INDIANAPOLIS — For 15 games this season, the Indianapolis Colts have trotted out the same five guys along their offensive line: Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Quenton Nelson at left guard, Ryan Kelly at center, Mark Glowinski at right guard and Braden Smith at right tackle.
So when Nelson exited last Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers with a concussion, and subsequently entered the league’s concussion protocol, it created the possibility of a different offensive lineman joining the starting lineup for the first time all season — and in the team’s final game, no less.
But on Thursday, as the Colts players got back on the practice field after getting Wednesday’s Christmas holiday off, big No. 56 was back out there, albeit in a red non-contact jersey, going through drills during the early portion of the session that was able to be viewed by the media.
Nelson was officially labeled as a limited participant Thursday, creating the possibility of him suiting back up Sunday on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars if the two-time Pro Bowler can keep making positive progress through the league’s concussion protocol.
If Nelson is ultimately ruled out, however, it seems as if fourth-year veteran Joe Haeg could get the call at left guard for the Colts. Haeg last Sunday played 30 snaps at left guard in place of Nelson over the second half of the Colts’ 38-6 home victory over the Panthers.
In fact, it was Haeg that sprung Marlon Mack on his 30-yard carry in the fourth quarter that officially put the third-year running back over the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season for the first time in his career.
“Joe did a really good job coming in and he played well,” Reich told reporters Monday in his weekly conference call. “He did have a great block on that play. It was good for him – a couple good blocks on that play, but Joe certainly had the one that sprung it.”
The Colts have benefitted greatly from a healthy offensive line throughout the 2019 season; in fact, they’re the only team in the NFL to have the same five offensive linemen start all 15 games this season.
Only on one other occasion this season was that O-line starting streak threatened: back in Week 9, Kelly exited the Colts’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a neck injury and did not return. He was replaced by Josh Andrews, who played out the final 49 snaps of the game, but Kelly was right back in the lineup the following week against the Miami Dolphins.