When the Colts' signed Samson Satele this past offseason, most fans looked at him with cautious hope. Satele was lauded by people like Pro Football Focus, who called him inconsistent, but capable of huge things, especially in the run game. PFF even labeled him the Colts' "Secret Superstar" heading into the 2012 season. The only concern with Satele was that he could be inconsistent.
Well, Satele was inconsistent in the run game, having a few good games in run blockign, along with a few bad. But Satele wasn't inconsistent at all in pass protection, just bad.
But, do the Colts have another option, or are they stuck with Satele?
First, let's start with Satele. I'm not exaggerating when I say he was bad in pass protection.
Satele allowed 21 pressures in just 404 pass protection snaps, according to PFF, the worst ratio for centers in the league. Satele allowed six sacks, more than any other center despite being 28th in total snaps. He finished 35th out of 36 centers in pass protection grades from PFF, as well as 33rd in overall grade. His nagging injuries didn't help throughout the season, but even when he was healthy Satele was nowhere near an above-average center.
On the other hand, A.Q. Shipley filled in quite nicely when called on to start. Despite playing a very limited amount of snaps, Shipley finished 16th out of 36 centers in PFF's grades, and was one of just two Colts (Dwayne Allen) to finish with a positive grade in every category. While Satele finished with the worst pressure per snap ratio in the league for centers, Shipley was tied for 8th. Shipley was also named Week 17's honorable mention for "Best Offensive Sub," as he allowed just one pressure and held Shaun Cody without a run stop.
Shipley was incredibly consistent throughout the season, never having a game grade less than -0.6. He did however, have two very good games. The first was Shipley's first start, against Green Bay, the win that sparked the Colts' suprising run. The last was Shipley's final start, the inspirational cap on the season with the big win against Houston in Week 17.
So, what do the Colts' do going forward?
According to Spotrac, Satele is due $3.9 and $5.4 million over the next two years. Cutting him in 2012 would only save the Colts about $1.5 million in 2012. Is it worth it? I would say no, the Colts' struggled with depth this season, and keeping both around may prove useful.
However, keeping both around presents a problem. Shipley was easily the better performer in 2012, and likely should get a fair chance to win the starting job in 2013. But, NFL teams have a hard time playing undrafted, low-paid players over players with big contracts who are brought in to be starters. Satele's contract isn't huge, but it's substantial enough that it could pose a problem.
Come this offseason, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano are going to have some big decisions to make regarding the interior offensive line, and the starting center could be the most interesting one.
It's not a conundrum for me. There was far, far too much pressure from the middle when passing and far too little run blocking guard to guard. Shipley and Reitz appear serviceable. McGlynn and McGuire (Oops, old Mamas and Pappas) McGlynn and Satelle get overpowered and aren't the answers. Ijalana has been IR'd two years in a row but is supposed to be powerful but by inuendo I've heard he's a slow learner. Maybe, maybe he can help. I trust Grigson on him.
Top on my free agent list Is Andy Levitre (OG) if the bidding doesn't go too high on him. Typically interior linemen don't command the salaries of OT's. In the Colt's case, an el premo internal line blocker would help immensely.
@BuddyLee The Colts really need 2 guards. I don't know this for certain but I would imagine the dynamics of an offensive line make the center's job a lot harder if the guards on either side of you are complete crap, which was the case for us this season (I'd say Reitz was far from solid, and that's when he wasn't injured and we had to start the likes of Olsen and Linkenbach).
If the Colts are serious about rebuilding the line I think it has to start with the guards. Satele was much better in Oakland than he was for us this year and I still believe he can have a bounce back season if he can stay healthy and we improve the guard spot. Shipley is also an option at center that I am fully comfortable with.
I wouldn't mind a RT to help with depth (Justice is solid but has just been injured way too much to be counted on), but my primary concerns are replacing McGlynn, who was horrid, and Reitz/Linkenbach/Olsen who were nearly as bad.
I don't deny that the Colts need help in 4 of the 5 OL spots. If Hamilton, the new OC, wants a "downhill" run first running game, there is a LOT of personnel improvement needed. Castonzo is the only solid performer among the five positions. Shipley/Satelle are only OK. The remainder of the OL are routinely dominated in the run game.
Interesting to see the stats backed up what I thought all season: That the offensive line was better with Shipley.
@rogcohen Better in pass protection, I think in run blocking Satele was at least comparable. I do like Shipley, but he's a FA and we will have to see if the Colts choose to resign him (I imagine they will, he's worth more to us than he probably would be to someone else).
Samson Satele is bad and he should feel bad. We ranked 30th in ALY up the middle for a few reasons but Satele was the biggest.
@Payton He was definitely bad this year but he's shown in the past he can be effective. I think the Colts give him another season due primarily to the factors that Kyle mentions, there's really no upside for them to cut him. Whether or not he starts is a different question but based on the fact that he started every time he was healthy (even though I'm sure the coaches saw the same thing we did, that Shipley was playing better), I doubt he is benched to start the year (though he could certainly lose out in training camp).
No we need a replacement at RT. Justice was brutally bad after that first injury he had. He could never really run block, but his pass blocking fell off a cliff after that, even with help. The OGs were universally bad, but Satele's biggest weakness is his pass blocking. Even with Luck's college OC on board, the Colts are still going to pass more than run by a good margin. I don't think it's worth it to cut him, but we gave him too much money in the first place.
The average for the top ten paid centers is about 4.5 million in compensation a year. Satele would make it in at the bottom of the list, and he's not playing like even a top 20 center.
i would really like to see a guy like barrett jones brought in to protect luck. He should be available at our 1st pick and while at Alabama played every postion at an award winning level. I know we need pass rushers but I would like to keep Luck healthy.
I always like reading your posts about lineman, because you at least cite the PFF stats to backup your thoughts. (As opposed to me, who relies on "Doug's eye test while really just watching the ball".)
Still, I think how the Colts proceed with Satele will say more about Grigson (and to a lesser extent Pagano) than almost any other off season move.