The Indianapolis Colts were aggressive this offseason in bringing in protection for Andrew Luck, but the offensive line could still be a liability for the 2013 season.
The o-line was by far the biggest problem with the Colts last season. Luck was under constant pressure, and although he was able to elude a lot of would-be tacklers, he was still sacked 41 times, the fourth most in the NFL last season. The constant pressure also caused him to make bad throws, which had a lot to do with the 18 interceptions, not to mention the 10 fumbles.
Bruce Arians' vertical offensive scheme didn't help much either. With receivers needing time to make their cuts and get downfield, the linemen had to hold their blocks for longer periods of time, and with how much this group of players struggled, it was a mess.
Ryan Grigson and the rest of the organization understood this heading into the offseason. With so much cap space entering free agency, the Colts were aggressive from the start, bringing in two offensive linemen in Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas. The team then went after two more guys in the NFL draft, taking Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes.
Fans have been optimistic about the offensive line all offseason, as have I for the most part. I thought that these additions were really going to help the team out, and that Luck was going to have significantly more time to get the ball out of his hands.
From what I've seen in training camp so far, Luck is getting more time, but not as much as I was anticipating.
The starting lineup for the first team has consisted of, from left to right, Anthony Castonzo, Donald Thomas, Samson Satele, Mike McGlynn and Gosder Cherilus. The two new faces of Cherilus and Thomas are welcome additions, but there are still some warning signs so far from camp:
- Seeing McGlynn with the 1s made me cringe when I saw it in person. The argument could be made that he had the worst season of any player on the Colts in 2012, and seeing him back in the starting lineup wasn't fun to watch.
- While at camp on Tuesday and Friday, I noticed that Luck was still having plenty of guys get to him quickly. A lot of it seemed to be coming from the inside, with Thomas, Satele and McGlynn most likely responsible.
- As far as the offensive tackles go, I think that they've both been pretty solid overall. Cherilus has had a couple of bad plays, but Castonzo has arguably only had one bad play from what I've seen at camp, with Robert Mathis completely burning him. Castonzo was clearly upset with himself, but he's been quite reliable the rest of the camp.
It should be noted that it's quite likely that the pressure on Luck could be attributed to the offensive linemen taking it easy in training camp, but there are still some warning signs. While the starters could very well turn it around, what really concerns me about this team is the lack of depth on the line.
The Colts brought in two guys who were supposed to bring in some depth (or even fight for a starting spot) on the line. However, both guys have been fighting with injuries. Thornton was in a boot to start camp, and although he is now out of the boot and waiting to come back, lingering issues with the injury could resurface at any time in the season.
Perhaps more concerning is the issue with Holmes. Back on Tuesday, it appeared that he sprained his right ankle once again in practice, having to be carted off of the field. He had ankle issues while in college at USC, and seeing those resurface already this early on concerns me.
As far as the rest of the backups go, I don't feel very comfortable with any of them coming in the game. After seeing what happened last year with all of the injuries, I think it's reasonable to feel this way about the backups.
I know this all sounds really negative and down on the team, but I still firmly believe that there will be less pressure on Luck this season. There are certainly some upgrades to the line, but the addition of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will help more than anything. Trying to find balance with a downhill running game while also running plenty of shorter throws will take a lot of the pressure off of Luck and give him more room to breathe.
Luck has the chance to have a breakout season, but the offensive line is something that should still worry some fans. They certainly shouldn't be as concerned as last season, but there are still some early warning signs at camp.