By Heather Bremer CNHI News Service
---- — ANDERSON — Indianapolis Colts fans might not recognize left tackle Anthony Castonzo if not for his No. 74 jersey.
The third-year player is sporting a new look these days. In place of his usual shaved head or close-cropped hair, Castonzo is rocking a thick beard and shaggy mane of dark hair. It’s as if he’s trying to look the part of the elder statesman on the Colts’ offensive line.
“I just told him today I forget how young he actually is. Because he doesn’t carry himself as a young guy,” left guard Donald Thomas said. “We’ve bonded so far, and we’re getting our communication down better. We listen to each other, and we both have suggestions for each other. We don’t get mad at each other. So it’s working out.”
Castonzo’s new look also reflects the new appearance of Indianapolis’ offensive line.
Free agent Thomas has replaced Joe Reitz as Castonzo’s partner on the left side.
Gosder Cherilus was signed to take over for Winston Justice at right tackle. The rebuilt line, which also includes center Samson Satele and right guard Mike McGlynn, must improve its protection of second-year quarterback Andrew Luck, who was sacked 41 times last year.
“We’ve definitely taken it upon ourselves to become more physical,” Castonzo said Sunday following a walkthrough at Anderson University’s Macholtz Stadium. “I think we’ve done that just by a lot of guys in the offseason getting in the weight room and just being out here and just really trying to go through people and hit. So it’s definitely been pretty physical out there.”
Coach Chuck Pagano has been pleased with what he’s seen from Castonzo and company so far. One week into camp, the new additions are fitting in, making a seamless transition on the field and in the meeting room. Happy with his first line and the Colts’ depth, Pagano wants to make a statement in the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills next Sunday. And it all starts in the trenches with the offensive line.
“They’ve got to have the same mindset as close to the defensive line as possible,” Pagano said. “In order to run the football, you’re going to have to come off the ball and knock those guys off the line of scrimmage and open up holes. That takes some nastiness, that takes some aggression, that takes a certain amount of physicality to do that.”
Castonzo credits the defensive line with getting the O-line ready for that challenge.
“You’re only as good as the guy you’re going against,” Castonzo said. “When you play against the best in practice, and all of our defensive linemen go 100 percent, 110 percent during practice every rep, which is all you can really ask for as an offensive lineman. So the’re definitely helping us get better.”
The new offensive line is just one facet of the Colts’ new-look offense this year. Pep Hamilton, Luck’s offensive coordinator at Stanford, takes over the same position with the Colts and brings with him a new scheme. Fans can expect to see a fast-paced offense and a lot of points go up on the board.
“It’s going to be a fun season,” Castonzo said. “I think it’ll be good as we all come together because after a week, from the beginning of last week until the end of last week, you can already see how the team’s starting to really mold together.”