Colts seem content to fix offensive line in-house
The Indianapolis Colts desperately need to find a way to solve the offensive line woes that have plagued the team for years, and early chatter about their solutions aren’t exactly inspiring.
The Colts have a line problem. This is why for the past three drafts, analysts have had them taking linemen in the first round. It’s why every mock has them taking Taylor Decker or Jack Conklin with the 18th pick. Those analysts are absolutely right, the Colts have to do a better job protecting their biggest investment: Andrew Luck.
With Luck about the be the highest paid player in the NFL, the Colts need to do a better job of keeping him upright. He’s been hit over 400 times in the past four seasons, a number that would destroy a lesser QB.
The shaky offensive line was at least partly responsible for the team losing three different quarterbacks this season. We can go through when and how each were injured, but the line played a part in each one going down.
Keeping Luck safe has to be a collective effort between coach Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson. They made a minor move in the right direction by hiring Joe Philbin to coach the offensive line. And owner Jim Irsay has put pressure on his staff to improve this aspect of the team. And yet there have been no moves made to fix the line as of yet.
While covering the owners meetings, the IndyStar’s Stephen Holder had a chance to speak with Irsay, Grigson, and Pagano about the line and how they planned to address the issues at hand.
"“I think we’re close,” optimistic owner Jim Irsay said from the NFL’s owners meetings. “I do think we have the components there and, with this draft, I think we can really add to it.”Asked if the line needs major upgrades or relative tweaks, Irsay said, “I think (Jack) Mewhort is an outstanding young prospect. I think guard is his best position and I think he can play there for 10 years. I really do. (Hugh) Thornton has all the capabilities of being an outstanding guard in this league, but he has to stay healthy and he has to mentally make sure that he does everything to prepare himself and avoid penalties on the field.“Center, I think, we’re looking at carefully. I do think that to add a center and another guard/tackle, that sort of thing, will be dictated on the best player that we can get when you’re looking at the (draft). But I think we have the components.”"
Here’s the thing, the Colts haven’t ignored the offensive line for the past four seasons. They’ve spent six draft picks on line, only to see one of those players actually pan out. They’ve made numerous moves in free agency to fix the line as well, only to see those players succumb to injury or just flat out play poorly.
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Gosder Cherilus had one good season and then a bad one (due to injury) during his time here. The worst part being that his contract was too high to keep around in hopes he’d get healthy. Donald Thomas looked like a good pick, but barely ever played due to season ending thigh injuries.
A.Q. Shipley…is still one of the most baffling mysteries of the past few seasons. He was a late signing after injuries to the other two centers, and then played incredibly well (was one of the highest rated centers in the league through the first four weeks of the 2014 season). After four weeks, he was mysteriously benched. The move basically said to the team that your play has nothing to do with whether or not you get to start, and he was benched for inferior players (this is one of the big examples of Grigson meddling with the roster).
Last season was a mess. It started with forcing Todd Herremans into the lineup, which was a disaster, along with moving Jack Mewhort to right tackle. They made adjustments by Week 3, but it was clear some damage had already been done to Luck by then. They also had two players starting who were terrible (Hugh Thornton and whoever was at center) and Joe Reitz playing out of position, albeit admirably, at right tackle.
Some small tweaks and good injury luck (we’ll hold our breath) and this line might not be a disaster. Especially if Luck finally makes good on his promise to protect himself better by getting rid of the ball faster (sacks are more a product of quarterbacks than the line).
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There is no easy fix for the Colts offensive line. This has to be a multi-faceted solution that involves signing experienced talent, drafting a promising prospect, and Luck taking the next step in his development. If we see all of those things happen, the protection will look that much better and the Colts will be back in contention. If not, they are doomed to repeat 2015.