be clear, the pass protection was still pretty bad. However, it was a clear improvement. Going from 35 sacks in nine games to 25 sacks in eight games is a step in the right direction, even if it is just a tiny little baby step. The point is, the offensive line for the Colts got better as the year went on. They marginally improved in pass protection and significantly improved in their run blocking.

The hope, and expectation, is that this improvement will carry over. Bernhard Raimann in his second year should be much better, Quenton Nelson will likely get back to elite form, and Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith should bounce back. Additionally, new offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr. has to be able to get the most out of the group.

Obviously, the offensive line must go out on the field and prove that they are actually a better group, but, until they do, fans must hold on to the slither of optimism that last year’s improvement provided.