INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Saturday laughs at the notion that some Colts fans would like to see happen.
With Eric Fisher still trying to play himself back into game shape, the Colts have not had the same reliability at left tackle, mainly in the pass protection game.
So with the return of Quenton Nelson (ankle) on the horizon, chatter has once again risen about moving No. 56 over to LT, and keeping Chris Reed, who has performed nicely in place of Nelson, at left guard.
Saturday, the former Colts great at center, doesn’t like that idea, at all.
“No. No. Just stop. Just stop,” Saturday says when asked about benching Eric Fisher for Nelson. “You don’t make other positions weaker. Because that’s not how offensive line works. The learning curve at left tackle, as good as Nelson is, to put him over there, basically mid-season, coming off his own injury and expecting him to find a home at a brand-new position? Don’t disrespect the game like that. Could he do that if you gave him time to prepare all those things? Maybe. But to think that would be a good move, no.
“I think (Nelson) gets back inside and you strengthen that. Here’s the truth of it, the internal part of that pocket with how Carson Wentz plays quarterback is the most important part. He has to have an idea of where he steps up. If that center/guard, guard/center positions are extremely impactful in the passing game, the whole way of the design is to deep set and step into and move yourself around inside of the pocket, instead of always bouncing. Do you move (the pocket) some? Yes. But you ultimately want to be moving behind those three (internal) positions. To move our best outside does not make any sense. You keep him where he is, strengthen the internal portion of the pocket and let’s roll.”
Now, Saturday says this while fully acknowledging that Fisher has struggled in his return from tearing his Achilles in late January.
“It’s dang near a miracle what he’s doing with his Achilles that he’s back as fast as he is,” Saturday says of Nelson. “But as far as where he is playing wise, I saw Sunday a few times getting beat inside where he oversets. He doesn’t have the same stopping ability, the anchor is not there. When a defensive end stutters you and you begin to feel your hips wise because it’s impossible to stay in a perfect football position. When (defensive ends) get your hips to rise, he doesn’t do a great job of dropping that anchor and still being able to move with it. So when a guy hits him on a spin or a stutter/bull and transitions to a rip/inside, he hasn’t done a great job of keeping that off the quarterback and collapse the pocket. Man, I give the guy a ton of credit. I think he’s working through it and I think he’ll get there.
“When you’ve never played with a quarterback, and it sounds dumb to people, but a guy stopping a drop at 7 yards, versus 8 yards, to 6.5 yards, I know that doesn’t feel like a lot to people, but that directional change and the angle of where that defensive end is trying to enter his pass rush move, it takes time to figure out where should I lose. Because at some point you are going to lose? Should I lose him in inside and try to jam him inside the line of scrimmage? Should I run him around the hump and put him on that dish and get him way outside. I think Fisher is also trying to find where that is. You couple that with not being as stout as he’d like to be, I think that shows up.
“I’m not sure where you go (at left tackle). I think he’s made a valiant effort and he continues to fight and you have to ride that as the season progresses.”
It needs to be noted, too, that so much has changed for Nelson since he had a nice, 10-snap, cameo at left tackle in a December 2020 game against the Raiders.
Nelson has had 3 separate surgeries in that time span.
He’s had a back injury that continues to linger.
And, currently, Nelson is still on injured reserve after suffering a high ankle sprain in a Week 3 loss to the Titans. Nelson is eligible to return this week.
So, moving Nelson to a position that he is not a huge fan of playing on a permanent basis, with barely any practice action since injuring his foot back at the start of camp, isn’t as easy as it sounds.
This is the reality of the Colts current offensive line situation, having to live with Fisher’s rust and helping him when needed moving forward.
Fisher, himself, stated finding that final 10 percent of Achilles recovery, which impacts burst the most, is the toughest to get back.
Whereas Saturday is pretty detailed in a critical evaluation of Fisher’s play right now (Fisher had 3 penalties and allowed a quarterback hit in Sunday’s win over the Texans), the Colts remain more optimistic.
“I think he’s getting better every week,” Frank Reich says of Fisher. “There’s times you can tell – at times I think he’s back into midseason form. Chris (Ballard) and I talked about this before the season started, we know when Fish gets back in there, there’s going to be – he was so eager to get in there, credit to him, his toughness, he knows that he’s got to play himself back into football shape and build the positional strength that you need for there.
“I think he’s playing well. He’s had a few mishaps here and there along the way, but I’m happy with his progression. I’m happy with his mindset. I think he’s going to continue to get better, as we all are.”