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Colts' offensive line looking to stand tall

Posted at 2:17 PM, Sep 26, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS -- Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton watched Andrew Luck shoulder the burden of Indianapolis' 0-2 start all week.

On Thursday, it was Hamilton's turn -- and he made it clear there's plenty of blame to go around.

"We've got to do a better job communicating and executing and it starts with me," Hamilton said. ""I've been way too conservative in those (obvious) passing situations, keeping seven guys in to protect. So I've got to do a better job of trying to keep us out of those long third-down situations."

The bulk of the criticism has focused on the offensive line.

Though Luck has only been sacked twice in the first two weeks, he was under continual duress against the blitz-happy Bills and Jets. The Colts are likely to face a similar tactic when they try to extend a 13-game winning streak against division foes Sunday at Tennessee (1-1).

Maybe the problems shouldn't be a surprise.

Luck was hit a league-high 210 times in 2013 and 2014, according to STATS, and after a major offseason overhaul, Indy came into the season with even more questions about pass protection.

During the summer, Indy waived two former starters, right tackle Gosder Cherilus and left guard Donald Thomas, who finished the 2014 season on injured reserve.

Jack Mewhort, who had a solid rookie season at left guard, moved to right tackle. The 32-year-old Todd Herremans was signed as a free agent to play right guard, Lance Louis inherited the left guard job from the injured Hugh Thornton and coach Chuck Pagano let centers Khaled Holmes and Jonotthan Harrison battle for the starting center job.

That left the Colts with only two returning starters in familiar spots, Holmes and left tackle Anthony Castonzo.

The results have been scary. Indy has not yet scored in the first half, Luck has thrown a league-high five interceptions and there are major concerns about whether the Colts can find a solution.

After Monday's 20-7 loss to the Jets, Pagano was even asked if the leaky protection was forcing Luck into bad decisions.

"I don't think so. That's been the case for three years now, has it not?" Pagano said in what some perceived as a shot at general manager Ryan Grigson. "He (Luck) should be more than comfortable dealing with what he's dealing with. We've got to get it fixed."

The Colts haven't run the ball well, either. They're 26th in the league in yards rushing per game and only 10 teams have averages lower than the Colts' 3.8 per carry.

So this week, the Colts are considering new blocking schemes and a game plan that helps the tight ends get more involved.

So far, Indy's three tight ends have combined for only one catch, and Luck's only pass to a tight end Monday went to offensive lineman Joe Reitz, after he reported as an eligible receiver.

Again, Luck blamed himself.

"I don't think I've done a very good job getting them involved," he said Wednesday. "They are so productive and such a big part of our offense that I've got to make sure I do a better job finding them."

Whether Allen will be in the mix Sunday is still unclear. He did not practice Thursday and is still considered day to day because of an injured left ankle.

This much is clear: If the Colts are going to maintain their division dominance, they must block out the noise and focus on fundamentals.

"For us, it's execution. We've got tough, smart guys who want to do it," Mewhort said. "It's the technique stuff that's hurt us, and we need to get better at it."

Notes: Cornerback Vontae Davis said he has been cleared for full contact after being diagnosed with a concussion Monday night and that he would be "mad" if he didn't play Sunday. ... Indy's No. 3 cornerback Darius Butler (hip) did not practice Thursday. ... Linebacker Trent Cole (knee) and Louis (shoulder) were limited participants.


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