Colts OTs look to help young interior OL

ANDERSON, Ind. -- At one point over the past week Indianapolis Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo has probably looked to his right to the three positions next to him and saw a rookie guard, an inexperienced second-year player at center and another second-year player at the other guard spot. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, at one point too, has probably looked to his left and noticed the same thing.

It’s up to Castonzo and Cherilus, the two elder statesmen of the line, to do their job of blocking on the edges while helping the young players out in the middle of the offensive line to ensure everybody is together so quarterback Andrew Luck has time to throw the ball and the running backs have holes to run through.

“They do a great job of mentoring those young players, mentoring the young players behind them not only at their position but from a technique, fundamentals standpoint, communication standpoint they do a great job with those young guys,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Obviously a guy like Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton still, Jack Mewhort coming in there, they’re going to benefit from that.”

The Colts were already expected to be relatively young on the interior part of the offensive line this season. What they didn’t know, though, is that they were going to be really young after they lost veteran Donald Thomas with a torn quad for the second straight season.

Enter Mewhort in place of the injured Thomas.

Mewhort, Holmes and Thornton have combined for 840 snaps in their NFL careers. The coaching staff and general manager Ryan Grigson obviously like their potential, which is why they’re starting, but make no mistake about it -- they will face some obstacles along the way.

That’s where Castonzo and Cherilus can help out. Castonzo has started 40 straight games, and Cherilus started every game last season.

“We’re both veteran players, so we’re counted on,” Castonzo said. “We also kind of have to bring the guys up if they make a mistake on the inside the same way I would expect them to do it if we make a mistake. It’s all just part of being a team.”

Castonzo and Cherilus’ playing time is likely going to be limited in Thursday’s preseason opener against the New York Jets, but you can expect the young interior linemen to get extended snaps.

“Right now we know we have two pillars on the perimeter,” offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said before Thomas was lost for the season. “We’re just trying to find that right chemistry, continuity, right combination of guys inside.”

What’s impressed the two veteran tackles so far is that Mewhort, Thornton and Holmes don’t hesitate when it comes to asking questions. Cherilus joked that every time he turns around one of them is right there waiting to ask another question.

Cherilus wouldn’t have it any other way.

“They take no days off and they’re always willing to learn,” he said. “You can talk to them and tell them anything. They even ask for more. They just want to get it done. Get it right. You like to have guys eager to get better. They’ll ask questions from assignments to footwork to what’s it’s going to be like in our first game. With a young guy, when you tell them to do something they’re going to do it. We have that trust level. All of us."