Colts Need Higher Level Of Play From Offensive Line

Colts Need Higher Level Of Play From Offensive Line

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Colts Need Higher Level Of Play From Offensive Line

In recent weeks, the Colts offensive line has not played at an elite level. What have been the issues?

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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s a unit that the Colts cannot afford, or should even expect, to just be ‘good’ or ‘better than average.’

Nope, the Colts have invested way too much into their offensive line to not have that group playing at a consistently high level.

That has not happened in recent weeks.

With blame also needing to be assigned at times to the tight end and running back groups as well---when it comes to blocking---the offensive line has still not lived up to the lofty pre-season expectations.

And given the current personnel situations at wide receiver and quarterback, the Colts desperately need their offensive line to be dominant.

“The number one reason is we’ve played some really, really good defenses and defenses that are playing well,” Frank Reich says when asked about evaluating the offensive line through 9 games.

“In many respects, we’ve still had some good things up front.”

It’s definitely not all been bad at all up front. Far from that.

But the bar in grading this unit is higher than every other position group on the roster.

Precious resources have been invested into the offensive line and the fact that the starting unit has remained intact for every start this season only adds to the higher grading scale.

While Reich first addresses the opposing defenses the Colts have played, there’s more to the story.

Despite playing just one top-10 yardage defense since the season opener, the Colts have not had anywhere near the offensive line dominance one would expect.

The Colts have 30 negative runs this year (the 4th most in the NFL) and their 4.19 yards per carry ranks just 21st. It’s amazing to see 16 of those 30 negative runs having come to the left, where first-round pick stalwarts Anthony Castonzo and Quenton Nelson line up. To be fair, some of those negative runs have occurred from defenders making plays at the point of attack elsewhere up front, before finishing the stuff in the backfield. Again, like was mentioned above, the tight ends need to be thrown into the blame category when looking at some of these numbers.

Since an eye-popping first two weeks running the football (5.5 yards per carry), the Colts have averaged just 3.75 YPC in the seven games that have followed (23rd in the NFL).

Opposing defenses are definitely loading boxes to try and slow down the Colts’ run game, but Reich has mentioned the need to still find success even in the less than favorable rushing situations.

It’s the negative runs that have been the biggest black eye in stringing together a more consistent rushing attack.

In pass protection, the Colts have allowed 10 sacks in the last three weeks. Most of the issues have come from breakdowns in 1-on-1 blocks, but we also saw a few indentification problems rise up against Miami.

The pocket has been a bit muddier this season. The Colts still do rank 8th in the league in pass protection, allowing a sack on 5.63 percent of their pass attempt.

Even with the same starting personnel healthy in 2019, the line (under a new position coach this year) hasn’t been good enough.

“I’m really happy with where we’re at there,” Reich says about the O-line when asked about going from Dave DeGuglielmo last year to Chris Strausser this season. “Of course, I really appreciated everything Guge brought to the table last year and he really did help make us a better football team. But I think Chris Strausser is doing a great job. I think his strengths are being seen as evidence in how we’re playing in many respects.”

Clearly, Reich is more pleased with his offensive line than how some of the numbers, particularly compared to last year, look.

But given how this roster is built, the Colts can’t have the O-line be anything but an unquestioned strength of the team.

And for any playoff push to close out 2019, they need the trench play to get back to being elite.

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