MIAMI (AP) — Andrew Luck spent much of his rookie season lacking adequate protection, forcing the Indianapolis Colts to invest in a revamped offensive line in hopes of keeping their franchise quarterback safe.
So excuse owner Jim Irsay if he’s a little upset that No. 12 was sacked four times in the team’s season opener.
The Miami Dolphins are well aware of how dangerous Luck can be when he remains upright, but they won’t have to worry about the Colts’ leading rusher when the teams meet Sunday in Indianapolis.
Luck was sacked 41 times in 2012, fourth-most in the league. No Colts quarterback has been sacked more times since Jeff George was dropped a team-record 56 times in 1991.
Irsay, general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano added tackle Gosder Cherilus and guard Donald Thomas through free agency, then drafted guard Hugh Thornton in the third round and center Khaled Holmes in the fourth in an effort to rebuild the line.
There weren’t many immediate benefits, as Luck spent plenty of time on his back in Sunday’s 21-17 win over Oakland. He finished 18 of 23 for 178 yards and two touchdowns, though his 19-yard TD run with 5:20 left proved to be the difference.
Irsay took to Twitter on Wednesday to let his displeasure with Luck’s protection be known.
“We gotta protect #12 better…I DEMAND better,” Irsay wrote.
Pagano, after being made aware of Irsay’s post, agreed.
“As long as 12 is upright and on his feet, we’ve got a much better chance of winning than losing,” Pagano said. “We will exhaust everything to take care of him and keep him clean.”
That might be more difficult without Indianapolis’ top rushing threat keeping defenses honest. The Colts learned on Friday that Vick Ballard would miss the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL while making a cut in practice a day earlier.
Former Giant Ahmad Bradshaw is expected to start in Ballard’s place Sunday, and Indianapolis also promoted rookie Kerwynn Williams from the practice squad to the active roster.
“It’s bad news,” Bradshaw told the team’s official website of Ballard’s injury. “He’s been working hard all year. It’s just a freak accident. My heart goes out to Vick as hard as he’s worked for this year. Our plan was to be that 1-2 punch.
“I’m set to go any time. That’s what happens when this happens. I’ll be ready.”
While Bradshaw will try to keep the Colts’ running game viable, the offensive line’s biggest concern might be containing Miami defensive end Cameron Wake, who had 15 sacks last season and registered 2 1/2 in last week’s 23-10 win at Cleveland.
“We’re going to know where he’s at, it’s really no secret,” Pagano said. “It’s a different thing getting him blocked. He’s very, very athletic, very powerful.”
Wake had the Dolphins’ only sack Nov. 4 against the Colts, who gave Luck enough protection for him to finish 30 of 48 for an NFL rookie-record 433 yards and two touchdowns in Indianapolis’ 23-20 victory.
Miami is focused on making sure Luck doesn’t have that type of breakout game again.
“He got us last year for over 400 yards so that wasn’t good on our part,” cornerback Nolan Carroll told the team’s official website. “We’ve got to cover those guys man for man and we’ve got to keep him in the pocket. He won the game last week by running so we’ve got to contain him and try and get him off rhythm. When he’s in a rhythm, that’s when their offense is unstoppable.”
Luck believes he’ll have a more difficult time than last season against a Miami defense that intercepted three passes – Dimitri Patterson had two and Carroll one – against Cleveland.
“We’ll continue to go back and watch and see maybe some things we did well last year,” Luck said. “Obviously, they’re a different team with one more year under their belt. They’re probably a little more comfortable with everything and they obviously had a great Week 1 performance.”
Ryan Tannehill, selected seven spots after Luck in the 2012 draft, finished 24 of 38 against Cleveland with a touchdown pass to Brian Hartline, who caught nine passes for 114 yards.
Tannehill went 22 of 38 for 290 yards and a TD last season against the Colts.
“Certainly we know what he did versus us last year,” Pagano said. “He has the arm to make all the throws and he has some skill guys around him that can make plays. He can burn you.”
One receiver capable of burning defensive backs is Mike Wallace, who signed a $60 million deal in the offseason but had just one catch for 15 yards in Cleveland. Wallace was visibly angry as he left the locker room, saying he didn’t feel like talking about it.
He met Monday with coach Joe Philbin.
“We had a good conversation. We’re good. We’re ready to move on,” Wallace said. “It just wasn’t a good day for me. I’m mad at myself because I didn’t have a good game. Anytime I don’t do well, I’m upset.”
Miami rushed for only 20 yards Sunday, its fewest since finishing with seven in a win over Minnesota on Nov. 19, 2006. Daniel Thomas ran eight times for 14 yards and a touchdown, while Lamar Miller gained only three yards on 10 carries.
“We’re not going to lull ourselves to sleep thinking about how they ran for only 20 yards,” Pagano said. “They’re going to go to work to make sure they can run the football.”
The Colts have won four straight meetings, each by fewer than seven points.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)