Why the Current Colts Offensive Line is the Best in the Andrew Luck Era
Think about this number. 332.
What does it mean? What relevance does it hold? Has Cody finally gone crazy?
To answer the first two, the number 332 is how many times Andrew Luck was hit and sacked in his first three NFL seasons. 332! 122 times in 2012, and 115 both in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
To put it simply, Luck was getting pummeled on a regular basis come Sunday.
Fortunately for the Colts, Luck was able to play all 48 regular season games in his first three seasons. That’s not including the six post season games that he guided the team to.
Finally in 2015, Luck’s body finally couldn’t take the beating anymore. The young superstar QB was forced to miss nine games out of the year due to multiple injuries.
Among the various dings to the 26 year old were a lacerated kidney, an abdominal tear, torn cartilage in two of his ribs and also a shoulder injury.
Because of these injuries to Luck, the Colts missed out on the playoffs for the first time in the Andrew Luck era.
Because of the lack of protection for Luck and a general manager Ryan Grigson, who kept ignoring a glaring need along the line, Colts fans called for the Colts general manager, as well as head coach Chuck Pagano to be canned. To almost everyone’s surprise, the Colts decided to give the pair an extension rather than a pink slip.
Consider another number. Five. Really another number Cody? Get to the point.
The number five is the number of starting centers that Andrew Luck had played with since his rookie season. If you’re wondering, only one of those centers (Jon Harrison) is still on the roster. Wanna know how many starting centers Peyton Manning had in his Colts’ career? Three. And only one (Jeff Saturday) from 2000 to 2010.
Fortunately for Luck, the Colts front office made it clear that they were going to do everything to protect their franchise player, and to his credit, Grigson did just that.
In this year’s NFL Draft, the Colts made offensive line the focus of their draft from the beginning (Ryan Kelly) to the end (Austin Blythe). Overall, the Colts spent four of their eight 2016 draft picks on offensive linemen.
With the selection of Kelly with the eighteenth overall pick, the Colts filled a much needed position. Colts fans (including myself) cheered at the selection. Finally, we knew who the starting center was going to be Week one.
Another thing that will no longer be in question is pass protection. With the revolving door at center, Luck couldn’t stay upright. Last year, Kelly didn’t allow a sack. Andrew Luck has to be feeling good about that.
At left tackle, the Colts are set with rock solid Anthony Castonzo holding down the left end of the line. Last season wasn’t the best for Castonzo, and he knows it.
Marred by injuries and a down year, Castonzo is poised to return to 2014 form (he was PFF’s 10th best LT) or even better.
At LG, the Colts finally have a quality guard. After forgettable seasons by Mike McGlynn and Todd Herremans in recent years, it warms my heart to actually see a potential great Indianapolis Colts guard.
Last season, Jack Mewhort was one of three offensive guards who played at least 500 snaps and didn’t allow a sack. Another reason why Colts fans should be optimistic is because Mewhort was ranked number seven on Pro Football Focus’ best players under 25 years old list. The sky is the limit for Mewhort, and he could easily become a top-five NFL guard by season’s end.
The starting right guard position is where the Colts have an interesting situation. Last year’s starting RG Hugh Thornton was marred by both injuries and inconsistency and has been hurt since training camp began.
Now taking over at RG, last year’s surprise, 2014 7th round pick, Denzelle Good from Mars Hill. At 6’5, 340 pounds, Good is massive and has tons of potential.
According to Colts.com, Good’s teammates have been wowed by his physical traits.
Hugh Thornton says: “I wish I was his size. I think as he continues to grow physically and mentally, he’s going to thrive in this new offense and excel to levels I don’t think he knows he’ll reach now. I’m excited to see him grow.”
Since the injury to Thornton, Good has started at RG the first two preseason games.
While it’s uncertain if Good will be the starter week one, he appears to be the clear frontrunner right now with Thornton unable to stake his claim to the starting position because of injuries.
My personal opinion, Good has the most potential competing at RG. He is huge, very mobile and has major upside. The Colts would be wise to keep Good at RG. It would be the best for Good’s development for the Colts offense and the franchise.
At RT, the Colts are solid with incumbent RT Joe Reitz coming back. He may not be a superstar, but Reitz is a consistent starter, very durable and versatile. With rookie tackle Le’Raven Clark struggling this preseason, Reitz should remain the starter at RT. He can bring stability to the right side of the offensive line and teach the young pups the ropes.
So by now you may be asking yourself, “What makes this offensive line the best since the Luck era?” My answer is the fact that the Colts have a combination of proven veterans and young talented lineman ready to break out. This combination should be fruitful by all getting reps together.
In the few drives that I’ve watched the starting five play together, I’ve been very happy with what I’ve seen. Last week versus the Ravens, Luck wasn’t hit or sacked. This allowed him a lot of time to make those amazing Andrew Luck highlights.
That alone should bring a lot of optimism for this group heading into this year.