Wilson's Word: What worries me most

No. 1 team concern hasn't gone away yet

While the exodus back to Indy has the players excited about coming home, the Colts still have to figure out what they have on the interior of the offensive line.

Cory Redding’s smile said it all before he uttered a word.

Yes, the Colts are glad to be coming home after spending much of three weeks at Anderson University.

”Oh yeah, this is officially the last day of school,” he said after the final workout.

But how are the Colts situated on this fine August afternoon? Seriously. Isn’t that what every fan wonders on a day-to-day basis?

While coach Chuck Pagano, quarterback Andrew Luck and everyone else will say they see progress with so much more work ahead, the drive home down I-69 gave ample time to ponder where the Colts are at the moment.

Despite the company line, it would be naive to be overly confident in the interior of the offensive line. The Colts are so young there, and these next three games were important to get an idea of what to expect from first-year starting center Khaled Holmes. That he was lost for at least two weeks to an ankle injury means that question mark won’t go away.

Pagano is confident Holmes will be ready for the season opener Sept. 7 at Denver. Question is, will he prove he can handle the job? The backup, Jonotthan Harrison, is a rookie from Florida. He botched two snaps in his NFL debut last Thursday. And the Colts were taking a look at second-round pick Jack Mewhort, giving him some snaps in practice.

Call me ignorant, but Hugh Thornton doesn’t concern me as much at offensive right guard. Yes, he was up and down as a rookie. That’s called being a rookie. But what I’ll be watching closely is how the center and left guard work together. We saw a lot of double-team blocks in the opener. That’s fine some of the time, but eventually blockers are on an island, one-on-one with the big ugly guy across the line, and that’s when you learn what you’ve got. That and when teams start blitzing, which defenses are sure to do.

We could spin it and say this is what preseason is all about, getting the young guys work to toughen them up. But it’s more than that for an offensive line that needs to be a whole hell of a lot better than it has been. The stat that will be repeated until the O-line improves is couldn’t be more glaring — Luck has been sacked 73 times in two years.

He’s the franchise, the meal ticket, the rising star entrusted with leading the Colts to Super Bowl contention. Something happens to him, well, let’s not go back to 2011 when Peyton Manning didn’t play.

Sure, there are other concerns. Will Trent Richardson be the running back Ryan Grigson hoped for when the Colts GM shipped a first-round pick to Cleveland? Can Ahmad Bradshaw stay healthy to give the Colts a strong rushing tandem? Can a defense that allowed 87 points in two playoff games last January be more reliable? Is Delano Howell the answer at safety, now that Antoine Bethea is gone? And who is going to bring pass-rush pressure with OLB Robert Mathis suspended the first four games of the new season?

All of those topics are worth keeping an eye one. But for now, with three preseason games to go before Manning-Luck Part II, I’m going to stay focused on that O-line. Some young guys have to show something in these next few weeks, or all the hope and optimism surrounding this team at the moment will disappear in a heartbeat.

No, fans, I’m not trying to be overly negative. Just mindful of what could happen if a familiar problem isn’t fixed, what we all hope won’t happen.

Protect No. 12, fellas. Or else.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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