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Colts present new plan on struggling offensive line

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 06: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Indianapolis Colts and Bernhard Raimann #79 defend against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on October 6, 2022 in Denver, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Frank Reich and the Colts coaching staff returned to the practice field on Wednesday, five days removed from one of the worst offensive line performances in Indianapolis in recent memory.

Talented Jaguars edge rusher Josh Allen (3.0 sacks) and one of the league’s top-five run defenses arrive on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium for Week 6 and the Colts need a quick fix upfront. Here is the latest on the offensive line:

Raimann moves forward as starting left tackle

Raimann, a third-round pick this past April out of Central Michigan, is suddenly at the center of the conversation heading into the second quarter of the season. The first Austrian-born player in NFL history made his first NFL start on Thursday night in Denver, and after being flagged four times in the first half (most by an NFL lineman this season) the 25-year-old held up in crunch time on Matt Ryan’s blindside. Frank Reich said Wednesday that Raimann is officially the new starting left tackle.

“I mean there are going to be growing pains, but we just think he has the makeup, he has the physical talent,” Reich said. “We’ve liked what we’ve seen so far. We understand, like a lot of our young players, it’s a process. I think these guys – you look at Alec (Pierce) and you look at Jelani (Woods), they get better fast the more they play. So, you’ve got to play. So, we’re just going to put him in there and we’re going to play. We feel like he’s going to play winning football.”

Why did Braden Smith move to right guard?

Arguably the most surprising move just before the Colts’ offense took the field against the Broncos was tackle Braden Smith moving inside to right guard. Smith, who uncharacteristically struggled to start the season, played the entire game in Denver at right guard, with Matt Pryor shifting from left tackle to right tackle. Pryor wound up allowing nine quarterback pressures at right tackle, the most by an NFL offensive lineman this season. On Wednesday Reich shared that the move was to ignite the unit’s dormant running game.

“I won’t get into all the reasons because there are a lot of moving parts but I would say one of the obvious reasons, which I’m sure you guys were figuring was Braden (Smith) as a run blocker, he’s elite,” Reich said. “He’s one of the best in the league. In an effort to get a run game going…It had nothing to do with him at tackle. It wasn’t that we felt like he wasn’t playing well at tackle. This was run game and center of the pocket. So, that’s the move we made.”

Reich added the team is still “working through” what spot Smith will play against Jacksonville.

Dennis Kelly isn’t sure why he’s on the bench, either

The mystery man in the Colts’ offensive line room is 10-year NFL veteran Dennis Kelly. The former Purdue Boilermaker signed with the Colts back in May following one season in Green Bay, however, a knee procedure sidelined Kelly at training camp and ultimately left him off the Colts’ roster heading into the preseason. Kelly quickly re-signed with the team and has been active in four of five games this season.

The catch? Despite the Colts’ immense struggles at both tackle positions, Kelly has yet to play a snap on offense. On Tuesday, this prompted Kelly to comment on a tweet by WISH-TV Colts Insider Zak Keefer questioning why Kelly isn’t playing with a meme stating ‘I literally don’t know.’

On Wednesday, Reich was asked multiple times about why Kelly remains on the bench.

“As far as Dennis Kelly, I love Dennis Kelly. I was with Dennis in Philly for a minute. I’m excited he’s here – a veteran player, has played a lot of football, played winning football. So, very glad to have him on the team.”

Stay tuned for this story again on Sunday.

Will Matt Pryor start on Sunday?

There is no decision, publicly, regarding struggling tackle Matt Pryor’s role going forward. Pryor does have experience at right guard and it is not out of the question that he gets a crack at a third different position over three weeks ahead on Sunday. However, if Braden Smith remains at right guard it is nearly indefensible for Pryor to return as starting right tackle after his performance in Denver. What seems most likely for Week 6 is Smith shifts back outside to tackle and second-year pro Will Fries makes his second career start at right guard. Fries played every offensive snap during the Week 4 loss to the Titans before returning to the bench this past week.

Additional Notes:

  • Running back Jonathan Taylor (ankle), Linebacker Shaquille Leonard (concussion/nose/back), and Center Ryan Kelly (hip) all missed practice on Wednesday.
  • No further update from Frank Reich on Leonard’s timetable for a return
  • Edge rusher Kwity Paye (ankle) will be monitored “week-to-week” according to Reich
  • Reich believes Wide Receiver Ashton Dulin (foot) will be able to return from IR this season
  • Safety Julian Blackmon (ankle), Running Back Nyheim Hines (concussion), and Defensive End Tyquan Lewis (concussion) were all limited at Wednesday’s practice
  • Jags: Trevor Lawrence has committed seven turnovers during the Jaguars two-game losing streak