Last season was a nightmare for the Indianapolis Colts, especially the offense, and more specifically the offensive line. The line was just terrible in every aspect; run blocking and pass protection were both struggles. The most surprising thing about it all is that left guard Quenton Nelson was also struggling.
Every one could understand all of the other Colts linemen taking a step back and playing poorly, but Nelson struggling as well seemed like an unfathomable reality prior to last season. Since entering the league, Quenton Nelson has been one of the best players and consistently dominated whoever lined up across from him. In just five seasons, Nelson was selected to five Pro Bowls and named to four All-Pro teams.
However, last season was not a good year for Nelson, and that was demonstrated in interior offensive linemen (IOL) rankings. In Jeremy Fowler’s annual position rankings that he polls NFL coaches, players, and execs for, Nelson is usually the top dog for interior offensive linemen. In this year’s version, he fell from No. 1 down to No. 3, and also was ranked outside of the top 10 by some of the participants for the first time ever.
However, Nelson’s third-best ranking wasn’t the big takeaway, what an anonymous AFC Scout said about the Colts offensive line was. The scout said, “The whole [Colts] line was bad and overpaid.”
Colts offensive line criticized for being overpaid
Fowler followed the quote up by pointing out that “The Colts ranked 27th in total offense despite three linemen — Nelson, center Ryan Kelly and tackle Braden Smith — playing on contracts worth a combined $200 million.” That’s why, although the scout’s words may have been harsh, they were incredibly fair.
Throughout the season, when the offensive line was struggling, fans were quick to call them out for being an expensive mess. It’s one thing to have a bad offensive line when the team isn’t even investing in the unit, but it’s especially disheartening when money is being spent and players aren’t playing up to their standard.
The cost of the offensive line is also the reason Indianapolis hasn’t made much change to the unit. It’s hard to move away from big contracts, so the Colts are hoping the line will bounce back. With Nelson, Kelly, Smith, and Bernhard Raimann all returning to their starting spots, they’ll need to use all of these offseason insults as fuel to be better in 2023.