Maybe the 35th time is the charm.
According to ESPN, the Colts will be starting their 35th different offensive line combination in front of Andrew Luck on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. The Colts are third in the league with 40 quarterback sacks surrendered. The Vikings are fourth in the NFL with 35 quarterback sacks. Though this is a radically over-simplified representation of the Colts' issues surrounding quarterback pressure and pocket time, it obviously does not bode well for a 6-7 team desperately trying to climb back into the playoff race.
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"Yeah, they're up for the challenge," Pagano told ESPN. "Yeah, hell yeah. They're going to play great. [Every opponent is] tough. They're all tough, we know that. It is what it is."
A deeper dive into NFLGSIS stats shows that the Colts are tied for first in unique starting offensive lineups this year with 13. The Jets, Eagles, Vikings, Browns, Bills and Cardinals have also needed 13 different starting lineups for one reason or another. For a reference point, the Rams and 49ers have had the fewest starting lineups (8). It's not necessarily indicative of success.
Of course, the Colts are not simply a team with a bad, oft-injured offensive line. They've invested heavily at the position over the years but have struggled to see their prospects grow beyond lofty rookie expectations. Luck has always had the propensity to hold on to the football longer than other quarterbacks in the NFL.
So where does that leave Indianapolis? Even if they back into the playoffs this year, are they going to be able to sustain the relentless level of blitzing which perfectly disrupts the tightrope ballet Andrew Luck and his five protectors have been performing for each of the last four seasons? This game has that disaster-scenario recipe should offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and Luck not significantly alter the game plan to force the ball out in two seconds or less.