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Who Should Start at Left Tackle Until Eric Fisher Returns?

The Colts have rotated Will Holden, Sam Tevi, and Julien Davenport at left tackle in camp. Which one of them should start in while Eric Fisher recovers from injury? (Video via Indianapolis Colts YouTube)
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The 2020 NFL offseason was a stressful one for fans of the Indianapolis Colts, as the team went into the process without an answer at quarterback or left tackle. While quarterback was taken care of early on, there was a major question mark at left tackle up until May 12th, when the team signed Eric Fisher.

Fisher has been progressing well through his recovery from an achilles tear, but it is still very likely that he misses time to start the season. With that in mind, the attention turns to the depth the Colts have at left tackle in camp.

The Colts currently have three players competing for the backup left tackle spot; Sam Tevi, Will Holden, and Julien Davenport. While all three have experience in the league, each has had their fair share of struggles in camp.

With the Colts likely to start one of these three, I decided to dive into the arguments for each player getting the job. I look at the good and bad of each player and discuss who I think ultimately starts at the beginning of the season.

Sam Tevi

The Colts signed Tevi to a modest one year, 2.5 million dollar deal this offseason. He has started 44 games in his NFL career, allowing 18 sacks and 101 hurries in those games.

The Good

When it comes to this trio, Tevi is by far and away the best athlete. He is the best run blocker by a slight margin as well, as his ability to get out in space and reach difficult blocks is unmatched by the other two players.

If Tevi were to start, he would fit well in how the Colts use their linemen in the run game. He'd be able to get out on screen plays with ease. I also love his energy and effort level on every play. He may not be the greatest player, but nobody can question his effort at the end of the day.

The Bad

His play strength is not even somewhat suitable for the NFL game. He gets blown off of the ball by virtually any defensive end that uses power well in the pass game. This susceptibility to getting rocked condenses the pocket and makes things much harder for the quarterback.

On top of that, he struggles with his hands in pass protection as well. He allows defenders to get inside his chest plate with ease, which further emphasizes the lack of play strength concern. If he were to start, he would need serious help with chips and double teams in the pass game.

Julien Davenport

Davenport, like Tevi, was signed this offseason by the Colts (one year, 1.1275 million dollar deal). He has started 28 games in his NFL career, allowing 19 sacks and 66 hurries in those games.

The Good

Davenport is the most physically impressive of the three tackles, standing at 6'7" 325 pounds. He also boasts some of the longest arms in the league, measuring out at 36.5 inches long.

On film, Davenport has some work to do, but he is a perfectly adequate tackle when he can get his hands on a player. Unlike Tevi, Davenport can withstand power and actually thrives against it. Defenders rarely get inside on him due to his long arms and massive frame.

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The Bad

He is as slow-footed as they come. His legs look like they are moving in slow motion as he kicks out of his stance. Whenever he faces a speed rusher of any quality, he struggles. He also has a tendency to play high in both the pass and run game (which is not good for a 6'7" player).

In the run game, he gets little to no push. He can't reach the second level on a consistent basis and struggles to move defensive linemen out of their gaps. He is probably the best of the three when it comes to pass protection (which is saying something) but he is a major downgrade in the run game.

Will Holden

Holden was signed by the Colts late in 2020 and remained on the active roster until the end of the year. He has started nine games in his NFL career, allowing four sacks and 14 pressures in those games.

The Good

Holden is a bit of a combination of the two players above, for better or worse. He isn't an outstanding athlete by any means, but he can get out of his set much easier than Davenport. He also flashes good hands at a much more consistent rate than the other two tackles.

I also wouldn't say that he has a clear weakness against a power or a speed rusher like the other two tackles. He has his ups and downs with both, which (at the very least) doesn't leave him as vulnerable on the backside. He is also good in the power run game and excels with combo blocks in tight quarters.

Holden's weaknesses go hand in hand, much like with Tevi's. Despite being 6'7", Holden has short arms for an offensive tackle (33.5 inch arms). This isn't a deal breaker for tackles, though, as Braden Smith has some of the shortest arms in the league for a tackle, and he is a well above average starter.

The concern with Holden is that he doesn't have the athleticism or veteran savvy to minimize this deficiency. The result is that he struggles to reach pass rushers out of his frame and struggles to recover if he makes one false step or movement. He actually seems like a better fit at guard than tackle for me when you factor in his athleticism and how good he is in tight spaces.

Final Thoughts

While it is easy to criticize this group (especially since they deserve criticism), there aren't many teams around the league that have three backup offensive tackles who have combined to start for 81 games in the NFL. While these players aren't great by any means, it is probably one of the better depth-tackle groups around the league (which speaks to the quality of tackle depth league-wide).

The issue is that the Colts need one of these guys to start at the beginning of the season. Each player has noticeable weaknesses and it will be on Frank Reich and the rest of the Colts' offense to cover up whoever ends up starting.

Off of film alone, Will Holden seems to be the most likely one to be average (which is the goal here). The concern though is that he is the oldest in the group and is the one that is the least battle-tested. Sam Tevi would help the run game the most, while Julien Davenport would be the easiest to help in the pass game (just chip on every single pass).

If it were up to me, I would try to bring more bodies in to compete for the spot with all three of these players struggling in camp. If I had to choose who the Colts roll with in week one at this moment, I'd say it's Davenport since he has received the most run with the first-team offense of late. Regardless of who ends up starting, the rest of the offense better be ready to pick up the slack on the left side.


 

Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.

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