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One of the unheralded candidates for a rotational, or potentially starting, position on the Colts interior line, former Chicago guard Lance Louis has more going for him than most assume.
The Colts interior line is a mess, first of all. Most of the assumed starters are extremely young, with Hugh Thornton, Khaled Holmes and Jack Mewhort all having less than a season's worth of experience.
Injuries and poor play plagued Thornton's development during his rookie season, and Holmes never made it on to the field for an extensive stint. Mewhort was drafted in the second round this offseason and may have a bit of a learning curve.
Other candidates include Joe Reitz, some undrafted free agents and Donald Thomas, a former rotational player coming off of a season-ending injury.
Louis is also coming off of an injury, but has shown an ability to produce quality starts in the past. He struggled in 2011 when asked to play right tackle in Chicago, finishing the season with a negative-29.5 grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required). But when moved to right guard in 2012, he finished with a negative-0.7 grade over 11 starts before a season-ending knee injury. That's nothing to be excited about, but it's passable.
Ben Gundy of Colts Authority put together an excellent review of Louis' 2012 season and found that he compared quite favorably to the current Colts:
All that said, if Louis is fully healed and can play like he did in 2012, he absolutely deserves to start and will absolutely be an upgrade over Thornton, who could use some time as the sixth lineman to learn the ins and outs of the NFL. If Louis reaches – or even approaches – the level he showed in the four games I charted, he’ll be the Colts’ best pass-blocking interior lineman and one of their best run blockers. Thornton, McGlynn and Linkenbach didn’t set a high bar last year, and Louis is by no means a Pro Bowler, but progress is progress.
Louis may or may not earn a starting spot, or even a roster spot. But, if healthy, he'll be an interesting measuring stick for the Colts' young interior linemen.