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ANDERSON — There are presently 16 incredibly large men contending to fill the five positions along the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line.
Third-year left tackle Anthony Castonzo is a lock to be shielding quarterback Andrew Luck’s blind side when the team opens its season at home Sept. 8 against Oakland. It’s also a good guess Samson Satele will be the one lowering his massive torso over the pigskin as the starting center.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
Established veterans such as left guard Donald Thomas and right tackle Gosder Cherilus are making their Colts debut with this training camp at Anderson University. There are others, their arrivals designed to improve an offense that ranked 22nd in the league in rushing and allowed Luck, its prized rookie signal-caller in 2012, to be sacked 44 times.
Sunday’s 44-20 home loss to Buffalo in the preseason opener did little to shoo away naysayers, even though games played in August tend to be a revolving door of first-, second- and third-teamers.
“The only person I have the authority to grade is myself, and I wasn’t happy with the way I performed,” said Castonzo, who watched Colts QBs Luck, Matt Hasselbeck and Chandler Harnish team to complete only 22 of 47 pass attempts. “I’ll have to pick it up and play better this next game.”
That takes place Sunday night on the road against the New York Giants.
The nationally televised exhibition is an opportunity for Indianapolis to demonstrate a level of improvement it’s strived to achieve during practices this week.
Contrary to popular opinion, morning walk-throughs conducted in shorts, jerseys and helmets are every bit as vital a component in this process as the fully uniformed collisions in the afternoon. It’s an opportunity to tweak what needs tweaking, the goal being that repetition leads to textbook execution.
“The morning is all about technique and communication. You’re making your plays. You’re making your checks, so hopefully when we go to practice we’re flawless,” said left guard Joe Reitz, who made eight starts last season and nine in 2011.
“Our coaches coach us up in the morning just as much as they do in practice. We’re hard on ourselves, and that’s the way you want it to be.”
Monday film study allowed Reitz, the 6-foot-7, 323-pound Hamilton Southeastern High School product, to better survey what went awry against the Bills. By the same token, there are upon closer inspection areas in which the offensive line performed better than what the Lucas Oil Stadium scoreboards advertised.
“We did some things well and there are things we need to work on,” said Reitz. “One thing we can improve on is our communication. The more we play together, that’s going to help us.”
“(Walk-throughs) are very important. It’s a way to see everything engrained in your mind,” added Castonzo.
Thomas, 27, is a 6-4, 306-pounder who’s been with three NFL franchises in his first five seasons, and Cherilus, 29, played for the Detroit Lions from 2008-2012. Another newcomer trying to make an impact is rookie center Khaled Holmes, a three-year starter at USC who the Colts tabbed as their fourth-round selection this past April.
Second-year left tackle Bradley Sowell and two rookies, right guard Hugh Thornton and right tackle Emmett Cleary, are currently second on the depth chart at their respective positions.
It’s a work in progress, but every Colts offensive lineman and coach is in this thing together. Hopefully, strides are made in a New York minute.
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