The Indianapolis Colts placed a major emphasis on their offensive line last offseason, bringing in Joe Philbin to coach the unit and spending four draft picks on linemen. It was clear that with so many young players up front it was going to be a major work in progress, and there have been mixed results.
One thing that can’t be denied, however, is that Andrew Luck has been under just as much pressure this year as he has been in past years. In fact, the Washington Post ran a very interesting article recently by Mike Renner about the subject, and it turns out that Luck has been under pressure on 44.5% of his dropbacks this year - which is insane - the highest percentage in the NFL and the highest percentage of any season in Luck’s career.
The line has made some improvements - such as the last two weeks when they’ve blocked well in the run game) and has some good young players, but it’s clear that the results haven’t always translated to the field. The Colts have been having to change up their starters often this year due to injuries as well, which has hindered the continuity. Yet despite the pressure, Andrew Luck has had a very good season, completing 63.8% of his passes (a career high) for 3,919 yards (7.8 yards per attempt, a career high), 29 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions for a passer rating of 96.8 (a career high). He’s also rushed for 324 yards and two touchdowns (averaging 5.3 yards per rush) - in short, he’s been great. And that’s despite the pressure, which has been getting to him often this season.
Part of the pressure can be attributed to the offensive system, but that’s nothing new for Indianapolis either. Renner wrote that 40.2% of Luck’s dropbacks this year have been deep dropbacks (nine yards or more), which gives confirmation to the obvious reality that the Colts run an offense that isn’t geared toward getting the ball out quickly and protecting the quarterback. Renner added that Luck has the second-most dropbacks lasting 2.6 seconds or more in the entire NFL, but other quarterbacks also have long dropbacks and still are protected. According to Pro Football Focus’s grading system, Joe Reitz (right tackle) and Joe Haeg (right guard) have “the lowest pass-blocking efficiency scores at their respective positions in the NFL.”
Basically, here’s what you have: a quarterback who’s playing as well as he ever has this season but who has been under more pressure than ever this year. The Colts don’t always help Luck out as much as they could as they keep running deeper dropbacks and slower-developing plays, but Luck does a very good job of evading pressure and avoiding sacks (thus a big reason why he hasn’t been sacked in either of the past two weeks). There are definitely some pieces to work with up front and it was always going to be a work in progress, but we haven’t really seen the results on the field this year - which makes what Andrew Luck has done even more impressive.