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Will the Colts properly protect Luck?

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Recent posts by Arthur Arkush

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Posted April 19, 2012 @ 2:29 p.m. ET
By Arthur Arkush

Now that the NFL’s worst-kept secret is officially out of the bag — Andrew Luck is the heir to Peyton Manning in Indianapolis — the Colts can focus solely on putting the best pieces in place around Luck to return the franchise to greatness as quickly as possible.

In the team’s pre-draft press conference on Wednesday, new GM Ryan Grigson talked about his drafting philosophy — choosing the best available player — among other topics.

Although I already knew Grigson was inclined to take the best player regardless of position, it was refreshing to hear the words actually come out of his mouth, particularly on the heels of him saying just a few minutes earlier that offensive line is the deepest area in this year’s draft.

That gives me hope that the Colts aren’t going to stand pat after the bargain-bin offensive-line acquisitions early in free agency that seemed to be their No. 1 priority.

Music to the ears of Colts fans — and more importantly, to the ears of Andrew Luck.

It says here that Luck is going to spend a lot of time on his back as a rookie if the Colts think the veteran trio of OT Winston Justice, OG Mike McGlynn and C Samson Satele are the answers to rebuilding the line.

I liken these moves to me going out and buying a Lamborghini and building a garage made out of Styrofoam to shelter my prized asset.

I’m not suggesting that Luck is David Carr and he will never recover from horrific OL play early in his career, nor am I inferring that the Colts’ front wall will be as bad as Houston’s was at protecting Carr. But it is certainly worth noting that the Eagles, Bengals and Raiders were more than willing to bid farewell to these players for a reason.

I am fully aware that Grigson has a great familiarity with these players, particularly Winston and McGynn, both of whom he had a hand in drafting when he was in Philadelphia. But two wrongs don’t make a right and I fear Grigson is heading down that path.

It is more than a little ironic that former vice chairman Bill Polian’s parting gift to Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano was OLT Anthony Castonzo. The 2011 first-rounder is assigned the task of shielding the blind side of Luck, whom the Colts were in position to attain only after the roster built by Polian crumbled without its leader (Manning) last season.

I believe Castonzo has the tools to be a successful NFL left tackle, but he will have to learn quickly how to better handle speed and not play as rigid as he did last season, when he allowed 7½ sacks, if the Colts are to avoid getting Luck killed.

I’m also curious to see if Polian’s second-round pick last season, OL Ben Ijalana, is part of the team’s plans moving forward. Ijalana went down almost immediately after seeing his first action as a rookie so it's tough to know what to expect out of the kid. But he was drafted for his versatility and athleticism, and I would have to think the Colts would at least consider kicking him inside to compete for one of the starting guard spots that could be available — if he doesn't prove to be a better option than Justice at the ORT spot.

The reality is that I am far from an expert on offensive line play. I will be the first to admit that it is arguably the most difficult area on the field for guys like myself who don’t do it for a living to assess talent. But I have spoken to more than one evaluator this offseason who do this for a living, and they are also not sold on the approach the Colts have taken.

Grigson was spot on during his presser when he said that the goal in the draft is to get better at every position. That is exactly what he should be saying about a 2-14 team that has far more questions than answers regarding its current roster. So don’t be fooled by numbers. The Colts have added four offensive linemen in free agency while doing little or nothing to address other glaring needs, including wide receiver, tight end, linebacker and cornerback. But that will not — and should not — prevent them from trying to upgrade the O-line and give Luck the best chance to be successful this season.

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