Secret Superstars 2014: Colts
With their divisional counterparts struggling as much as they did, the Indianapolis Colts strolled to the postseason in 2013 without much resistance. They did, however, have to complete an impressive comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs before falling to the New England Patriots the next week. That shouldn’t take away from what was a successful second season for the Andrew Luck-led Colts though, who continue to try to build toward a run at the Lombardi Trophy.
Part of the problem for the Colts, as we discovered when searching for their Secret Superstar, is that there just isn’t a lot of quality depth on their roster. Very few players look ready to step up and claim a bigger role based on what we’ve seen but thankfully there is a player than many may have forgotten about who could be a big player for them next year.
After bringing him over from New England in the 2013 offseason, left guard Donald Thomas managed just 72 snaps before going down with a season-ending injury in Week 2. Still, if his past play is anything to go on, he represents a big upgrade for them at the position.
How He Got To Indianapolis
A sixth-round draft pick out of Connecticut by the Miami Dolphins in 2008, Thomas played in just one game in his rookie year, struggling a little as a run blocker but having a perfect game in pass protection against the New York Jets in Week 1. He would claim the starting right guard spot for much of his second season in 2009, improving as a run blocker while allowing just 23 total pressures as a pass blocker. From 2010 to 2011, with both the Dolphins and Patriots, he played just 105 snaps, but seized the opportunity available to him with several starts on the New England offensive line in 2012.
Starting games at both left and right guard, he finished the year as our 20th-highest graded guard (+9.2) on just 614 snaps, with his run blocking looking the best it ever had, coming in as the 10th-highest among all guards. One of his best games as a run blocker came against the team that drafted him in the Week 13 encounter with the Dolphins. It included some nice work by Thomas at the second level and a nice block to seal Jared Odrick out of the play on 2nd-and-7 with 7:34 to go in the first quarter.
His 2012 season was enough for the Colts, who badly needed upgrades along the offensive line, and it looked to be a smart signing before he went down with the injury as he looked solid in his first start for his new team. While his first season for them was cut short, the Colts still need him to step up and perform like he did in 2012 when he returns to the field this year.
In Thomas’ absence it was third-round rookie Hugh Thornton who took his place in the starting lineup and, while he struggled for much of the year, there were the occasional flashes of good work. Considering that it was his first year, the Colts may be inclined to keep him in the starting lineup in 2014.
Even if that is the case, the Colts lost Mike McGlynn and Jeff Linkenbach, both of whom struggled when they got on the field last year anyway so there is still a starting role available for both Thomas and Thornton. Thomas’ and Thornton’s biggest competition is likely to come from rookie second-round draft pick Jack Mewhort. He played left tackle at Ohio State but is expected to move inside to guard, or possibly even center, in the NFL. With all that in mind, the smart money is on Thomas starting at either left or right guard once again.
While we’ve yet to see Thomas for a full 16-game season in his five-year career to date, there has been plenty of good play throughout his time in the league that suggests he’ll be able to handle a full season as a starter just fine. From his very first game in the league where he held his own as a sixth-round rookie through his final season in New England, he has shown impressive play and improved the longer he’s been in the league.
We may not expect him to have a season like Evan Mathis or Josh Sitton, but there’s absolutely nothing to suggest that he isn’t capable of having another season like he did in 2012 and being one of the better guards in the league. And, after their struggles at the position in 2013, that’s very good news for the Colts and Luck as they look to mount a serious Super Bowl challenge.
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