The way Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck described the Colts’ loss on Sunday was as a “step back,” and while that can be said of the entire team, it can particularly be applied to the offensive line.
A week after a positive performance against the Titans, the Colts’ line had one of their worst performances against the Chiefs. They surrendered six sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and seven tackles for loss, while Andrew Luck was either hit or sacked on 36% of his dropbacks. And when you consider that nine of those 50 dropbacks ended up being quarterback scrambles (Luck finished with a career-high 60 rushing yards), he was hit or sacked on 43.9% of his non-scramble dropbacks. According to Pro Football Focus, Luck was under pressure on 52.1% of his dropbacks, the second time this year he’s been pressured on over half of his dropbacks.
It was a team performance on the offensive line that had a miserable day, too: per PFF, every Colts lineman who played allowed multiple pressures on Luck. That includes Jonotthan Harrison, who played on just 17 of 66 snaps as he filled in at left guard late in the game, and it obviously includes the starters too (Anthony Castonzo, Joe Haeg, Ryan Kelly, Denzelle Good, and Joe Reitz). And according to PFF, center Ryan Kelly was the only Colts lineman not to allow a hit or a sack.
It was a really rough day for the Colts’ offensive line, and Andrew Luck’s play and the production of the rest of the offense suffered. It has been a really rough season for the line as well, as they’ve now given up 64 quarterback hits and 31 sacks (both of which are the most in the league), which puts Luck on pace to be hit 128 times and sacked 62 times - which would tie the franchise record for most sacks given up in a single-season. And Luck has been sacked an average of 3.88 times per game this year, which is way up from the average of 2.02 times per game in his first four seasons. And in Luck’s 69 career games so far, four of the seven highest single-game sack totals have come this season.
What does this mean? Well, it means that the offensive line still has a ways to go. We knew all along that it would be a work in progress, but I think we’re now seeing just how much work there is left to be done. Ryan Kelly looks like the real deal at center and has had a good year, so there’s one position they shouldn’t have to worry about addressing. We can add left guard in there too with Jack Mewhort (who didn’t play on Sunday). So that’s two spots that the Colts shouldn’t need to worry about addressing, while Joe Haeg has shown some good things this year and may be a guy who will occupy a starting spot long-term. So maybe there’s another guy in Haeg, too. So the Colts do have some pieces in place (and they like Denzelle Good, though the jury’s still out on him), but one of the more concerning things this year is that we’ve seen another position added to the list of concerns: left tackle. Not to long ago, that spot would have been included in the group of positions that don’t cause worry, not because Anthony Castonzo was elite but because he was good enough. That hasn’t been the case this year, and it wasn’t really the case last year either. So just when the Colts added another position to feel comfortable about (center), they also may have lost one (left tackle). That’s not to say they should just immediately give up on or move on from Castonzo, but it’s a legitimate concern.
The bottom line is this: the offensive line needs to be better. It’s been a work in progress ever since Ryan Grigson arrived, and it’s still a work in progress today. Sunday’s game was a terrible performance, and so while there are certainly reasons for some optimism (like Ryan Kelly) and there have been some solid games this year (like last week), the line overall still has a ways to go and is still a concern for a team that has a lot of them.