Colts’ Battle of the Trenches: Offensive Line vs. Texans

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Nov 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) looks for an open receiver during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) looks for an open receiver during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Colts’ Battle of the Trenches: Offensive Line vs. Texans

Starters:

Left Tackle: Anthony Castonzo

Left Guard: Jeremy Vujnovich

Center: Ryan Kelly

Right Guard: Kyle Kalis

Right Tackle: Joe Haeg

Key Statistics:

Rushing: 28 carries, 92 yards, 3.29 yards per carry

Passing: 30 attempts, 308 yards, 10.27 yards per carry; three sacks allowed, 29 yards lost

Penalties: one illegal use of hands (Kalis), one holding (Kalis)

Superlatives:

Best Performance: Haeg

Worst Performance: Kalis

The Colts won, but is that a good thing? After a 2-6 start, many fans (and writers, admittedly) began rooting for a 2-14 season to ensure a better draft position in the spring. While no one believes this victory will be the catalyst for a surprise playoff run, it could prove costly, especially if Houston loses out—and with Tom Savage behind center, they very well may. With both teams on a crash course for the AFC South toilet, a head-to-head tiebreaker could determine who picks where. If there are, say, four bona fide elite players in the draft class, and the Colts end up drafting fifth, then that could be bad for the long term future of the franchise. But oh well, these guys are still professional athletes, and it is nice to see them play like it once in a while. The offensive line wasn’t great, but they weren’t terrible either.

Joe Haeg and Anthony Castonzo did a good job of keeping Jadeveon Clowney relatively quiet. He did record a sack, but he is capable of inflicting a lot more damage than that. The biggest play of the day for Houston was Eddie Pleasant’s strip sack that Lamarr Houston returned for a touchdown to narrow the Colts’ lead to 10-7 late in the first half. Ultimately, the Colts survived that too, but it could have turned the game on its head if Jacoby Brissett were injured in the melee. Since Pleasant came free off of the left side, Castonzo may have been at fault (without knowing the Colts’ exact protection schemes, it is nearly impossible to identify who should have blocked Pleasant: Castonzo, Vujnovich, running back, quarterback?). Haeg blocked well on the edge and was the highest-graded offensive lineman, per Pro Football Focus.

Kalis, by and large, didn’t do too badly for a rookie making his first professional start. However, he had two penalties called against him, one of which negated a third down conversion on a drive that ended in a punt. He proved more capable than LeRaven Clark in run blocking, but his pass protection needs work. Houston ran several stunts and twists that freed rushers up because the Colts’ blockers did not or could not account for them. Fortunately, that will improve with reps and experience under Kalis’ belt.

This week’s cautious optimism will be put to the test on Sunday when the 6-2 Pittsburgh Steelers come to town. They aren’t exactly the Steel Curtain, but they’re better than Wattless, Cushingless, Mercilusless Houston. If Castonzo stays healthy (the knee issue that seemed to bother him in practice didn’t affect his play yesterday) and Kalis remains in the lineup, then cohesion and communication should be better. It will need to be, after all.

Thanks for reading, and, as always, Go Colts!

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