Despite a divisional win last weekend, the Indianapolis Colts organization took a big loss with rookie phenom Anthony Richardson landing on the Injured Reserve (IR) list. With the 2023 fourth-overall pick set to miss at least the next four games, fans are questioning how well the team can function under veteran backup quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
Fortunately for Minshew, the Colts' revived offensive line has made his job a much simpler one. After allowing the second-most sacks in the league last season with 60, the group has stepped up this year in both the run game and in pass protection.
On the ground, fourth-year running back Zack Moss is putting up career numbers behind the Indianapolis offensive line. Moss has never reached 500 rushing yards in a season, but this year is something different. Through just four starts, the veteran already has 445 rushing yards, putting himself on pace to go well over 1,000 yards on the year. This is all thanks to an offensive line that is ranked as the fourth-best in the NFL by PFF.
PFF ranks Colts offensive line as fourth-best in the NFL
The 2023 season has been full of pleasant surprises for the Colts, with the offensive line being one of them. Despite fighting through injuries to left tackle Bernhard Raimann and center Ryan Kelly, the line has fought to earn respect. Ryan Kelly finds himself as the highest-graded center by PFF with an 86.0 grade as the eight-year veteran has allowed zero sacks on the season.
Right next to Kelly is fan-favorite left guard Quenton Nelson, who joins his center in allowing zero sacks on the year. Nelson saw a year of career lows in 2022, with the guard allowing his most sacks in a year with five last season. This came after he signed an 80-million dollar contract in the 2022 offseason, leading some to question if the extension was worth it. This year, Nelson is quieting the doubters while having one of his most efficient seasons to date.
The Colts brought in Tony Sparano Jr. this offseason to strengthen the offensive line, and the coach is giving all credit to the players.
Sparano Jr. is the son of legendary NFL coach Tony Sparano, who is credited with starting the trend of the wildcat formation in the NFL. Sparano's son is looking to carry on his father's style of coaching, and it seems to be clearly working so far this year. The group is showing signs of their elite 2018 form that allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL that included starters like Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, and Braden Smith.
The line needs to step up once again with Minshew under center, and this weekend's road matchup in Jacksonville is a perfect test. Left tackle Bernhard Raimann will look to come back this Sunday after missing the last two games with a concussion. His presence has been dearly missed, as backup rookie Blake Freeland has been struggling in his place. Raimann's return will solidify Minshew's blindside protection, giving him time to deal in the pocket.