The Indianapolis Colts are well aware their Super Bowl hopes are largely dependent on the arm of quarterback Andrew Luck and keeping Luck healthy throughout the season is a top priority.
That's why the offensive line's performance in Saturday night's exhibition loss to the Chicago Bears, in which Luck was sacked once and hit two other times early in the game, is a concern.
"We've got to be able to protect the quarterback," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said, per ESPN. "Pass (protection) at times was okay and at times has got to be better, got to get it shored up."
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After investing money and draft picks upgrading the offense by adding wide receivers Andre Johnson and Phillip Dorsett, along with running back Frank Gore, the Colts chose to stand pat along the offensive line, with the notable exception of the addition of veteran guard Todd Herremans. Second-year lineman Jack Mewhort, who played guard last season, is the team's new right tackle, taking over for Gosder Cherilus, who released just prior to the start of training camp.
Mewhort surrendered a sack Saturday to Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee. On the next play, McPhee got by Mewhort again, forcing Luck into an incomplete pass.
"It's crippling when you go out there as a tackle and you give up a bad sack like that on the second play of the game," Mewhort said. "You can't start fast when a guy is on top of the quarterback. That's on me. I have to go back to the grindstone and get better and make sure I have to give Andrew time to make plays."
Pagano preached patience with Mewhort, citing the time it takes to adjust to playing tackle in the NFL.
"You know he's a second-year player, we lose sight of the fact that he's a second-year player," Pagano said. "There's going to be growing pains and we need to find out what we can do to accentuate our strengths."
After the early struggles, the offense settled in to the point Luck was able to lead the Colts on 89-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown.