It’s no secret that the Indianapolis Colts offensive line has struggled in recent seasons protecting franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. However, the unit’s performance on Sunday could be a sign that the team’s pass protection woes have finally been shored up.
While the unit was much maligned entering the regular season opener, the Indianapolis Colts offensive line actually held its own against the Detroit Lions defensive line and pass rush this past Sunday.
The addition of prized rookie Ryan Kelly immediately paid dividends, as the highly touted center seemingly stabilized the middle of the Colts offensive line–allowing only 1 pressure in 53 pass-blocking snaps.
However, Kelly wasn’t alone, as nearly every member of the Colts offensive line–with the exception of starting right tackle Joe Reitz, graded out rather favorably per Pro Football Focus (subscription):
As a whole, this shored up Colts offensive line finally showed the pass protection that has otherwise been sorely been lacking during the “Andrew Luck era” of football:
Specifically, again via Pro Football Focus, the Colts offensive line allowed pressure on just 29.4% of Luck’s throws–which would be a best for #12’s career if actually continued in the trenches for the course of the regular season:
"Sep 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) looks to pass in the first half against the Detroit Lions at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports“The Colts have made investments in that line, with first-round rookie center Ryan Kelly the most notable, and it resulted in Luck being pressured on just 29.4 percent of his dropbacks against the Lions,” writes Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson. “If that rate holds up over the season, it would mark the first time in his career that the number has been less than 30 percent of his dropbacks. In fact, it would be the best figure by a clear six percent, as every other year of his career has been somewhere between 36.2 and 40 percent. The line still isn’t exactly good, but it’s at least taken a major step forward from bad.”"
Most importantly, the Colts kept Luck healthy and upright, allowing Luck enough time in the pocket to complete 31 of 47 throws (66%) for 385 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and a sparkling passer rating of 119.5 in what ultimately became one of his best career starts:
As a result, the Colts only allowed 2 sacks on Luck in what was otherwise a ‘passable’ performance in pass protection–pun intended. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come and a changing of the guard so to speak as it relates to improved blocking up front.
However, the Colts will face a tougher task this upcoming Sunday against the Denver Broncos, facing the likes of premier pass rushers such as Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. It’ll be interesting to see if the team’s offensive line can once again hold their own versus the reigning Super Bowl Champions.