Is Ugoh Ready for the Jags, Chargers, Pats?

Through the Colts' first five games of the season, rookie offensive tackle Tony Ugoh has done a commendable job. But with what Brad Keller spotted during Week 5, is there reason for concern? Learn more inside...

After the sudden retirement of Tarik Glenn during the offseason, the Colts were left with both a literal and figurative gap at left tackle.  Tony Ugoh was drafted to be Glenn's eventual successor, but Indianapolis needed to accelerate his development.  Where did the young man come from and how has he fared so far?

Tony Ugoh was a four-year starter at Arkansas, starting 35 of his 43 career games at left tackle.  In 2006, he had 72 pancake blocks, 12 touchdown blocks, 7 pressures allowed, and only one sack allowed.  He was taken in the second round (42nd overall) by the Colts in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Though he was initially thought of as the "left tackle of the future," Ugoh was quickly promoted to the left tackle of the present right before training camp opened when Tarik Glenn announced his retirement.  He fared quite well in his first start against Will Smith of New Orleans, not allowing a sack.

Indianapolis has allowed only three sacks through five games and is averaging 142 rushing yards per game (5th in the NFL).  The axiom that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link certainly applies to the offensive line and most definitely to the left tackle spot, which is widely regarded as the most important position of the five.

Ostensibly, it would appear as though Ugoh has been inserted into the lineup seamlessly and that the Colts have not missed a beat so far this season.

However, a closer inspection of the game tape from Week 5 raises a few red flags.

In Week 5 versus Tampa Bay, Indianapolis ran the ball 15 times in the first half.  Eleven of those runs went behind right tackle Ryan Diem and the other four went straight up the middle.  However, after avoiding the left side in the first half, they finished the game with 40 rushing attempts, 12 of those going behind Ugoh's side of the field. 

So what happened between the end of the first half and the end of the game?

Two right ends for the Buccaneers, Greg White and fourth-overall pick Gaines Adams went down in the first half with injuries and did not return.  Tampa Bay was forced to place third-string end Patrick Chukwurah opposite Ugoh.  From there on out, the Colts favored the left side, running at the weakest link in Tampa's defense.

It's also worth noting that the Colts continually kept Kenton Keith in to block in passing situations, even though they had only three wide receivers on the active roster for the game.  When Keith was kept in, he was either lined up on Peyton Manning's left side when the Colts were in the shotgun, or he moved to Manning's left to assist Ugoh when the ball was snapped.

While it's difficult to complain about a 5-0 start, all the while allowing a paltry 0.6 sacks per game and earning a fifth overall ranking in the run game, the schedule only gets tougher for Indianapolis, with road games against the Jaguars and Chargers and a home date against the undefeated Patriots. 

Once the Colts are forced to face a higher level of competition, they may be unable to shelter Ugoh as much as they may need more passing options running routes rather than staying in to assist with blocking. So he may be asked to fend more for himself. 

If that's the case, the next few weeks will tell us more about where he truly is in his development. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. 

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