Colts are counting on an offense led by Andrew Luck for regular season opener
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The voices with clout have spoken. Now it’s up to the offense to back it up.
Owner Jim Irsay, pointing to a defense that’s missing several key components, maintained it’s incumbent upon Andrew Luck and his supporting cast to score “at least 24 points’’ in Sunday’s opener against the Detroit Lions.
Luck, ever the optimist, believed his boss was low-balling things.
“As an offense our goal is always to score 50 points, 60 points, so there is no added pressure,’’ he said.
So, whose prediction should we heed?
“12 in the leader,’’ wide receiver Donte Moncrief said of Luck, “so whatever he wants to do, that’s what we’re going to do.
“If he wants to get 60, we’ll get 60.’’
There’s little chance of the Colts hanging 60 on Detroit, or any team for that matter. The Lions boasted the NFL’s No. 2-ranked defense last season and have one of the league’s premier D-lines. It features ends Ziggy Ansah (14.5 sacks in ’15) and Devin Taylor (7), and 345-pound Haloti Ngata, “an ageless wonder’’ in the eyes of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
Irsay’s target – 24 points – is based on the clear need of the offense to shoulder a heavy load, especially early.
“The offense has to carry us while the injured, young defense finds its way and gets its football,’’ he said.
Sunday, defensive coordinator Ted Monachino will be without two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis, nickel corner Darius Butler, tackle Henry Anderson and safety Clayton Geathers. End Kendall Langford might play, but probably will be limited considering he’s just over a month removed from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
So, yes, this must be an offense-driven team. It’s Luck. It’s Frank Gore. It’s T.Y. Hilton, Phillip Dorsett and Moncrief. It’s Dwayne Allen.
“We like having that on us,’’ Moncrief said. “We know what we can do. We know we can score. We know we’re super-fast.
“We’ve got a lot of ability on offense and 12’s healthy.’’
The prevailing question: is a revamped offensive line capable of giving Luck and Gore enough time and room to do what they do?
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo is coming off a subpar ’15 and spotty preseason. Left guard Jon Harrison, subbing for Jack Mewhort, is a center by trade. Center Ryan Kelly is a rookie. Right guard Denzelle Good’s NFL experience consists of four starts at right tackle last season.
“One of the keys to the game is . . . how we play in the trenches,’’ Chudzinski conceded.
If the Colts at least hold their own up front, Luck has enough tools hack away at the scoreboard.
The makeup of the roster indicates Chudzinski will rely more on three-receiver sets than the trusted two-tight end formation of recent seasons. Barring injury, Hilton, Moncrief, Dorsett and perhaps Chester Rogers should dominate snaps and stress defenses.
That group has the speed to stretch defenses and do run-and-catch damage on underneath crossing routes. The latter was on display against Baltimore in the preseason when Luck concentrated on timing passes with is receiving corps. He was 8-for-8 for 71 yards.
That approach not only gave the receivers opportunities to do damage after the catch, it also enhanced Luck’s protection. Shorter drops and quicker throws reduced the risk of hits.
Chudzinski steadfastly has refused to allow anyone to pigeonhole his offense. Three wides? Two tights? A deep-threat bunch?
“We’re going to be aggressive,’’ he said. “We’re going to attack. That’s going to be our mentality. That’s what our identity’s going to be regardless.
“We want to play fast and get the guys out there to play fast and execute.’’