How long can Andrew Luck hold up?
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As the siege on Andrew Luck continues, it’s fair to wonder:
- How much more abuse can the Indianapolis Colts’ $140 million quarterback endure?
- Will it ever stop?
- Is this as bad as it gets?
The answers: We’ll see. Probably not. Probably not.
We’re at the season’s midpoint and no one should question Luck’s ability to take a hit. He’s been sacked an NFL-high 31 times and hit on another 32 occasions, according to the league.
Here’s where we need to offer some historical perspective. Pay attention.
Luck has suffered six sacks twice in the last five games. Previously, Colts QBs had suffered at least six sacks twice in 238 games, and those occurred in 1997.
Or this: Luck has been sacked at least four times in 14 of his 63 regular-season games, and at least five times in seven games. Peyton Manning was sacked at least four times in 11 of his 208 games, and five times only twice.
And Luck is still standing.
“They have to play better,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said of Luck’s offensive line. “We all do.’’
The offensive line showed signs of stability in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans – two sacks, three hits – and Luck took advantage of the relatively clean passing pocket to throw for 353 yards and three touchdowns.
Then it regressed in last Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Luck was sacked six times, hit on another six occasions and forced to scramble nine times. He completed just 19-of-35 passes for 210 yards.
Clearly there’s a correlation.
The Colts make no excuses for the shoddy protection, but there are reasons:
- It’s a young group. Three rookies have started: center Ryan Kelly, guard/tackle Joe Haeg and guard Austin Blythe. Denzelle Good has started six games at right guard after starting four games at right tackle as a rookie a year ago. In the ineffective loss to Jacksonville in London, three rookies started: Kelly, Blythe and Haeg.
- Injuries once again have forced constant shuffling. Haeg has started at three spots. Luck will step behind a sixth different starting O-line in nine games Sunday against the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field. It will be the 35th different combination in his 64-game regular-season career.
- Luck occasionally holds onto the football too long in his attempt at pushing things downfield, resulting in a sack. But he also avoids potential sacks with his mobility.
When talking about the leaky protection, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski insisted on expanding the guilty parties.
“Sometimes it’s not always on the offensive line,’’ he said. “It may be some on the quarterback, some on the receivers getting open. It’s not always one area or one guy.’’
Perhaps, but it all starts up front, and the Colts’ offensive line hasn’t measured up this season.
NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt listed some offensive line-related stats this week that were downright damning. Haeg has allowed 5.5 sacks, tied for third-most in the league. Castonzo and Good were tied for sixth with 5 each. Castonzo, who signed a $43.6 million extension in September 2015, has yielded 20 pressures, tied for fifth-most.
“I think that everybody and everything we do in life, we want there to be progress and we want it to be a straight line every day, every bit gets better and better and better in a straight line and that’s just not reality,’’ Chudzinski said. “There are going to be ups and downs.
“In this case and looking at some of the guys, I see overall the progress that we want to see. There are going to be some times when we don’t play as well or do what we need to do. The important thing is that we bounce back and how we respond to those times.’’