While it certainly comes as no surprise that NFL talking heads and mainstream media sources would ask a lot of questions about the short-term future of the Indianapolis Colts offense, many of the questions that are being raised seem like the wrong ones. ESPN's Paul Kuharsky raised questions about the offensive line and the NFL's Gregg Rosenthal expressed concerns about the Colts running backs.
These questions should sound somewhat misguided for informed Colts fans. Afterall, the running game has always been a concern -- often due to questions revolving around a smallish and aging offensive line. The only running back the team lost was Joseph Addai who has struggled to stay healthy -- missed 12 games over the 2010-2011 seasons.
Donald Brown showed flashes of development in 2011 and was the best running back on the team -- even though his time on the field was limited. Delone Carter struggled with ball control issues but should develop in his second season and Darren Evans was impressive in training camp and preseason last year. Add Vick Ballard to the mix and there is reason to believe that there is a lot of youth and versatility in the backfield.
No player should be aided more by the increased size and run blocking expertise of the Colts new projected offensive line than Brown. Even in college Brown was far more successful as a lane runner, in a scheme set up with specific lanes for him to choose from. This offensive line should be able to provide clearer lanes -- which should get Brown into the second level of defense more often, where he is particularly dangerous.
Evans, Carter, and Ballard are the kinds of backs who should also find success running up the middle of the field behind a bolstered offensive line that includes a center who is much larger, younger, and stronger than former center Jeff Saturday. A more smashmouth version on the ground is all but a certainty at this point.
Concerning the offensive line, it is not unreasonable for Paul Kuharsky -- who we consider a friend -- to question confidence about the offensive line. Afterall, in a vacuum, without the benefit of history and context from previous seasons, this unit is undergoing a lot of change and has never worked together perviously.
When one considers the former starters who have been replaced from the last two seasons like Ryan Diem, Jeff Saturday, Mike Pollak, Jamey Richard, and Jeff Linkenbach, it seems like a no-brainer to feel confident that the offensive line will be overall better than what it has been for the last few years. Quite simply, the offensive line has not received this much attention from the front office over the course of a better part of a decade.
Satele is young, strong, has miles left, and should be entering the best years of his career. Castonzo and Ijalana are entering their second seasons, and although they both dealt with injuries in 2011 their experience against NFL competition alone should make them more prepared to play important roles on the offensive line this season. Starting left guard Joe Reitz had his first experience at his position and looked good next to Castonzo, which should benefit both players.
Mike McGlynn and Winston Justice both have more size and experience in the NFL then those who they will likely replace and even if one or both players are only depth, they will be superior depth than the Colts had previously. There is no reason at all to not feel better about the Colts offensive line heading into 2012 than in years past.
Essentially, knowing the history of the team at the positions attracting concern from mainstream media makes the storyline lose air. Could things not come together for the team? Sure. But both player acquisitions and changes in team philosophy suggest that the front five and running backs should be set up to have more success this season than they have had for some time.
@WRECKEDDefinately younger, hopefully stronger, but is he SMARTER. Remember who he is replacing. Please don't make these guys out to be Colt saviors (although I hope they are), we haven't seen play #1 yet.
Lol. Not necessarily much larger but he is definitely a stronger player and looking at each of them and their skill sets, he's far superior than Saturday in terms of taking on larger defensive linemen. Much larger, no. Larger, yes. Stronger, yes. Functionally, he'll be better able to deal with the big defensive linemen. @WRECKED
This group will be an improvement over our previous O-lines. That unit began to decline when Tarik Glenn retired. The last several years they were pathetic. The couldn't run block and contrary to what the so-called experts believed, they couldn't pass block either. Manning covered their pass blocking deficiency by getting rid of the ball quickly. Rosenthal and Kuharsky should go back to the game tapes of Manning's 2010 season and put a stopwatch on how much time he had to throw (then do the same for Tom Brady). We will have enough of a running game this year to keep teams more honest. That being said, Luck won't be expected to carry this team all by himself. Probably looking at 5-6 wins this year. If we can ungrade the secondary and add a little more depth, maybe even 7 wins.
The stopwatch check should really be a standard analysis of QB's each season. If you have time to send a tweet and make a sandwich before you throw maybe that line would make Curtis Painter a serviceable QB (unlike this blog interface or whatever it is I'm typing into)
Rosenthal having no clue is nothing new, but Kuharsky's job is to follow only 4 teams, and he is heavily retarded.
@Atti46 I don't think he's dumb. I just think that he's a writer of average competence without a unique perspective and distinctive disdain for his readers. The latter quality wore well on Howard Cosell, but not on him.
The biggest issue I have at this point with Kaharsky is his lack of content. How do you go to OTA's and not come out with 10-15 articles on that team? He posts about 2 articles a day, one being a round up of links to other articles, and the other usually being a 500 word or less opinion piece. He covers 4 teams and can't find anyhting to write about? It's not like the articles he posts are great anyway. SMH
@Thecolthardtruth Well, it's circular. On one hand, yes, he should produce tons more content. on the other hand, why would you want to read it if he doesn't have a unique perspective? The solution: FIRE HIM. I really wish they would just hire John Osher. That dude can generate readable content in high volume, and now he's pretty familiar with two separate franchises (albiet on that is much different than when he covered it).
My biggest issue with the offensive line the last few years, 2011 not as withstanding, wasn't just the lack of running lanes but rather the pass protection. There were large chunks of time where Manning was forced to throw the ball in 2 seconds without letting routes fully develop. Players like CJ, Pollak, Diem, and Richard all struggled with pass blocking and run blocking. If we couldn't get the pass protection up to snuff, the least we could have done was acquire some road graters to run the ball more successfully. I doubt they'd have done a worse job at pass protection than the guys listed above.
@Payton Manning's long ball had been fading for a while. Some of it must'v been his neck, some of it was not adequately replacing #88, but more I chalk up to poor pass protection.
Huge pet peeve for me is all this talk about the Colts "getting bigger" up front. It just isn't true. "Mike McGlynn and Winston Justice both have more size and experience in the NFL then those who they will likely replace" is provably false depending on where you predict they will play and who you are counting from last years patchwork offensive line. McGlynn is 6-4 315, and Justice is 6-6 320. Ryan Diem is 6-6 320 and Jeff Linkenbach is 6-6 311. You are literally talking about 4 lbs. Satele is 5 lbs bigger than Saturday, that's 9lbs spread across 900 lbs worth of guys. As far as experience McGlynn has started in 18 games and Justice 31. Linkenbach has started 20 games and Diem has started 150. Do I need to mention the experience disparity between Satele and Saturday?
Satele was a good pick up at a position of need (assuming you didn't want to rely on an old Jeff Saturday) It's possible that Winston Justice will finally live up to his hype, in which case he is a brilliant signing. Even if he doesn't he is a good risk/reward move. McGlynn is just a guy, no better, no worse than what we had. The Colts didn't get bigger or better on the o line. They got rid of holdovers from the previous regime. Along the way they may have gotten younger & cheaper, but at the end of the day, if the line is better this year it will be due to 2 things 1) health, 2) the young guys that they already had getting better.
I understand the perspective you're espousing but I don't think it tells the whole story. I'll explain why.
Ojinnaka - 6'5", 295
Pollak - 6'3", 305
Richard - 6'5 295
Saturday - 6'2" 295
Linkenbach - 6'8" 311
Diem - 6'6" 320
Castonzo - 6'7" 311
Ijalana - 6'4" 317
Reitz - 6'7" 320
Tepper - 6'6" 354
Compare that group with the group that Grigson has brought in thus far:
Satele - 6'3" 299 (1 inch, 4 pounds) v. Saturday
A.Q. Shipley - 6'1", 309 (-4 inch, 14 pounds) v. Richard
Zane Taylor - 6'2", 309 (-3 inch, 14 pounds) v. Richard
Kirkpatrick - 6'3", 296 pounds (-2 inch, 1 pound) v. Richard
McGlynn - 6'4", 327 pounds (-2 inch, 7 pounds) v. Diem
Anderson - 6'5" 342 pounds (-1 inch, 22 pounds) v. Diem (-2 inch, 22 pounds) v. Reitz
Hicks - 6'3", 336 pounds (-3 inch, 16 pounds) v. Diem (-4 inch, 16 pounds) v. Reitz
Justice 6'6", 327 pounds (-2 inch, 16 pounds) v. Linkenbach
I could go down and list some of the other offensive linemen on the roster, some who are not much different in size to the ones on last seasons roster but I would point out that height to weight ratios are important and that who the team is targeting for development and use is important. Satele may not be much heavier than Saturday but he's a stronger blocker against bigger competition, due in no small part to his age being much lower than Saturday. Diem was tall and old, the players replacing him are younger shorter, and noticeably heavier. Justice is a much larger man that Linkenbach who is taller and lankier, built more like a left tackle than a right tackle... 2 inches shorter and 16 pounds heavier is pretty significant.
In any case, the starting lineup will be bigger and stronger, and the difference is noticeable on a scale and with regard to height and specialization. Is is 260 pounds to 320? No, we're not replacing tight ends with linemen but we are getting noticeably bigger with the starting group and focusing on MUCH larger offensive linemen for developmental purposes to take the place of those on the roster now, or to supplement them. Definitely a new philosophy there and much more beef to work with than in all of the Polian era.
My argument isn't that the Colts aren't getting bigger, it's that they aren't getting bigger this off season due to regime change. They have been trying to get bigger since Howard Mudd left.
It's possible that the backups are getting bigger but that has more to do with the removal of 2 specific guys, Ojinnaka and Jamey Richard.
If the starting lineup shakes out the way I think it will, it will be bigger, but it will be because of people that were brought in during the Polian regime becoming full time starters (Reitz & Ijalana particularly).
As for the developmental players, there is a whole range of counter arguments that were around during the last part of the Polian era (McClendon, Jaime Thomas, Adam Terry) that fit in the new bigger line.
To make predictions about the starting lineup based on guys like McGlynn and Anderson is silly, they are camp bodies with no garauntee to make the team, more or less start. The real moves that allow you to judge this off season are Satelle & Justice as they are the obvious starter caliber guys, and they just aren't bigger than the guys they replace in any meaningful way.
One thing about Ballard he did not really impress me much form his tape running up the middle, but he seemed to do a good job on outside runs, where he was allowed to find the whole make one cut and get up the field. Overall I am not too worried about the running game this year, especially if we used situations where we have a lead blocker, I think this will really help.
Also I really have liked Justices veteran leadership with the line this year.