One doesn’t need Pro Football Focus’ help to list the Colts’ offensive line among the best in the NFL.
But if you’re looking to make the case that Indianapolis has THE best offensive line in football, PFF has your back.
The site listed the Colts’ starting fivesome of left tackle Anthony Castonzo, left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Mark Glowinski and right tackle Braden Smith No. 1 heading into this season. The Saints were No. 2. The Vikings, who play the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, were No. 23.
“They’re good,” said Vikings defensive line coach and co-coordinator Andre Patterson. “The two tackles are tall and long and athletic. The one guard [Nelson] is the best guard in the league. They’re physical. We’re going to have our hands full.”
Though the Colts lost 27-20 at Jacksonville last week, it wasn’t the line’s fault. PFF says quarterback Philip Rivers was pressured on only six of 50 dropbacks. But, as the gambling Rivers is prone to do, he threw two interceptions that led to 10 points and posted a pitiful 39.6 passer rating on passes thrown 10 or more yards from a clean pocket.
Overall, Rivers completed 78.3% of his passes (36 of 46) for 363 yards, one touchdown and no sacks.
“We have a lot of confidence in our offensive line,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “Obviously, we think it’s one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. Now we got to prove that.
“Last week, we were excellent in pass protection. We need to execute a little bit better in the running game, but we’ve shown that we can do that.”
It’s no coincidence that three of Indy’s starters — Castonzo, Kelly and Nelson — were first-round draft picks while Smith was a second-rounder.
The 24-year-old Nelson has gotten first-team All-Pro honors in each of his first two seasons. He’s commonly referred to as the best guard in football, but Patterson raised even that high bar by comparing Nelson to one of the greatest guards in NFL history — Cowboys Hall of Famer Larry Allen.
“[Nelson] is powerful, he’s explosive, and he’s nasty,” Patterson said. “He’s mean. He tries to finish you. Those are the qualities that make him a real good player.
“I was fortunate enough to be the with the Dallas Cowboys when Larry Allen played there, and that was the thing that made Larry a unique player. Larry was explosive, but Larry was mean and nasty and he tried to finish you. This guy plays the same way.”
Rookie third-round draft pick Cameron Dantzler, who worked his way past first-rounder Jeff Gladney to win the nickel cornerback job for last week’s season opener, has been listed as out (rib) for Sunday’s game.
Gladney, who played mostly special teams last week, is an option against the Colts.
“He’s like all these young guys,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “It’s a continual work in progress. Working on techniques, working on alignments, working on different things. He’s a great kid. Tough, competitive and I think he’s going to be a really good player in due time.”
In other roster moves, the Vikings waived defensive back Nate Meadors and signed center Brett Jones and safety Josh Metellus to the 53-man roster from the practice squad.
Samia likely at RG
Zimmer stonewalled questions about the thumb injury that landed starting right guard Pat Elflein on injured reserve on Thursday. Elflein had not appeared on the injury report on Wednesday.
Second-year player Dru Samia is expected to take over and make his NFL starting debut on Sunday. It will be his fourth NFL game overall.
“He’s obviously much better with his technique [this year],” Zimmer said. “He was a little bit of a bull in a china shop. Everything full speed and kind of knock the guy around. Now, it’s a little more understanding with the finesse and things like that.”
Zimmer wasn’t surprised to see pass interference penalties on the rise in Week 1. Nor was he shocked the NFL decided to dump pass interference as a reviewable penalty.
“It just didn’t work, to be honest with you,” he said. “There was no consistency. That’s my opinion, which I’ll probably get in trouble for. … I just don’t feel like there’s enough definitiveness with how [pass interference] is being called.”