ESPN.com’s Colts reporter Mike Wells and Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky compared notes on the offensive lines and analyzed the matchup.
Wells on the Colts: The offensive line has not been a major priority for the Colts. Since selecting Andrew Luck in 2012, the Colts have picked only two offensive linemen — Jack Mewhort and Hugh Thornton — in the first three rounds of the draft, and they haven't made a splash with a big-name free agent.
Injuries and lack of performance have played a part in the constant changes, so much so that coach Chuck Pagano praised Luck for his ability to deal with adversity caused by the instability along the offensive line.
"That's been the case for three years now, has it not?,” Pagano said after their loss to the Jets.
The Colts have three new starters up front, including moving Mewhort from guard to right tackle. One of the starters — Lance Louis — is a journeyman, and Todd Herremans is 32 years. Opposing defenses have no respect for a Colts line that started 11 different groups last season. Buffalo’s Rex Ryan and New York’s Todd Bowles didn’t try to disguise their blitzes. They had players at the line of scrimmage waiting for Luck to snap the ball.
Luck has been blitzed on almost 48 percent of his dropbacks this season, the third-highest rate in the NFL. Four of Luck’s five interceptions have come against the blitz.
Kuharsky on the Titans: The Titans have spent plenty of resources on their offensive line. They spent big free-agent dollars on left guard Andy Levitre in 2014, and his two seasons were so poor they found a way to deal him to Atlanta before they'd have to cut him at the end of camp. Additionally, they spent the 10th pick in the 2013 draft on right guard Chance Warmack out of Alabama and the 11th pick in 2014 on left tackle Taylor Lewan.
Out of those resources, they should be able to create creases for running backs and protect the team’s prized rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota.
They’ve run far better in two games so far. But pass protection was a gigantic issue in the loss in Cleveland, as Mariota absorbed seven sacks for a two-game total of nine, while Luck’s been sacked only twice.
Wells’ expectations: The NFL is a copycat league, so the Colts expect Tennessee to blitz and blitz a lot on Sunday because they have yet to make teams pay by with a big offensive play. The Titans, who are fourth in the league in defense, have proven they can make things difficult on opposing quarterbacks. They’re tied for sixth in the league in sacks with six. I’m going to continue to give the opposing team the advantage when facing the Colts until they can have a game where they keep Luck off the ground and give him a clean pocket from which to throw the ball down the field. Edge: Titans.
Kuharsky’s expectations: The Titans' pass protection will fare a lot better than it did in Cleveland, at least in terms of sacks allowed. Mariota will help, by doing better getting rid of the ball or throwing it away when he has to. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the line will have issues at times. Penalties were also a problem against the Browns, and experienced rushers Trent Cole and Robert Mathis (with that famous spin move) will be working against guys who haven’t seen it all. Lewan is in his second year but still has a lot of growth ahead, and Poutasi is going to need some help. Among the Colts linemen, nose tackle David Parry, end Henry Anderson and second-team tackle T.Y. McGill are all rookies. Edge: Colts.
Who’s worse, from NFL Films executive producer Greg Cosell: “I would argue that the Colts’ line is worse. I don’t think that they are a very good O-line at all. And I think that’s been evident for a couple years. They are a different kind of team on offense because Andrew Luck has special attributes. Mariota is not as physically talented as Andrew Luck, but I thin that the Colts O-line has a bit more of a track record than the present Titans’ O-line and I think they’re not very good.” (From The Midday 180 in Nashville, Kuharsky’s radio show.)