After learning that A.J. Edds and Griff Whalen were sidelined with injuries yesterday, we get news that Ben Ijalana reaggravated his left knee on Sunday, the same knee in which a torn ACL caused him to miss most of the 2011 season. Ijalana, along with Edds (who may have torn his ACL) is awaiting an MRI to find out the seriousness of the injury.
For Ijalana, this is a big blow. Knee injuries are nothing to scoff at, and anybody who follows football, or sports in general, knows that blowing out your ACL is a feared diagnosis among every player, fan, coach, and GM. While generally it's linked with causing skill players to lose their agility and explosiveness, we can't discount the affects that this injury could have long term for Ijalana. If the knee does not heal completely, and correctly, Ijalana may never have the necessary strength and power in his left leg to adequately play on the offensive line.
Considering how much potential Ijalana showed before his devastating injury last season, especially handling Tampa Bay defensive end Adrian Clayborne very well at left tackle, it could be a devastating loss for the Colts. It's been floated around, by WFNI radio personality JMV and Brad Wells, that Ijalana could be in danger of getting cut, if he doesn't "show more."
Unfortunately for Ijalana, he hasn't had a chance to show this new coaching staff what he can do. During OTAs and mini-camp earlier this summer, he was sidelined by his knee, and although he was cleared for practice last week, it seems he's been shelved once again. If he does not get a chance to prove his worth on the field, I would not be surprised to see him off the team by the end of training camp. Personally, I hope he can get back on the field, because he did show great potential, and he could be a very good long-term option for this team at either guard or tackle.
However, the question remains: If Ijalana does get healthy, what will the Colts do with him?
Currently, Ijalana is listed as a guard on the Colts.com roster, the position that many speculated he may be better suited for when he was drafted in 2011. Ijalana however, was drafted by the Polian front office with the right tackle spot in mind, and he saw his first (and only) in-game action at tackle, taking over for Anthony Castonzo when he went down with an ankle injury.
Most had expected Ijalana to either compete for the left guard spot with Joe Reitz, the right guard spot with Mike McGlynn, or the right tackle spot with Winston Justice. As of now however, it looks like those positions will be filled with little regard for Ijalana.
All reports coming from the Colts look like Mike McGlynn and Winston Justice have their starting positions locked down on the right side, despite a lack of consistency from both players in their past. As for the left guard spot, Coach Chuck Pagano added Jeff Linkenbach to the mix, and expects he and Joe Reitz to contend for the starting spot (as I've said multiple times, Reitz won't be cut. Personally, I think he should start).
Inserting Linkenbach into the guard competition makes very little sense from what we know. We know that Linkenbach has been a decent reserve tackle (see 2010), a poor starting tackle (see 2011), and a terrible starting guard (see 2010). Linkenbach has not shown the ability to play guard well, while Reitz has, and Ijalana has been speculated to have the potential to. Perhaps Linkenbach has bulked up this summer, worked on his technique at guard, and improved dramatically. That seems a little far-fetched to me, but it's possible.
Despite how Link performs, it seems that Ijalana is not currently being considered as someone who will contend for a starting spot. Personally, I believe it's simply due to the lack of opportunity he's had due to his lingering knee issues, but that's not the point. The point is that if/when Ijalana is completely willing and able to play, where will he end up? Realistically, he could back up all four non-center positions on the line, with the experience at tackle and the potential at guard. All signs from training camp are that they see him as a guard, which would give the Colts very little depth at the tackle positions. The Colts listed tackles currently include (outside of Castonzo and Justice): undrafted free agent Steven Baker, 2nd year Colts Mike Tepper, and 7-year veteran George Foster.
Of the three, Foster has the best pedigree, having a decent start to his career in Denver as a starting right tackle for three years. However, his last start in the NFL was 2008 with the Lions, and he has bounced between NFL training camps and the UFL ever since. Tepper and Baker both need to show more before they can be kept, and both would likely be developmental players.
What makes the most sense to me is for "Link" to stick to tackle, as a reserve for either Justice or Castonzo. Link performed decently when called into duty periodically in 2010 for injured LT Charlie Johnson, and is not a bad option for a fill-in pass protector. This would allow a guy like Ijalana to compete for the guard spot with Reitz, or be an on-call sub for either guard spot if/when injuries hit. The other option is to groom Ijalana for tackle, having him back up Justice this year and then look for him to take over next season. However, it looks like he won't get that chance.
In the end, it all centers around him being healthy.
Ijalana showed GREAT Promise. I wish him Luck. Now he can have a WHOLE Year to build the knee up.Even though it takes 18 months usually for a full recoup.
Schefter just tweeted the following:
"Colts offensive lineman Ben Ijalana and linebacker A.J. Edds both suffered torn ACLs and are done for the season."
That sucks big time.
First Marlin Jackson.
Then Anthony Gonzalez.
Now Ben Ijalana.
All with little to no injury history prior to NFL, and once they come to the Colts buh bye their knees. What the hell is wrong with the Colts medical staff?
I'm not sure we can distill this into a problem with the medical staff. Today's NFL player certainly plays at the edge of what the human body can endure. Its a grueling season with top-notch competition. Accidents happen and medical issues arise. I'm not sure if the med staff can prevent that or identify sure-fire signs a player may develop medical issues.
Laura would be an excellent resource on this issue...Laura?
The Brad Wells article, as they always do, reeks of speculation, no actual substance, and Wells' sheer glee of dancing on the Polians' grave. Assuming he got a contract similar to Kendall Reyes (49th pick of this year's draft), he got around 4m with a 1m signing bonus. That would mean, at most, he's earning $750k this year and some of that might be guaranteed. I'm not wise in the ways of NFL front offices, but considering his potential if he gets healthy and develops, the lack of any other O-liners who really stand out as projects they should hang onto and the fact that cutting him this year or next probably doesn't have a huge impact (other than an extra roster spot on this year's likely uncompetitive team), I see no reason why they wouldn't keep him.
I hopes he gets well.
I just hope that he makes it, whatever position it is, as you mentioned he showed a lot of potential.
"... WFNI radio personality JMV and Brad Wells, that Ijalana could be in danger of getting cut, if he doesn't "show more."
Can't speak for JMV, but the rest is typical Wells agitprop. There's a reason payers who are injured aren't showing much: It's because they're **injured**. If Ijalana gets cut, it would undoubtedly be due to unavailability from being "injury prone", but stating it as if Ijalana's not giving what he can is pure, unadultrated instigation.
I'd say Wells should know better than that, but we've all discovered through time that he does, yet chooses to not act laudably. That's his problem.
@DougEngland Tell me about it. When he was in, he showed every bit of promise to be a great value for the round spent on him. He was merely raw, but talented and with that always desirable "upside" people talk about.
If he washes out due to injury (Note to trolls out there in blogland: Not *effort*! >:-( ), then I'll be bummed, I won't lie.