This offseason, the Colts placed a considerable emphasis on protecting Andrew Luck, using four of their eight draft picks on offensive linemen and bringing in the highly-regarded Joe Philbin to coach the unit.
But through five games, it’s been more of the same for a team that has struggled to protect Luck since his very first NFL game. In fact, Andrew Luck has been sacked more than any quarterback in the NFL this year (20 times), meaning that he’s been sacked an average of four times per game so far this year. By comparison, he was sacked an average of 2.02 times per game in his first four seasons in the NFL (61 games). So this year, it has been bad, and that’s not even mentioning the 41 quarterback hits he’s taken through five games. On Sunday, Luck was sacked five times a week after he was sacked six times, marking the first time the Colts have given up back-to-back 5+ sack games since 1997.
The Colts need to protect their franchise quarterback better than they have been, and head coach Chuck Pagano knows it.
“We’ve got to be better,” Pagano said Monday regarding the offensive line. “Those guys are working extremely hard. You can just point to those things [giving up 20 sacks through five games] and you never want to give up sacks, obviously. We’ve got to get it corrected and we’ve got to play better in certain situations, but there is improvement and there will continue to be improvement so we just keep working on it.”
In Pagano’s defense, there is certainly some improvement in this sense: Ryan Kelly is looking like the real deal at center, and it’s the best center play the Colts have had since Andrew Luck arrived - so yeah, the Colts’ line is improved because they added another key piece. Jack Mewhort is still playing at a very high level, too, and Anthony Castonzo is still the team’s left tackle, for better or for worse (and this year we’ve definitely seen the latter in particular). And then at the other two spots, the Colts are still trying to figure out what to do. Denzelle Good, Joe Haeg, and Joe Reitz are three solid guys to fill those two roles, but the Colts have used different combinations and are still trying to achieve the consistent level of success they want. There’s reason to think that guys like Good and Haeg will indeed improve, but so far the right side of the line has been a weakness.
Overall, though, the offensive line has not been good this year, which makes what Andrew Luck has done even more phenomenal. The Colts will keep trying to improve their offensive line, but so far this year it’s more of the same: Andrew Luck’s once again the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL, and a lot of that isn’t his fault.