The Colts are set to return roughly 75 percent of their starting offense from 2020, but changes are coming at two or three key positions.
One, at quarterback, will become official with the start of the new league year, when the Colts and Eagles can execute their trade involving Carson Wentz. The other will be identified when the Colts sign and/or draft their replacement for left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who followed Philip Rivers into retirement after the 2020 season. And we still don't know what's going to happen with 31-year-old receiver T.Y. Hilton.
Change is constant in the NFL, and despite those adjustments, Indianapolis added a coach with an on-field pedigree that was immortalized the last time folks were able to gather for a Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. He's liking what he's seeing from his new team, starting with Indianapolis' exciting backfield of Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines, and the group he'll be coaching -- offensive line -- plays a huge role in Indianapolis' promise.
"They're two different types of running backs in what I've seen in the film I've watched so far, but you can't just look at the two running backs, I think you got to look at the whole picture," Colts assistant offensive line coach Kevin Mawae said, via Colts.com. "The offensive line here is pretty special. But watching these guys play together as a unit is what's really special. I mean it is great that you have great running backs and you struggle on the offensive line or you have a great offensive line and don't have that special running back, or you don't have a quarterback. So it is more the whole puzzle as opposed to just the individual parts, so that's what I am excited about seeing."
The most important part of that equation is, of course, the quarterback. Wentz's arrival signals the potential dawn of a new era for Indianapolis, one that could stretch a decade long (which would please linebacker Darius Leonard, among others) if Wentz can turn around a once-promising career that suffered significantly in the last two seasons. He's in a better situation now, playing for a coach he knows in Frank Reich and behind an offensive line better suited to protect him than the banged-up one he played with in Philadelphia in 2020.
There's still that important question to answer up front, though: Who will replace Castonzo? The longtime left tackle was convinced to put off retirement a year ago, but the physical toll of the game finally sent him into the sunset after the 2020 season, capping a career that saw him start 11 or more games in each of his 10 NFL seasons. Finding a viable replacement won't be as easy as heading down to the local Home Depot.
"Whatever moves are made there is always going to be one new guy," Mawae said. "Whether he's a free agent guy or a draft pick or whatever. And in the limited time that I have been here and I've been around coach Frank and (general manager) Chris Ballard and (offensive line coach) Chris Strausser, it's about finding the right fit, you know finding the right guy. You can be a phenomenal player but if you just don't fit with these guys then there's going to be a challenge. It becomes more of a chemistry kind of thing, are you the right guy that fits this room.
"That is kinda the feeling I got from this whole organization, is everybody's got to fit in the right spot, and so I think that's where the challenge comes. What I've seen about this organization from afar is that challenge be met."
The Colts have set a certain standard in the Reich era, one that lured Rivers to town to play one final season and make a return to the playoffs. Quarterback has been their biggest question since Andrew Luck abruptly retired, and if Wentz is the answer, that question might turn to left tackle. Then again, if Wentz is proving to be the right guy, left tackle might have already been solved.
It all works together, you see. As Mawae said, it's all about fit. We'll watch how the Colts' puzzle masters proceed in the weeks and months ahead.