Just keep your feet moving, Jack Mewhort

Second-year lineman is making a significant switch to right tackle from left guard, and the most important step is footwork.

ANDERSON, Ind. — Indianapolis Colts offensive left tackle Anthony Castonzo has given Jack Mewhort some important advice about playing tackle in the NFL.

“The biggest thing is just always keep your feet moving,” Castonzo said during training camp at Anderson University. “Once your feet get stuck, you’re done because those guys are quick out there.”

Mewhort, in his second season, is shifting to right tackle after lining up at offensive left guard as a rookie. He played left tackle in his final college season at Ohio State, but playing tackle in the NFL is a different animal.

“That’s the key at tackle,” Mewhort said Saturday of Castonzo’s footwork tip. “More space, you’ve got to keep your feet moving. Guys out there are quicker, faster, make more moves, so keep your feet moving and try to match what they do.

“I’m out there trying to make steps every day.”

Castonzo has walked in those shoes. The 2011 first-round draft choice played 12 games at left tackle as a rookie and wasn’t flagged for a single holding penalty. He’s been taking on the NFL’s elite pass rushers for four years now, protects quarterback Andrew Luck’s blind side and is one of the league’s most underrated players at his position.

The Colts’ offensive line has been a continual conversation point at camp, especially after right tackle Gosder Cherilus was waived six days before players reported. Just like last season, when Mewhort was thrust into a starting spot due to left guard Donald Thomas being lost for the season to a torn quadriceps, the 2014 second-round draft pick is being counted upon to fill an important need.

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This position is more important because the league’s best pass rushers line up opposite the tackles. The Colts used 11 different starting combinations on the offensive line last season. Head coach Chuck Pagano as well as offensive line coach Joe Gilbert have emphasized the importance of settling on five guys and developing continuity up front during the preseason.

“Just assignment stuff, you know?” Mewhort said of his learning process. “Just the little things as far as contingencies, if this happens I do this or if this happens I do this. As far as technique goes, it’s a little different. Out there on the edge, there’s a little bit more space.

“It’s a lot of little stuff. Football is football. Playing the offensive line, all of the positions are pretty similar but it’s the little things that define the position and the player.”

Mewhort, 23, said playing tackle in college was different because Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer employed a scheme designed for quick passing. The Colts have a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback with receivers adept at running deeper patterns, so linemen must provide Luck more time to do what he does best.

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“Obviously when you have a quarterback like Andrew Luck, you’re going to drop back and let him make plays,” Mewhort said. “You have to be able to protect. At his level, it’s about giving a high-caliber quarterback the time to do his job.”

Pagano has liked what he’s seen from Mewhort so far, although the team will have a clearer picture on the right tackle’s progress after playing some preseason games.

“He’s been great,” Pagano said Saturday. “He’s been consistent. He doesn’t make mental errors. He’s on the right guy. Run game, pass game, tough guy. He’s going to be a good player for us.”

Asked about his level of confidence in Mewhort, the coach was rather direct.

“I don’t even worry about it,” Pagano said. “Right now, that’s the guy and until he proves otherwise, I sleep well at night knowing he’s in there.”

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.


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