Colts looking to curb record-setting pace for sacks allowed

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The INDIANApolis Colts talk incessantly about
protecting their biggest investment.

Andrew Luck is still getting hit far too often.

Five games into his fifth season, Luck already has been sacked a
league-high 20 times, knocked down 41 other times and finds himself
on a dubious franchise-record pace – if he can stay healthy for 16
games.

”We’ve got to be better,” coach Chuck Pagano said Monday. ”You
never want to give up sacks, obviously. We’ve got to get it
corrected. But there is improvement and there will continue to be
improvement.”

Right now, it’s hard to see.

The Bears (1-4) entered Sunday with six sacks in four weeks and
nearly doubled that total with five sacks in the Colts’ 29-23
victory .

At this rate, Luck will go down 64 times. If that happens, it would
be the fourth-highest single-season total in league history behind
only David Carr (76 in 2002 and 68 in 2005) and Randall Cunningham
(72 in 1986).

Indy’s franchise record for sacks allowed (62) came in 1997 with
the totals split among three players – Jim Harbaugh, Paul Justin
and Kelly Holcomb.

The real concerns emerged last season when Luck missed nine games
with an assortment of injuries and the Colts needed five
quarterbacks, including Luck to finish the season.

Indy actually finished in the middle of the league with 37 sacks
allowed, but the injuries were enough to send the offensive line
overhaul into overdrive .

Team owner Jim Irsay called it the top offseason priority. General
manager Ryan Grigson used half of his eight draft picks on linemen.
Pagano hired former Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin to fix the
offensive line, and the expectation was that things would improve.

So far, they haven’t and there’s plenty of blame to spread around.

Rookie right tackle Joe Haeg allowed three sacks Sunday.
Second-year right guard Denzelle Good allowed two more. Luck
bobbled two snaps from rookie center Ryan Kelly, and the previous
week against Jacksonville, it was veteran left tackle Anthony
Castonzo who struggled.

The linemen aren’t exclusively to blame.

Indy’s coaching staff has spent countless hours working on Luck’s
footwork, his ability to get rid of the ball quicker and throwing
the ball away more frequently. But there are still times he holds
the ball too long, and it has produced mixed results.

”Andrew created a lot of (the downfield throws) by extending plays
and that’s something obviously he can do,” Pagano said.

”When things aren’t there initially, we count on him to do that
and we count on the receivers. We made some huge, huge things
happen on extended plays.”

The problem is he also goes down on some extended plays, and Luck
isn’t about to blame that on the guys trying to keep him upright.

”I thought our guys up front battled their butts off all day,”
Luck said Sunday. ”By no means was it perfect. By no means was I
perfect. Shoot, I feel like the delay of the game at the end, you
feel like you’re trying to lose the game.”

So can the Colts find a fix this season?

Pagano insists that they will continue looking to upgrade the
roster, continue coaching those already in town and continue
working to eliminate the ugly numbers and even uglier images of
Luck taking all those hits.

”It’s obviously a big concern for all of us,” Pagano said. ”You
never want to get your quarterback hit and sacked and all those
types of things.”

Notes: Cornerback Darius Butler was diagnosed with his third injury
this season – a fractured finger that will require surgery. Pagano
said they would put a plate in the hand and did not provide a
timetable for Butler’s return. Butler missed the season opener with
an ankle injury and the second and the third and fourth games with
a hamstring injury. … Starting cornerback Patrick Robinson is
listed as day to day with groin and knee injuries. … Pagano said
inside linebacker Josh McNary (stinger) might be able to play
Sunday at Houston (3-2).