Having a stable offensive line is the first thing many look at when building a team. They can’t do anything if they can’t control the trenches. Offensive linemen are stuck with the dirty work and barely receive any recognition for it. The Indianapolis Colts have built one of the best O-Lines in football, with Quenton Nelson anchoring the group.
Nelson has done everything Indy has asked of him and more. His gritty play style has infected the rest of the team. Nelson has changed the Colts’ identity from a finesse offense to a ground and pound group. After another great season, Nelson earns an accolade that puts in elite company with an NFL Hall of Famer.
Quenton Nelson has changed the Colts’ offensive identity
Prior to Quenton Nelson joining the Colts, Indy had a mediocre offensive line, putting it kindly. They couldn’t block anybody, especially in the passing game. Andrew Luck was the victim of Indianapolis’ O-line shortcomings. During his career in Indy, the Colts allowed him to get sacked 174 times. He suffered numerous injuries that forced him to retire earlier than expected.
The Colts needed a new identity on the O-line. A lack of intensity, grit, and physicality is what plagued Indy’s offensive line. In the 2018 draft, Indy selected Nelson with the No. 6 overall pick out of Notre Dame. From that moment on, Big Q has given the Colts an identity makeover. Nelson was a bruiser during his college career and brought that same kind of mindset with him into the NFL.
With Nelson and head coach Frank Reich’s help, the Colts have become a run-heavy football team. It fits their mantra on offense, which is “run the damn ball”. In two of the first three seasons Nelson has been there, Indy has finished in the top 10 in rush yards per game. Nelson is also a brick wall in the passing game. He allowed 15 pressures and one sack in 2020. What is even more remarkable is that he has allowed three sacks for his career so far.
Being the anchor on the interior, the Colts have their leader on the O-line for years to come. Nelson has been special for Indy and their offense, paving the way for Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor. His greatness on the field earned him another accomplishment, putting him in the company of a Hall of Famer.
Quenton Nelson receives his third first-team All-Pro selection
There has not been a game where Nelson hasn’t made a huge block. His skills, athleticism, and intelligence have already made him one of the NFL’s top offensive lineman this early in his career. He was on the All-Pro team in his first two seasons, making the first-team in both years.
Nelson has completed the hat trick, earning his third consecutive first-team All-Pro nod. Earning your third All-Pro selection in your third season is an extraordinary accomplishment. With his third first-team All-Pro selection in as many years, Nelson joins Barry Sanders as the only two players to make first-team All-Pro in their first three years in the past 30 seasons.
That is elite company for Nelson. Sanders is a legend on the field, being one of the more elusive backs in NFL history. He wasn’t the same size as Nelson, but Sanders played with the same intensity. Being in the same sentence as Sanders is nothing to overlook. Nelson could end up with a bust in Canton like Sanders if he keeps this up.
Nelson’s first-team nod shows just how dominant he has been this season. He can do everything from pulling to pass blocking, making him such a versatile tool the Colts can use. There could be a position switch coming for Nelson if Indy decides it’s best for the team.
The Colts could shift Nelson to left tackle
Going into the offseason, the Colts have two important things to figure out on offense. Who will be their quarterback is one of them, and who will protect that quarterback’s blind spot is another. Their longtime left tackle, Anthony Castonzo is retiring, creating a massive hole for Indy at left tackle. Indy has the No. 21 overall pick and considerable cap space to get another LT. However, they think moving Nelson there might be better.
Nelson has only 10 snaps at left tackle, doing so for Castonzo when he was injured against the Las Vegas Raiders. He performed well in that limited snap count, but Nelson has been an interior lineman. The adjustment to tackle isn’t easy because tackles block quicker, more agile edge rushers. Guards block heavier, beefier nose guards and defensive tackles. Not saying Nelson can’t adjust, but it would take some time.
Moving Nelson to guard gives Indy an internal fix to their problem. They won’t have to spend money on finding a replacement left tackle. If Nelson moves to tackle, Danny Pinter would be the new guard. Nelson will be due the biggest contract for a lineman in NFL history in 2022 if the Colts pick up his fifth-year option. No matter where he goes on the line, he will be making a lot of cash. If they are going to pay him anyway, why not use him at their premier spot?
Quenton Nelson and Barry Sanders now have something in common: being first-team All-Pros in their first three seasons. Nelson’s career trajectory is aiming toward the Hall of Fame if he can continue to be a beast on the field. Whether he plays at tackle or guard, all 11 players on defense should watch out for Big Q or risk ending up on their backside.