The Colts' 27-6 win over the Browns last Saturday night was an all-around beat down, with both the Indianapolis offensive and defensive units dominating throughout the game. The first-team defense pitched a shut-out, and Andrew Luck had little trouble moving the offense down the field, scoring 17 points and being within five yards of another touchdown before a dropped pass led to an unlucky interception.
A lot of positive came out of the game, and that's what we'll be focusing on for most of the week prior to the Colts' Thursday night matchup against the Bengals.
But, before we get to that, we're going to talk about the biggest negative to come out of Saturday's win: the fiasco also known as the offensive line. While injuries to Mike McGlynn and Anthony Castonzo magnified issues, the line still noticeably struggled against Cleveland, especially right tackle Gosder Cherilus (yes, I'm aware the title says Winston Justice, but the lulz factor here was too good to change it).
The Colts signed Cherilus this past offseason to be a stable pass protector on the right side. With so much concern resting on the interior, the Colts desperately needed the tackles to be dependable, allowing Luck some room to maneuver when dropping back.
Through the first two games, Cherilus did what was necessary, allowing just one quarterback pressure and earning a cumulative +1.1 pass blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. Saturday night, however, was a different story.
It started with Andrew Luck's first drop back. Cherilus gets turned to the inside slightly on Paul Kruger's initial punch, and can't move his feet quickly enough to get inside the outside linebacker. Kruger takes the opening, and gets a hand on Andrew Luck, tripping him up as Luck tried to step up in the pocket for a three-yard sack.
Meanwhile, Cherilus trips up and falls onto Kruger (or does it purposefully to keep him from going anywhere), but also rolls up onto the back of Anthony Castonzo's knee, resulting in what we now know is a mild MCL sprain.
For a man Cherilus' size, getting punched back like that shouldn't happen. Cherilus doesn't have great foot speed, and quickness isn't his strong suit. What he does have is size and strength.
Unfortunately, that strength didn't show up on Saturday. Cherilus was often overpowered by Kruger and Ahtyba Rubin on the inside.
For (cringeworthy) example, take a look at these two plays later in the game.
On both plays Cherilus gets tossed aside like a rag doll by Kruger, who uses Cherilus' momentum against him and tosses him to the ground while managing to stay on his feet.
Fortunately, Luck gets the ball out quickly on both plays, and isn't pressured by Kruger, but the display from Cherilus is less than encouraging.
Cherilus finished the game with four allowed pressures (a sack, hit and two hurries) and a -1.4 grade in pass blocking from PFF. Now, all things considered, I'm not concerned long-term about Cherilus. It was a poor game, but he hasn't looked like this in the rest of the preseason.
Cherilus has too strong of a history in pass protection for one poor preseason game to make any impact in my opinion of him. I still think he'll be more than reliable in that area for 2013. Run blocking is a different story, but I'm 10x more concerned about pass protection from the tackles than I am run blocking.
But make no mistake, if Cherilus struggles in pass protection, the Colts will be in trouble. The team desperately needs this year's offensive line to be stronger in pass protection, but the change won't be seen if Cherilus isn't an upgrade over the 2012 mix of Winston Justice, Jeff Linkenbach and Bradley Sowell.
I don't see that happening. Cherilus has never finished a season with a negative grade from PFF. Obviously the Colts would rather see him play like he did last season, when he was one of the league's best pass-blocking tackles. But even a simply above-average tackle (in pass protection) would be a major upgrade.
And don't worry. That's it for the depressing stuff from this game. Tomorrow we'll have some more exciting developments from Saturday's big win, including a CA Video Breakdown on Hugh Thornton's impressive debut.
I think Paul Kruger was playing inspired football because he was playing against his former defensive coordinator. That being said, I have some concerns about cherilus as a starting tackle making more money than anyone else at his position - he isn't the #1 right tackle in the game, and I don't think that having the best right tackle in the league is a good way to build a team anyway. I expect he will be top five at his position, but still a ton of qb pressure this season for luck
Kyle, I think I've asked you this before, but you're being sarcastic with implying that Cherilus was at fault for injuring Castanzo, right? I was listening to your podcast last week and you did say sometimes people don't get your sense of humor.
Nice job on the gifs. As others have pointed out, if this is as bad as it gets, we're in good shape.
I really like the GIFs. Makes it esier to understand the descriptions and I wish more people woutd use them. Is there any way to make them slower so we can really see how Cherilus hurt Castanzo? It went so fast, I keep missing it no matter how many times I see it. That goes for all GIFs, they would be better if you could slow it down or do both, side by side, one at regular speed and one at slower speed.
I'm a little confused by the above. Cherilus got burnt in the first video (so did Costanzo btw). In the second video , Cherilus is obviously grabbed by the jersey and thrown down, which is officially illegal. and in the last one he goes down, but Luck has tons of time and space. I don't see these as being that bad... And whoever is playing left tackle in the second video get's abused (is it Reitz?)
Frankly I'm pretty sure Winston Justice probably got Castonzo injured at some point last year, so it's a perfectly cromulent title from my POV.
In the second GIF it looks like Cherilus got brainlocked by the combination of Kruger's footwork and the safety blitz heading right for him. In his defense, if he lets Kruger draw him too far outside he leaves a gaping hole for that safety to fly right past Ballard. So it's not that bad of a derp.
But it also looks like Kruger then grabs Cherilus and pulls him to the ground from the side. That's some bullshit right there. Cherilus' "momentum" didn't fling him down onto his right shoulder. That should have been five yards, automatic first down.
Your last 2 examples show Kruger well out of the play when he dispatches Cherilus. These just don't count in my book. He took Kruger out of the play. The worst lineman in your second .JIFF is Reitz. #54 destroys him AND gets pressure. I can't dispute that Cherilus had a bad game, but still, getting beat after Luck moves up in the pocket and throws is not getting beat. It's winning
@Himynameis Very true. Justice has yet to give up any type of QB pressure in preseason or regular season action this year!
@smonroe Yes and no. It's football. People get rolled up all the time. I'm not going to put any extra blame on Cherilus because Castonzo got hurt.
BUT, Castonzo did get hurt directly because of Cherilus' awful attempt at a block on the play.
So, was it his fault? Yes. Do I hate Cherilus because of it? No. Was I being a little sarcastically dramatic? Absolutely.
@FBFan2 Thanks for the suggestion. I can slow them down, and will look into doing so next time. Good call
@rogcohen Yeah, the left tackle is Reitz.
See what I told naptown below, it's not about how much space Luck has on this particular play. Luck is able to get the throw off to his first read on both plays, but had he have been forced to go to a second or third read, Kruger has a free shot at Luck due to Cherilus being on the ground.
As for the being grabbed and thrown down, it's very rarely called on the defensive line. In fact, in the official rule book, it only specifies offensive players as not being able to encircle a defensive linemen with their hands. Not saying it wouldn't ever get called, but I think it would get called a lot less than you think.
Again, if this is the regular season, I'm not picking on it at all. Because when the games count, I just want to see production (in this case, not allowing pressure). But in the preseason I'm just looking at technique and trends, and that one from Cherilus is extremely poor. I'm not worried about him, just noticed it in this game.
@squirrel I was thinking the same thing re: Kruger grabbing and yanking. Then I realized it didn't really matter - he was already past him when he tossed him down. True, it should have been a whistle, but the bigger issue is that Cherilus was already beaten.
@naptown_ninja Neither play results in a pressure on Luck, sure. But, in the preseason, I don't care about the pressure. The only reason there's no pressure is because Luck is able to throw to his first read on both plays. If he's forced to go to a second or third read, it's a hit or sack b/c Cherilus is on the ground and Kruger as a free run.
In terms of pressure, those two weren't his worst plays. But in terms of getting overpowered and off-balance, they were appalling.
That makes sense. He doesn't seem to have a good center of gravity in the above clips, which is disturbing. I guess my only consolation is the line can't be worse than last year!
As for holding the official NFL (I believe) is: A defensive player may not tackle or hold an opponent other than a runner. Otherwise, he may use his hands, arms, or body only:
When he grabs the jersey to throw him down it is technically a foul.