Aug 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) drops back to pass under the protection of guard Hugh Thorton (69) in the first half against the New York Giants in their pre season game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Charting the Colts’ Offensive Line: Preseason Week 3

It wasn’t a pretty game, but Andrew Luck’s struggles in Saturday’s loss to the Saints masked some promising signs for the Colts. The offensive line had its best percentages of the preseason almost across the board, including in run blocking, gap blocking, lead blocking and pass blocking (see here for an explanation of some of the terminology I use here). And the running backs were successful on 50% of their runs, after managing only 29% and 26% in the first two preseason games. League average is roughly 45%, which means that for one night, in a meaningless game, the Colts actually had an above-average running game. If not for a couple missed throws by Luck and a strange decision to run behind a certain tight end at the goal line (more on that later), everyone would be feeling pretty good about the Colts’ offense right now.

In a bizarre twist, the inside of the offensive line is suddenly starting to look better than the outside. Both tackles have played below their typical standards, albeit in exhibition games where more experienced players are probably tempted to screw around. If everyone can get on the same page and be playing well at the same time – always a big if – the blocking might finally start coming together.

Let’s get to it. Standard disclaimer: charting offensive line play is inevitably subjective, since I can’t know the players’ assignments or how they’re coached. The figures below represent my best efforts at figuring out what the linemen were supposed to do and whether they did it successfully.

 

LT Anthony Castonzo
Run blocks: 6/9, 67%
Gap blocks: 2/4, 50%, 7 yards, 1.8 avg., 25% success
Pass blocks: 23/24, 96%, 1 pressure
Total: 29/33, 88%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 17/24, 71%
Gap blocks: 6/10, 60%, 21 yards, 2.1 avg., 20% success
Pass blocks: 47/50, 94%, 1 pressure
Total: 64/74, 86%

The bad news for Castonzo: he’s been part of the problem with the Colts’ run blocking. It’s an alarming turn of events. While he hasn’t been terrible, they need more out of him. He’s attempted only three second-level blocks, completing two, and has looked oddly shaky in the open field. He’s moving well, like he always does, but he’s not locking onto defenders like he has in the past. Watch him engage Curtis Lofton here:

CastonzoMiss2

Ordinarily, Castonzo would blow that linebacker up and take him out of the play, but instead he ducks his head and only impedes him a bit, and Lofton ends up making the tackle. It’s hard to tell for sure what Castonzo’s assignment is, but that’s part of the problem. He’s usually one of the easiest linemen to figure out because he’s so decisive and sure of himself. You might recall that he had a similarly uncharacteristic whiff last week on a stretch play. He’s looked out of sorts in the preseason. But (say it with me now) it’s just preseason. And he’s also had some good run blocks, like this one:

1

He’ll be fine.

The good news: Castonzo has been in midseason form with pass blocking. He’s missed only three of 50, and his one pressure happened on a weird play where the Saints jumped offside, the Colts expected a whistle, and everybody’s timing was off. He held up well against the Saints’ Cameron Jordan, who’s no slouch.

LG Jack Mewhort
Run blocks: 6/7, 86%
Gap blocks: 2/2, 100%, 5 yards, 2.5 avg., 50% success
Lead blocks: 3/4, 75%, 11 yards, 2.8 avg., 25% success
Pass blocks: 21/24, 88%, 2 pressures, 1 hit
Total: 27/31, 87%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 10/16, 63%
Gap blocks: 4/5, 80%, 13 yards, 2.6 avg., 40% success
Lead blocks: 4/8, 50%, 18 yards, 2.3 avg., 25% success
Screen blocks: 0/1, 6 yards, 6.0 avg.
Pass blocks: 31/35, 89%, 2 pressures, 1 hit
Total: 41/52, 79%

Mewhort had a decent night after missing the second preseason game. Pulling will never be his strong suit, but he looked better doing it than he did in the first game. Watch him take out the safety on this surprisingly effective stretch:

Stretch2

Thornton and Harrison have nice blocks here, too, though Thornton is a tad out of control. As always, pay no attention to Coby Fleener.

When pass blocking, Mewhort seemed to be sitting back and waiting a little too much. The Saints’ linemen eventually figured out that if they barreled straight into him, they could knock him back on his heels. Jordan did so and followed it up with a quick spin move, earning a clean shot on Luck. Keep an eye on Mewhort’s punch in the weeks ahead; he’ll need to get better at taking the initiative and preventing the rusher from getting into his body.

C Jonotthan Harrison

Run blocks: 6/8, 75%
Screen blocks: 1/1, 100%, 11 yards, 11.0 avg.
Pass blocks: 24/24, 100%
Total: 31/33, 94%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 27/35, 77%
Gap blocks: 3/5, 60%, 6 yards, 1.2 avg., 40% success
Lead blocks: 0/1, -1 yard, -1.0 avg., 0% success
Screen blocks: 78/84, 93%, 3 pressures, 1 sack
Total: 106/121, 88%

I like Harrison more every week. Much like Hugh Thornton, he blocks to the whistle on every single play. That might sound like coachspeak, but when you watch these guys closely, you can tell which ones take it personally when their men beat them, even if the ball is already gone. Harrison sometimes gets himself into awkward positions, but he digs his heels in and simply won’t give up ground:

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Harrison also brought us this week’s best moment of offensive line hilarity. He briefly blocked a linebacker who then dropped into coverage on Trent Richardson. Harrison felt the guy had not yet experienced a proper blocking, so he chased him right out of the frame:

HarrisonChase

This is one of the times I really wish we had all-22 film in the preseason.

Like I’ve been saying every week, don’t get carried away in your Harrison excitement, he has his limitations, blah blah blah. He’s fun to watch, though.

Hugh Thornton
Run blocks: 6/9, 67%
Gap blocks: 1/1, 100%, 8 yards, 8.0 avg., 100% success
Lead blocks: 1/2, 50%, 1 yard, 0.5 avg., 0% success
Screen blocks: 1/1, 100%, 11 yards, 11.0 avg.
Pass blocks: 23/25, 92%, 2 hits
Total: 30/35, 86%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 19/27, 70%
Gap blocks: 4/6, 67%, 18 yards, 3.0 avg., 50% success
Lead blocks: 3/6, 50%, 13 yards, 2.2 avg., 17% success
Screen blocks: 1/1, 100%, 11 yards, 11.0 avg.
Pass blocks: 63/70, 90%, 2 pressures, 2 hits
Total: 83/98, 85%

Thornton is starting to show what he’s capable of. He made some excellent plays against the Saints, flashing explosive strength and terrific balance. This run fails, but watch Thornton get to the corner on this pull block, stop on a dime, seal the defender, then launch himself at the guy to make sure he won’t get a chance to hit the doomed running back:

HughTurn

The hustle is there, as always, but this season Thornton is showing more discipline in his aggression. His biggest issue is consistency, as it was last year. He’s still taking an occasional wrong step in pass protection, or ducking his head and bouncing off on a pull block. But the good plays this year have been extremely good, and he’s cut down noticeably on the bad ones already.

RT Gosder Cherilus
Run blocks: 6/7, 86%
Pass blocks: 20/26, 77%, 2 pressures, 2 hits, 1 sack
Total blocks: 26/33, 79%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 17/22, 77%
Gap blocks: 2/2, 100%, 13 yards, 6.5 avg., 100% success
Pass blocks: 39/51, 76%, 6 pressures, 4 hits, 1 sack
Total: 56/73, 77%

Cherilus has had a worrying preseason. In one three-play stretch on Saturday, he gave up a sack and two pressures, getting beaten around the edge all three times. He was clearly guessing incorrectly; you can see in this frame that his right knee and hip are turned upfield, while the defender is about to explode around him for a sack:

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Cherilus did roughly the same thing on the next play, leading to a pressure when Jordan blew past him around the end:

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Here’s where it gets disturbing. On the next play, Cherilus did it a third time, allowing another pressure:

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Cherilus generally has impeccable footwork. Getting caught making the same mistake on three consecutive plays is a problem for anyone, but it’s especially bad for a guy who’s not great at hand-fighting, isn’t much of a run blocker and doesn’t have top-notch recovery speed. If his footwork goes, he’s going to become a below-average right tackle in a hurry. And with his salary, that will be a problem.

Cherilus has looked a little better in run blocking than he did for much of last year, but his old habit of releasing his blocks before the play is over reared its ugly head a couple times Saturday. Even more than Castonzo, he needs to get himself turned around in a hurry when the games start counting.

6L/LT Joe Reitz
Run blocks: 12/18, 67%
Gap blocks: 4/7, 57%, 35 yards, 5.0 avg., 57% success
Pass blocks: 11/11, 100%
Total: 23/29, 79%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 30/41, 73%
Gap blocks: 9/15, 60%, 53 yards, 3.5 avg., 40% success
Pass blocks: 52/57, 91%, 5 pressures
Total: 82/98, 84%

After a week of embarrassing those of us who have been shouting from the mountaintops that he needs to play more, Reitz put together a good game against the Saints’ backups. He held up in protection and generated some movement with his gap blocks, helping spring Boom Herron and Zurlon Tipton for runs of 4, 5, 12 and 13 yards. With the Colts’ dearth of bodies at tackle, Reitz should be the top backup on both ends of the line.

LG Lance Louis
Run blocks: 12/19, 63%
Gap blocks: 2/4, 50%, 60 yards, 15.0 avg., 75% success
Lead blocks: 1/3, 33%, 7 yards, 2.3 avg., 33% success
Pass blocks: 10/11, 91%
Total: 22/30, 73%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 24/41, 59%
Gap blocks: 7/14, 50%, 78 yards, 5.6 avg., 43% success
Lead blocks: 2/5, 40%, 14 yards, 2.8 avg., 40% success
Screen blocks: 1/2, 50%, 15 yards, 7.5 avg.
Pass blocks: 55/63, 87%, 2 pressures, 1 hit, 1 sack
Total: 80/106, 75%

Boom Herron’s explosive (get it? Boom?) 43-yard run threw several players’ yardage figures out of whack. But even without that run, Louis had a respectable night. His run blocking was again inconsistent, but his pass blocking was strong, and that’s always going to be the most important thing to get right as long as Luck is around.

On the subject of Herron’s long run, the blocking on the play was impeccable. It was reminiscent of Donald Brown’s 51-yard touchdown in Kansas City last year. It’s hard to get a good look at the running lane from the broadcast angle, but Herron barely gets touched before he hits the secondary:

Boom43

C Thomas Austin

Run blocks: 14/17, 82%
Gap blocks: 4/4, 100%, 5 yards, 1.7 avg., 0% success
Pass blocks: 9/9, 100%
Total: 23/26, 88%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 22/33, 67%
Gap blocks: 6/9, 67%, 10 yards, 1.1 avg., 11% success
Lead blocks: 0/1, 1 yard, 1.0 avg., 0% success
Screen blocks: 1/3, 33%, 22 yards, 7.3 avg.
Pass blocks: 28/29, 97%
Total: 51/65, 78%

Austin has little chance of making the roster, but he’s somehow played 69 snaps in two games – which doesn’t bode well for my favorite FN guy on the team. He’s been pretty good by percentages, but only one of his nine gap blocks has produced a successful run, and he’s generated only 10 yards on those blocks. That’s a sign that he’s keeping his man out of the running lane, but not generating much movement.

RG Josh Walker
Run blocks: 17/18, 94%
Gap blocks: 3/3, 100%, 47 yards, 23.5 avg., 100% success
Lead blocks: 2/2, 100%, 7 yards, 3.5 avg., 50% success
Screen blocks: 1/2, 50%, 12 yards, 6.0 avg.
Pass blocks: 16/16, 100%
Total: 34/36, 94%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 38/46, 83%
Gap blocks: 8/11, 73%, 58 yards, 5.3 avg., 27% success
Lead blocks: 3/3, 100%, 13 yards, 4.3 avg., 67% success
Screen blocks: 1/2, 50%, 12 yards, 6.0 avg.
Pass blocks: 52/62, 84%, 3 pressures, 3 hits, 2 sacks
Total: 91/110, 83%

See? See?! I told you he’s good! Walker is not the nimblest guy, and he kind of sucks at tackle, but he’s a capable guard. He’s still my top pick for offensive line roster surprise. With Reitz mostly playing tackle, Walker is neck-and-neck with Louis for the next most effective guard after Thornton and Mewhort. Louis is quicker and a better pass blocker, but Walker has some mauler potential and is young enough to improve. If he doesn’t make it, the biggest reason will probably be his failure at left tackle last week. The Colts value versatility in their linemen, and Walker looks like a guard-only type.

RT Matt Hall
Run blocks: 13/18, 72%
Gap blocks: 2/4, 50%, 11 yards, 2.8 avg., 50% success
Pass blocks: 16/18, 89%, 1 pressure
Total: 29/36, 81%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 33/50, 66%
Gap blocks: 6/13, 46%, 17 yards, 1.3 avg., 15% success
Pass blocks: 65/83, 78%, 12 pressures, 2 hits
Total: 98/133, 74%

Hall put in his best performance to date, and it still wasn’t all that great. Interestingly, he leads the team in preseason snaps with 134, which either means the coaches want a good look at him, or they don’t want the more important guys to get hurt. Hall has often looked like a slightly bigger Jeff Linkenbach. If he makes the roster, it’s a bad sign.

LT Tyler Hoover
Run blocks: 1/1, 100%
Pass blocks: 3/7, 43%, 2 sacks
Total: 4/8, 50%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 2/2, 100%
Pass blocks: 3/7, 43%, 2 sacks
Total: 5/9, 56%

Hoover is in over his head at left tackle. Let’s not dwell on him.

LG Marcus Hall
Run blocks: 1/1, 100%
Lead blocks: 1/1, 100%, 5 yards, 5.0 avg., 100% success
Pass blocks: 6/6, 100%
Total: 7/7, 100%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 11/17, 65%
Gap blocks: 3/5, 60%, 2 yards, 0.4 avg., 20% success
Lead blocks: 1/2, 50%, 3 yards, 1.5 avg., 50% success
Screen blocks: 1/1, 100%, 10 yards, 10.0 avg.
Pass blocks: 26/27, 96%, 1 hit
Total: 38/45, 84%

Hall completed all of his assignments, but was released shortly after the game. He was never more than a training camp body, and he never stood out much in the run game.

C FN Lutz
Run blocks: 1/1, 100%
Screen blocks: 1/1, 100%, 16 yards, 16.0 avg.
Pass blocks: 6/6, 100%
Total: 8/8, 100%

Preseason totals
Run blocks: 13/15, 87%
Screen blocks: 3/4, 75%, 38 yards, 9.5 avg.
Pass blocks: 22/26, 85%, 2 pressures
Total: 38/45, 84%

Why can’t this guy get some more FN snaps? Is Austin really that much better? What? It doesn’t matter, because neither is going to make the team? You’re probably right. But I’m going to miss my FN jokes.


Hypothetical situation. It’s 1st-and-goal at the 1 for the first-team offense. You know Pep’s going to dial up a run – as he should. If you had to pick one Colt to run behind, who would it be?

Waiting.

Waiting.

Waiting.

I bet you didn’t say Coby Fleener, did you? Did Pep try a power run directly off Fleener’s hip? Of course he did.

CobyCrush

Poor Fleener gets absolutely steamrolled by David Hawthorne. I’ve said this many times before: being unpredictable is important, but Fleener should not be run blocking at the point of attack. Jack Doyle, Weslye Saunders, Dwayne Allen, a sixth lineman, sure. Just not Fleener.  (Incidentally, Reitz is on the left of the line here, the first time the Colts used a sixth lineman all preseason.)

Here are the skill guys’ figures:

  • Coby Fleener did his Coby Fleener thing and went 2/5 in run blocking (0/3 on gap blocks). He’s 3/11 in run blocking in the preseason. The guy has several useful skills and should be on the field, but not like this. All I can figure is that Pep is trying to shame him into blocking better, which is like trying to train your dog to read by repeatedly hitting it in the face with a book.
  • Trent Richardson continued his strong preseason, going 3/3 in pass blocking. He’s 8/9 through three games and is rounding into form as a fine and productive player.
  • Skip this bullet if you don’t want to feel sad. I won’t bold the name. Still here? OK, you asked for it . . . Dwayne Allen has not been himself. He was 4/7 run blocking and 3/4 pass blocking with a hit surrendered. He’s just 14/21 run blocking in the preseason, with 6/9 gap blocking leading to 17 yards (1.9 avg.) and 33% success. He’s had a few good ones, but the dominant blocker of 2012 vintage has yet to show up.
  • Mario Harvey is getting better. He was 4/5 run blocking, completed his one gap block for a 4-yard gain (and a run success) and went 2/3 lead blocking for 47 yards (43 of those came on Herron’s aforementioned Boom). He did miss his one pass block, but his run blocking has gotten better by the week. He’ll hold his own until Stanley Havili comes back to absorb everyone’s fullback hate.
  • When I was first doing this column midway through last season, I raved about Jack Doyle‘s blocking. Then he put together a long run of stinkers and I looked like an idiot. I tracked him for the first time this preseason in the Saints game, and he was back on the right side of things. He went 9/9 in run blocking, including 4/4 gap blocking for 21 yards (5.3 avg.) and three successes. He also completed his one pass block.
  • Weslye Saunders was 5/5 run blocking and 1/1 pass blocking, while former basketball player, football neophyte and future practice squad member Erik Swoope was 7/9 run blocking (3/3 gaps, 13 yards, 4.3 avg., 2 successes) and 2/4 pass blocking with a sack allowed. Tight end is without a doubt the second-best position on the Colts’ roster.

I’m heading out of the country for a week and a half, so I won’t be charting the Third Annual Harnish Bowl. But I’ll be here all season from there, unless Kyle makes me take a urine test when I get back and I get suspended for four games.

Here’s my table. Green good, red bad, yellow not involved.

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