Colts’ Rookie Making First Start as Indianapolis Reshuffles Offensive Line

Frank Reich

Getty Head coach Frank Reich and the Indianapolis Colts reshuffled their offensive line for Thursday Night Football against the Denver Broncos.

The Indianapolis Colts are desperate for a victory at the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football. That’s evident by how much the Colts reshuffled their offensive line on a short week.

According to the Amazon Prime pregame show, the Colts will start rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann for the first time this season. Matt Pryor, the team’s previous left tackle, will move to right tackle, while right tackle Braden Smith will kick inside to right guard.

Smith will be Indianapolis’ third different starting right guard in as many weeks.

The reshuffling of the Colts offensive line comes as Indianapolis is ranked 27th in the NFL in rushing yards per game and yards per carry. The Colts have also allowed 15 sacks in 4 games.

Last year, Indianapolis finished second in both rushing yards and yards per carry.

Raimann Makes First Start

Drafted in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Raimann started the first game of his NFL career against the Broncos. Raimann received a small amount of playing time in the first 2 weeks, as he played 16 offensive snaps in Week 1 and then 15 in Week 2.

But Raimann missed Week 3 with an injury and then played just 4 snaps on special teams in Week 4.

While Raimann was a later pick on Day 2 of the draft, some experts projected he would be drafted much earlier than No. 77 overall. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein of projected Raimann as a first-rounder.

“With alluring athleticism and an impressive skill set, Raimann is just scratching the surface of his potential,” Zierlein wrote. “His initial transition from tight end to left tackle occurred in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, making his rapid transformation fairly remarkable. He is a much better technician than he should be at this stage, but his approach is also mechanical and he could struggle against sophisticated edge defenders until he learns to diversify his pass sets and hand usage.

“Raimann’s instincts and fundamentals at the position are still in a developmental phase so bumps in the road are expected, but his best football is ahead of him and he should become a long-time starter at left tackle.

The Colts are now counting on Raimann being their short and long-term solution at left tackle.

Colts Bench Will Fries, Danny Pinter

Pinter started the first 3 games of the season at right guard for the Colts. But he really struggled, especially in pass protection. Pro Football Focus gave Pinter an overall grade of 50.5 in the first 3 games and a 36.4 grade (out of 100) in pass blocking.

Fries did a little better in pass protection, but only marginally better and performed worse in run blocking during Week 3. Fries earnedPFF grade of 36.6 in run blocking and 44.4 in pass blocking.

Although it’s a small sample, Raimann received much better PFF grades in the 31 snaps he played during Weeks 1 and 2.

Of those 3 offensive linemen, Raimann is the most talented. Pinter and Fries were late Day 3 selections in their draft class, as fifth and seventh-round picks, respectively.

Indianapolis’ Expensive Interior Offensive Line

As radio host Kevin Bowen of 107.5 The Fan tweeted, the changes to the Colts offensive line is unorthodox for multiple reasons. For one, it comes during a short week where Indianapolis didn’t have the opportunity to practice much with its new offensive line.

Secondly, it means the Colts have their 3 most expensive offensive linemen all along the interior of the line. Smith, center Ryan Kelly and left guard Quenton Nelson are all among the top 8 highest-paid players on the Colts roster.

Overall, the Indianapolis offensive line is the most expensive offensive line in the NFL. Yet, the Colts have failed to establish their ground game and protect their quarterback this season.

If nothing else, the reshuffled offensive line for the Colts indicates how much the coaching staff is searching for answers up front.

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