INDIANAPOLIS -- Six years. Six different Week 1 starting offensive lines for the Indianapolis Colts under head coach Chuck Pagano.
That’s not how it’s supposed to be when you selected a quarterback as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, but that’s how things have gone for the Colts. And although they’ll have two offensive linemen making their first NFL starts in Sunday’s game at the Los Angeles Rams, Pagano is confident about group.
“I’ve never felt better about an offensive line or a football team,” Pagano said. “Never felt better. You guys can write it, put it on record, hold it to me. We’ll come in (following the game) and there’s going to be some mistakes made. But we’re going to dress seven, maybe eight guys. All those guys will be prepared to play good football.”
The constant shuffling and poor performance along the offensive line played a part in why quarterback Andrew Luck (shoulder) is about to miss his 11th game -- and possibly more -- because of the number of sacks and hits he’s taken over the years.
It’s Scott Tolzien's turn to start at quarterback and see if the offensive line can do a better job protecting him than it has done with Luck. The Colts allowed 44 sacks and 128 quarterback hits -- second only to Cleveland -- last season.
The Rams finished ninth in total defense last season. They’re not expected to have defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who made a team-high eight sacks last season, because he’s currently holding out for a new contract.
The Colts threw a wrinkle in their offensive line depth chart this week when they not only changed the starting lineup but also moved some players around. Jeremy Vujnovich went from starting right tackle to starting left guard, where he replaced Joe Haeg. Denzelle Good is now the starting right tackle, where he played some as a rookie in 2015. Undrafted rookie Deyshawn Bond is starting at center in place of the injured Ryan Kelly. Those three will be joined by left tackle Anthony Castonzo and right guard Jack Mewhort in the starting lineup.
Vujnovich and Bond are making their first career starts.
“We have a bunch of guys that can play a bunch of different spots,” Pagano said. “Still trying to find, one, the starting five, and then number two, best spots. Put those guys in position to where we can function as an offense, play to their strengths and those types of things.”
This wasn’t the Colts' plan with Luck and the offensive line coming into the season. They were supposed to start the same offensive line in back-to-back seasons for the first time in Luck’s career. But first Luck went down and then Le'Raven Clark lost his starting right tackle job, Haeg went to the bench and Kelly suffered a left foot injury in training camp that still has him in a walking boot.
“There’s going to be some on-the-job training,” Pagano said. “There’s going to be some bad moments, that’s OK. Put it behind you and move on. I’m excited. I’ve got confidence in those guys because I know they’re going to be prepared and they’re going to play tough and they’re going to play physical. They’re going to play smart, there’s going to be some mistakes made, and we’ll move on and we’ll deal with them.”