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I get it…interior offensive line play isn’t the sexiest topic out there when it comes to offensive football. But refer to this year’s free agency cycle if you need any reassurance on how decision-makers feel about the position. It’s not just Indy preaching the importance of iOL, the rest of the league is, too.

See, the NFL is cyclical. Every offseason, while teams are going through the self-scout and evaluation processes, there’s an ongoing game of chess happening between both offensive and defensive staff. They are trying to maximize any potential advantages they can find… whether through roster building, core philosophies, or new offensive/defensive concepts.

It’s similar to Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

Last year we saw the interior DL reset the market in free agency. Daron Payne, Quinnen Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Jeffrey Simmons, etc. all got significant deals in 2023. Teams realized that if they had a guy who could beat up on guards and centers, they had an advantage over their opponent every Sunday.

The response? Pay the guys who can actually block those guys.

This year, Robert Hunt signed a deal for $100M, Landon Dickerson got a massive extension, and the Rams “overpaid” (they didn’t overpay) for Kevin Dotson. The NFL is placing a premium on interior offensive linemen. The reason for this is partly obvious… someone has to block these 3-techniques or they will wreck your game.

Make no mistake, Colts starting right guard Will Fries is in line for a massive deal, if he puts together another season like last year.




Common sense would have you believe that Will Fries didn’t play up to the Colts’ standard. I mean, why else would they make such a strong investment in offensive linemen through the draft? Fourth-round pick Tanor Bortolini made seven starts at guard, while Chris Ballard hinted at third-round pick Matt Goncalves’ ability to play inside.

Despite the Colts’ desire to acquire talent up front, I’d be shocked to see a world in which Will Fries isn’t the starting right guard in week one. He’ll have to compete, like a lot of the starters will, to earn their jobs for this season. Given his performance last year, it’s hard to believe he won’t earn the trust of the coaching staff.

But that still doesn’t answer the question… If Will Fries is so great, why did the Colts draft a third and fourth-round offensive lineman who the Colts think has guard potential? My theory… flexibility.

First and foremost, Chris Ballard is refusing to let Anthony Richardson step on the field without a quality starting offensive line. Blake Freeland, Matt Goncalves, Tanner Bortolini, and Danny Pinter all have positional flexibility. If any of the starting five go down, Indy doesn’t have to mix and match. It’s rare to see a line making it through all 17+ games without a scratch, so this is important heading into the year.

Secondly, it boosts competition across the board. The Colts are much more interested in Anthony Richardson’s future than any of the offensive linemen. The five guys who can keep him upright are the five guys who will play on Sundays. That goes for 2024, but also going forward in the years to come. Both Will Fries and Ryan Kelly are in contract years in Indianapolis. The year after that, Tackles Braden Smith (who has a potential out in his contract for 2024 by the way) and Bernhard Raimann are both in the final year of their deals.

Continually investing in the offensive line is a good thing. It’s a good thing for the future of this team. You might not see the results in 2024, but it gives this team a lot of flexibility and reassurance moving forward. Case in point, if Anthony Richardson fails in the NFL, it wasn’t going to be because Chris Ballard refused to invest in the offensive line.




Flashback to last August. Will Fries and Danny Pinter were battling it out for the starting right guard spot, that was until Danny Pinter unfortunately suffered a season-ending injury in Philadelphia.

Will Fries, a seventh-round pick from Penn State, who struggled in 2022, had a bounce-back year and solidified himself as a viable starter in this league. It was a major win for Chris Ballard, Shane Steichen, Tony Sparano Jr., and most importantly…Will Fries.






Will Fries was so dialed in to T/E and E/T stunts last year. Part of it is an attribution to his film study, but the other is raw athleticism. I chose this clip because this just puts his athleticism on display. This is a basic T/E stunt where the DT will go first trying to get Fries to commit his hips to the outside and prevent him from picking up Will Anderson looping into the A gap.

Malik Collins isn’t just some guy either. Notice how Fries feels Collins go to “chop” his outside hand, so he brings his hand outside. Collins, after missing the first move, hits Fries with a great “rip” move as a counter. It takes advantage of his leverage and makes it difficult for Fries to get his outside hand back to pick up the stunt from Will Anderson. What is so impressive is his ability to block Collins just long enough until he can pass him off to Braden Smith and then completely flip his hips and redirect. It doesn’t end up affecting the throw since Smith is forced to wash Collins down and make Gardner roll out, but the athleticism is on display.

Fries also has an impressive ability to recover. This is the NFL and frankly, you’re going to see absolute freaks on the field every time the ball’s snapped. You’re gonna get beat, even the best. The margin for error is just so slim in the NFL on a rep-to-rep basis that you’re gonna end up looking silly at one point or another. What impressed me about Fries, is that he can recover when he loses the initial hand fight.





Here he is in Week 1 vs. JAX. He comes out of his stance with too high of a pad level and the 3 technique hits him with a bull rush and a hump move that gets him off his toes. For a lot of guards, they lose this rep. Fries does an awesome job of re-fitting his hands low and in the lineman’s chest, while jumping back far enough to allow himself to plant off his foot and sink his hips. It’s another play that really shows how athletic he is for a guard.





Fries also brings an attitude to the run game. Here is vs. HOU executing what most OL coaches would call a “Gap block”. A Gap Block (confusing I know since it isn’t a gap scheme play) is a combination block between the play side guard and center where they will climb to the play side linebacker. The key to executing this block is to generate enough displacement at the snap that the guard can get up to the second level with enough time to create the lane for the running back. To do this, Fries takes a “Slide step” which is a 6-inch horizontal step used on outside zone plays when the defender is head up.

He then crosses over to start to begin to climb, but notice how his crossover foot is pointed inside. This is designed for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it allows him to create vertical force onto the defensive lineman and serve as a “backstop” so that Ryan Kelly can get into position to take on the 2i. It also lets Fries get vertical to create a vertical seam in the defense. If he doesn’t climb up to the LB in time, the play can be stopped at the cutback.




There are certainly some stuff that Will could clean up in his game.

He lacks consistency out of his stance, which left him susceptible to counter moves inside when he overset. And because he has shorter arms, DTs love to get into his chest and bull rush.







This is why interior pass protection is so important. Take the clip vs. ATL for example: Will Fries’ man doesn’t get the sack, but he’s still at fault for the play. Let me explain.

When an OT gets beat outside, his job is to make his man “run the loop”. Essentially his job is to push him deeper into the pocket and wash him out of the play so the QB can step up.


But what makes interior pass rush so deadly, is twofold.

  1. You’re rushing from 12 o’clock so you’re likely to get in the QB’s vision
  2. More importantly, you damage the integrity of the pocket so that the QB can’t step up


If Will Fries had anchored and kept the integrity of the pocket, Gardner could have evaded the wide rush from Campbell and stepped up to make a throw or escape. When you have a guy in your lap, it’s virtually impossible to play QB.





In the run game, Will could definitely do a better job at keeping his feet going. When you have shorter arms, if you stop your feet, DTs will just use their length to extend and shed blocks. It’s nothing detrimental, but if it weren’t for a fantastic cutback from Sermon here. The play’s dead on a crucial third down.




Once you’ve had your rookie season, you’re no longer a seventh-round pick. Will Fries proved that in 2023. He played well above expectations and gave Indianapolis 5 true starters across the line. He was an underrated part of the Colts offense in 2023.

There will be some things, like any player, Will is going to have to clean up to have another season like he did last year. But there’s also a lot of positives. The right guard position has been a little bit of a revolving door since Mark Glowinski left. Will Fries gives you the potential to have stability at every position across the offensive line. Think about it… how many teams can say that? Very few teams return all five starters on their line year after year. There are many reasons for that, but going into the draft without OL being a major need is always a good thing.

It’s a big year for him in 2024. Barring an impressive summer for either of the two draftees, Fries should have the RG spot locked up. Given the current trend in the league, with another impressive year, Fries could be in for a well-deserved payday. I anticipate Chris Ballard would be willing to write that check, but if for some reason he can’t, Indianapolis drafted two guys with guard potential who will have the year to develop as pros.

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