Can Luck stay upright behind a revamped O-Line?
There’s so much excitement surrounding Indianapolis offensive line. Under former head coach Chuck Pagano, the Colts were infamously terrible at protecting Andrew Luck. The Colts allowed a league-worst 56 times in 2017. More than 10 percent of the time Colts quarterbacks dropped back to pass, the play ended in a sack.
Luck hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2014, and it’s no wonder why. Luck was sacked 41 times in 15 games in 2016. That’s 10 more times than the 31 touchdowns he threw. In 2015, he was sacked more than twice per game in just seven starts. That season, Luck suffered his initial shoulder injury, tearing his labrum. A month later, Luck’s kidney was lacerated and he suffered a grade 3 abdomen muscle tear. The following November, Luck took a particularly hard hit and suffered a concussion. The guy suffered multiple, brutal injuries because he took hit after hit at an alarming rate for two straight years.
The Colts front office made it clear that fixing a porous offensive front as a top priority. Lucky for Luck, Colts GM Chris Ballard stayed true to his word and revamped the offensive line this spring. Only left tackle Anthony Castonzo – the single shining star along the 2017 line – and 2016 first-round center Ryan Kelly return to Indianapolis’ starting unit this season.
Ballard’s haul on draft night and in free agency echoed his promises. Indianapolis selected the best guard prospect in Quenton Nelson. Then, Ballard turned around and grabbed Auburn’s Braden Smith in the second round. The Colts GM also brought in veteran Matt Slauson to help shore up the interior offensive line immediately and provide the pair of rookie guards a mentor. After an injury-riddled 2017 season, Kelly hopes to put together a fully healthy campaign. That gives the coaching staff four interior linemen that it should be comfortable putting on the field.
The right tackle spot remains the biggest question on the unit. Austin Howard signed with Indianapolis after starting all 16 games at right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens in 2017. The 31-year-old veteran bounced around the league since going undrafted in 2010. He came into his own with Baltimore last season and is the favorite to land the starting job. Denzelle Good, who returns after a long stint on the IR in 2017, is competing for first-team reps throughout the preseason.
There’s certainly a lot to like about the Colts’ revamped offensive line. The interior spots appear secure for the next decade between Nelson, Smith, and Kelly, while the two tackle jobs will go to a pair of veterans that can more than hold their own. It’s a huge step in the right direction; now the unit just needs to keep Luck healthy. Every. Single. Sunday.
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