So far this season, the Indianapolis Colts have been flagged for offensive holding seven times. Khaled Holmes, Dwayne Allen (twice), Anthony Castonzo (twice), Todd Herremans, and Jack Doyle have all been called for holding, wiping out a combined 81 yards of offense for the Colts (yards that were gained but called back due to the penalties). That's something that absolutely needs to change, as they can't keep killing drives with holding penalties.
Former NFL (and Colts) coach and current analyst Rick Venturi had some interesting comments on holding penalties the other day when appearing on 1070 the Fan. Venturi said that holding penalties are a staple of bad teams. Here are his full comments on the subject (you can listen to the rest of his interview here):
"The penalties are ridiculous. But let me tell you something about holding penalties - holding penalties are the worst penalties in football. When I worked for [Bill] Belichick back in Cleveland one year, we used to have to do projects figuring out different things, we'd have different things we'd have to work on and they were time consuming, but one of my projects one year was to take the last twenty years from that point back and to figure out if there were any significant penalties that happened to teams that were in the playoffs and that were not in the playoffs. And I mean I went through everything, Jon [Michael Vincent, 1070 the Fan radio host]: personal fouls, pre-snap, all that stuff. There was only one significant penalty over the years, and I think it still holds up, and that is playoff teams versus non-playoff teams, the amount of holding penalties. Because what holding defines is an offensive line that's not very good. Not very good. Because they're holding - and [Anthony] Castonzo's really struggling. You know, he's really struggled since the beginning of training camp if you want to know the truth. I said, ‘you know, he's going to be ok,' but he hasn't been ok, much less the interior. The other thing it means is you're not playing with any confidence. When you're holding, like as a corner or when you're holding [as] the offensive line, it really means that you really, really have no confidence. Those are critical issues that kill you."
Now, I don't think Castonzo has been has bad as Venturi lets on (though, on the subject of holding penalties, he has committed two of them), and I also haven't looked up the numbers to see whether Venturi is right, but I assume that he is when talking about the study he conducted. And even though that's years ago, it would figure that it still applies today.
Regardless, however, the point remains: the Colts need to get better in this area. They've already had a couple of drives stall thanks to a holding penalty, and they are something a team struggling to find the end zone can't afford.
"Number one we've got to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds," head coach Chuck Pagano agreed on Wednesday. "We keep shooting ourselves in the foot. Like you said, you got a big play that happened the first week at Buffalo on the first drive. It's very, very hard to overcome a first-and-20. So we've got to play with great fundamentals, great technique. The guys are straining, they're giving great effort to make their blocks. You can't cross the line. We're coaching it, we're teaching it, we're watching the tapes. We understand how the league is officiating it so we got to play within the framework of the rules."
The Colts have a lot of issues, and one of the biggest ones that has become increasingly clear in the first few weeks of the season is the offensive line. Simply put, they look bad. They have struggled to protect Andrew Luck, and that is likely what has led to the increase in holding penalties. Last year, they were called for 27 on the year (1.7 per game), while this year they've had seven already through two games (3.5 per game). Only two teams (the Eagles and the Redskins) have more offensive holding penalties than the Colts this year (they both have been flagged eight times), while only the Jaguars and Buccaneers are tied with Indy. Those teams are a combined 3-7 to start the season, including the Indianapolis Colts at 0-2. And while there are bigger keys to improving than simply the penalties, the Colts certainly need to stop hurting themselves with holding penalties.