Colts Offensive Line: Protecting Andrew Luck in 2015
By Evan Reller
The Indianapolis Colts featured the best passing attack in the NFL in 2014. Andrew Luck led the league in passing yards and touchdowns in just his third year as a pro.
Yet there are still concerns regarding his protection. We’ve already broken down the offensive line from this past season, but with so many believing that the Colts should go with offensive line in the first round of the draft it necessitates another visit.
After the 2012 season, the Colts made a serious investment in the offensive line not only by signing Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas but also by drafting Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton. Two picks and two big contracts later and the Colts have maybe one starter and three injury prone players.
GM Ryan Grigson has done a poor job of evaluating offensive line talent. His lone exception appears to be Jack Mewhort.
The big question for this team is whether or not the offensive line is bad enough to necessitate using a first round pick.
The simple answer is a clear no.
First off, the Colts were much better in protection than many would have you believe. Second, it wasn’t offensive line failings that have ended the past three seasons. That blame falls squarely on the defense.
The number of sacks and, to a degree, hits have gone down every year that Luck has been under center. Part of this is due to better protection, but the bulk of it is simply on Luck himself.
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The best thing any quarterback can do to limit sacks is get the ball out of the pocket quickly. The best example of this is Peyton Manning.
Manning might be the least mobile QB in the league, but he generally takes the fewest sacks of any starters in the NFL. In his three years at Denver, Manning has taken a total of 56 sacks and the past two years their line has led the league in Adjusted Sack Rate.
This is all on Manning. Back in 2010, the Colts took the fewest sacks with just 16 behind a truly awful line (aside from Jeff Saturday). What about 2009? Manning took just 13 sacks, again leading the league.
The Colts were in the middle of the league overall in offensive line play last season. On average, Luck had plenty of time to deliver an accurate pass. Improved play from his receivers, better pre-snap reads, and the threat of a run game will help limit the number of hits that Luck takes over the course of a season.
We can say that an improved line will also help when it comes to running the ball, but the past two seasons have proven that the fundamental problem the Colts face lies with the ball carriers, not the line.
Donald Brown, Dan Herron, and Ahmad Bradshaw all averaged more yards per carry that Trent Richardson behind the same blocking scheme. Despite their best efforts, the Colts coaching staff has yet to assemble the sort of running game that Chuck Pagano dreams of having.
While running the ball isn’t nearly as important in the NFL these days, it is still integral to the game. Improving the run will help limit the number of hits that Luck takes since he won’t have to drop back to pass as often.
More importantly, the threat of a run game will allow for a more effective use of play action, thus making the offense more dynamic.
The Colts offensive line may have struggled last season, but it was hardly bad enough to warrant using a first round pick on.