For the last 10 years, the Indianapolis Colts have gone into every season with one certainty: Anthony Castonzo would be the starting left tackle.
Castonzo, long touted by teammates and Colts personnel alike as being one of the most underrated tackles in the league, was a rock for the offensive line.
Through the good times and the bad for that group, and especially late in his career, Castonzo could always be counted on to do his job at a high level.
But as Castonzo marked the end of his solid career this offseason when he announced his retirement, it left a huge hole at the spot protecting Carson Wentz’s blindside. So, who will be the starter at left tackle?
Let’s take a look at the offensive tackle group for the Colts to find out.
Before we look at the left tackle position, we need to give the budding star at right tackle his due. Braden Smith was never supposed to be a tackle when the Colts drafted him in 2018. General manager Chris Ballard took Smith with the hope that he would one day be the team’s starting right guard.
All Smith has done since is shown his incredible work ethic and produced at an incredibly high level.
Smith was thrown into the fire in 2018 at right tackle due to injuries and has been the starter ever since. In 2020, Smith gave up 0 sacks in 14 games according to Pro Football Focus, which ranked him as their 13th overall tackle heading into the 2021 season.
Like with Castonzo, the Colts don’t need to worry about Smith as they know they have one of the best right tackles in the league. The big question this offseason for Smith is what his massive contract extension will look like.
“I just let my agent handle it,” Smith told reporters when asked about the extension this offseason. “That’s what he gets paid to do and then I get paid to play football so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Smith’s hobbies include fishing and gardening. He’ll be doing plenty of that this summer as his agent gets that extension done with the Colts’ front office.
As the offseason progressed and there was still no definite plan at left tackle, many Colts fans became worried. As always, Ballard didn’t panic and had a plan.
Enter Eric Fisher, the former number one overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Colts signed Fisher after the draft as he was released by the Chiefs back in March. Familiarity with his new GM certainly helped in his decision to come to the Colts, as Ballard was a member of the Chiefs’ front office at the beginning of Fisher’s career. It doesn’t hurt the Colts have one of the best offensive lines in football either.
“To be able to play next to the best left guard (Quenton Nelson) in the league, I’m darn excited for that,” Fisher said when asked what drew him to Indy. “But across the board, talented guys everywhere. We’ve got a great quarterback coming from Philly obviously, and I’m excited to build that chemistry with him, build the chemistry with the guys.
“But to be a part of that O-Line group, I’m really chomping at the bit to get back to work … and I think we’re going to have a lot of success.”
Unfortunately for Fisher, it will be a while before he joins that group on the field. He tore his Achilles in the AFC Championship game back on January 24 and is still in the process of working himself back from injury.
The Colts are happy with Fisher’s progress and early indications are that he may be ready to go around mid-October. Do not be surprised if Fisher starts the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list before joining the active roster at that time.
The Colts are also hopeful that Fisher may be the long-term answer at left tackle. He only gave up three sacks in 15 games last year and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2017 and 2019. If all goes well and Fisher can regain his Pro Bowl form, the Colts will certainly try to make sure he stays in Indianapolis for the foreseeable future.
With Fisher most likely still recovering from the Achilles injury when the season begins, who will start until he is ready to go? For that, the Colts will look to Sam Tevi.
Tevi, formerly of the Los Angeles Chargers, was signed to a one-year deal in free agency this offseason. He was the starter at left tackle for the Chargers last year and started at right tackle for the team the two years prior. With 44 games started total at tackle in the NFL, the Colts are bringing in someone with plenty of experience in that role.
“(The) Colts’ offensive line got a good rep, especially with Nelson and (Ryan) Kelly, those two holding up the inside,” Tevi said. “But I’m just ready to get to work with those guys, learn from them, especially those two. Braden Smith as well.”
Working next to Nelson and Kelly will certainly help Tevi adjust to the Colts’ line and have success. Anytime you get to line up next to an All-Pro guard and Pro Bowl center, your job at left tackle will be much easier.
While he brings plenty of starting experience, Tevi still has holes in his game. He only gave up 2 sacks last year, but the film showed that he can be overpowered at times and struggle against speed rushers, causing pressure on the quarterback.
Overall, Tevi should be a decent option at left tackle until Fisher returns. When Fisher does return, Tevi will be a very solid swing tackle option if Fisher or Smith go down with an injury.
Will Holden or Julién Davenport
In past years, the Colts have typically kept four offensive tackles on the active roster. This means the final spot will most likely come down to Will Holden or Julién Davenport.
Holden saw action in only one game for the Colts after he was signed to their active roster from the practice squad in December. He was put in the starting lineup in Week 16 against the Pittsburgh Steelers when Castonzo and Smith were both out and held up pretty well until he hurt his ankle in the middle of the game.
Davenport signed with the Colts in free agency on a one-year deal. Formerly of the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins, he has started 28 games in his four-year career. He was used primarily as a backup with the Dolphins last year, and that is what he will be asked to do in Indianapolis.
Both Holden and Davenport will be given their shot to make the roster. At this point Holden has the upper hand as has he has shown to perform much better on tape and Davenport is very inconsistent.
It is also not lost on the Colts how Holden played against the Steelers before his injury and even saw some brief time with the starters in OTAs. A full season with the team could do wonders for Holden.
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