Roster Review: Healthy Nelson leads new-look guard group – The Herald Bulletin

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Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson looks for a block against the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 21, 2021, in Orchard Park, New York.

CNHI Sports Indiana
Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson looks for a block against the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 21, 2021, in Orchard Park, New York.
INDIANAPOLIS – The interior of the Indianapolis Colts’ line has been one of the franchise’s greatest strengths in recent seasons.
But this year, the band is breaking up. Mark Glowinski, a four-year starter at right guard, signed as a free agent with the New York Giants. And there’s little proven depth – or depth of any kind, for that matter – at the guard position.
Things are going to look a little different this fall, but having one of the NFL’s elite players at left guard is not a bad place to start.
Here’s a look at how the Colts’ guards stack up heading into training camp:
Quenton Nelson is healthy again and in line to become the league’s highest paid guard. Whether that happens at some point during training camp, during the season or next offseason makes little difference.
The three-time All-Pro has made it clear he’s far more interested in bouncing back from an injury-riddled 2021 season than in ongoing contract negotiations.
“Everyone in the NFL is fighting through something,” Nelson said in June. “Everyone’s hurt week to week, and there is no excuses. You are what you put on tape, and at the end of the day that’s how I played (last year). And it is what it is.
“But I can look at myself and know I gave my all — getting treatment and the time I spent on my body to try to get it right as much as I can during the whole season.”
With the injuries behind him, Nelson is looking forward to a fresh start this summer. He’ll be protecting a new quarterback for the fifth time in as many pro seasons, and he’ll have a new partner at right guard.
Former Ball State star Danny Pinter is in line to replace Glowinski as the starter after excelling last season as the primary backup to center Ryan Kelly.
Pinter, who entered college as a tight end and played offensive tackle for his last two seasons with the Cardinals, has never started at right guard before at any level.
“Obviously, I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Pinter said in April. “That’s what you work for, and that’s what you want in this league. But I just got to earn it. That’s just kind of my approach is come in here and just continue to get better every day.”
That approach has served the 26-year-old well through his first two NFL seasons. Pro Football Focus credited Pinter with zero sacks allowed in 226 snaps last year, and he has appeared in 29 regular-season games.
Right tackle Braden Smith, who will line up next to Pinter this fall, has little doubt the new starter will succeed.
“I definitely think Danny’s a very smart guy,” Smith said in May. “He’s got that great work ethic. I see him every day getting extra reps, and he’s really in tune with trying to get everything perfect. I’m not worried about Danny. Danny’s gonna come in and he’s gonna do what he needs to do to get it done.”
This is where things could get a little dicey.
There are only two other guards listed on the roster – Will Fries and undrafted rookie Josh Seltzner.
The Colts like what they’ve seen so far from Fries, a 2021 seventh-round pick out of Penn State who appeared in three games as a rookie. Fries turned heads during a Christmas Day win at Arizona when he was briefly thrown into action at left tackle after injuries and COVID racked the depth chart.
That speaks well for his preparation in practice and ability to fill in on little to no notice, but it remains to be seen whether Fries can handle the challenge of the NFL for a full 60 minutes.
Seltzner made 17 starts at Wisconsin and earned a scholarship in 2018 after coming to the school as a walk-on. But he projects as a developmental player this season, not an immediate contributor.
The loser of the left tackle competition between veteran Matt Pryor and rookie Bernhard Raimann also could factor into the depth at guard.
It’s a thin group, but one with which Nelson sees potential.
“I think it’s going well,” he said. “We have a good rotation going, and guys are stepping up and have worked really hard this offseason. And you can see that. But it’s hard to tell during this (walk-through) tempo, and everything will sort out more when the pads are on and we’re going full speed.”
This is the sixth story in a series examining the Indianapolis Colts roster by position ahead of the team’s training camp. A new installment will appear in print each publication day until the team reports to Grand Park on July 26.
THB sports editor George Bremer has covered the Indianapolis Colts since 2010. He occasionally sports a beard that can rival Andrew Luck’s, but he lacks arm strength and durability.
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