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Colts hoping Brian Schwenke helps solidify offensive line

Brian Schwenke

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Brian Schwenke’s NFL resume consists of 28 starts in four seasons with the Tennessee Titans, 25 at center.

His relocation to the AFC South rival Colts as an unrestricted free agent last week came with a promise, but a realization as well.

General manager Chris Ballard assured Schwenke he would be given every opportunity to earn a starting spot.

At guard.

“They have a pretty good center in there, so he is definitely there to stay,” Schwenke said during a conference call.

The Colts are convinced they found their center of the present and future with the 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft. Ryan Kelly was one of 11 rookies, and one of five rookie offensive linemen, to start all 16 regular-season games.

The Colts also believe they have three-fifths of their starting offensive line set with Kelly at center, Anthony Castonzo at left tackle and Jack Mewhort at left guard.

Ballard described that trio as “good, solid pieces” during a recent appearance on 1070 The Fan, but gave every indication uncertainty hovered over the right side of the line.

Schwenke joins a mix that includes Joe Haeg, Le’Raven Clark and Denzelle Good, and the expected competition – four guys, two spots – should further strengthen an offensive line that too often has been a liability. Since his arrival in 2012, no quarterback has been roughed up as much as Andrew Luck.

“Andrew Luck is an unbelievable player,” Schwenke said, adding he’s aware of the importance of giving him reliable protection. “One of the best things to protect a quarterback are actual protection and the running game because when you can run the ball, you can pass at your leisure. The defense isn’t so pinned back, ready to rush the passer.

“That all comes down to the offensive line a lot of times and other things too – receivers getting open and running backs blocking as well. It’s definitely important. It is exciting that that’s something that they want to do, and bringing me in I feel I can definitely help and I want to be a part of that.”

Schwenke settled in as the Titans’ starting center after being selected in the fourth-round of the 2013 draft. He started 25 games in his first three seasons, a run that ended when he dislocated his left ankle against Miami in week 6 of the 2015 season. In ’16, he was moved to left guard and started three of 16 games.

Schwenke’s versatility was first on display at California. In his last three seasons with the Bears, he started 36 of 37 of 50 games – 16 at left guard, 12 at center and eight at right guard.

“As far as what I’m better at,” he said, “I think it depends on the day of the week. I think I can do both well, depending on what I am working on more at the time. The reps definitely matter.

“The big reason I wanted to be here was because they are going to give me an opportunity to compete, which is the most important thing for me, to get a chance to go out there and start on Sundays. They said that I would get that chance here and obviously, with any jobs that are up for grabs, they have to be won.”

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51