Unfortunate news came to start the training camp period, as the Colts relayed the information that both A.J. Edds and Ben Ijalana will be missing the rest of the season with ACL tears.
This comes at poor times for both players, young guys who had flashed potential, yet hadn’t fully developed.
For Edds, he found a team in Indianapolis that suited him, flashing some talent in 2011 in spot duty and on special teams. It was hoped that Edds would continue to develop under new head coach Chuck Pagano, and would be a decent backup inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. However, with what will now be a year hiatus due to injury, his future is even more unknown.
As for Ben Ijalana, all Colts fans should mourn the loss of Ijalana for the year. The second-year offensive linemen looked good in 2 1/2 quarters last season, but hadn’t really had a chance to prove himself because of the season-ending ACL tear against the Buccaneers. Now, Ijalana loses his second chance to get experience with yet another ACL tear in the same knee (in just two years). Unfortunately for Ijalana, this puts a major damper on his career aspirations, not only due to instability in his knee, but because of the lost time in his development. Remember, Ijalana WAS considered more of a developmental prospect, much more than draft counterpart Anthony Castonzo. Losing out on two years for his development is a huge loss.
But, not only are the injuries poor timing for the individuals, but both come at a bad time for the team as well. Inside linebacker and the offensive line are two positions that do not have much depth, and Ijalana and Edds are two players that were expected to provide both depth and potential at those key positions.
With Edds out for the season, the Colts are now dangerously thin at inside linebacker, with a load of young, unproven guys at the position. Mario Harvey, Jerrell Freeman, Scott Lutrus, and Larry Lumpkin round out the spot, with none of them having the experience that Edds did. Personally, I’d look at Freeman as a guy who has some potential, but we’ll see how the preseason goes.
At the offensive line, the Colts again are lacking in guys with quality NFL experience. George Foster (OT) has seven years of experience (on the downside of his career), but outside of that the most experienced guys are Seth Olsen and Mike Tepper, holdovers from the Polian era. Ijalana may not have been experienced, but he DID have potential at both guard and tackle, and the Colts are lacking in potential right now on the offensive line.
The top six linemen could end up mixing together quite well, with a front line of Castonzo, Reitz, Satele, McGlynn, and Justice. The sixth lineman would be Jeff Linkenbach, who has recently entered contention for the left guard starting spot. The most probable scenario in my mind is that Link becomes the “Charlie Johnson” type of player for this team, who fills in at any of the four positions when necessary. However, if the Colts end up injuring two or more of those top six players, it could get ugly.
Look for the Colts to bring in some new recruits at both positions in the next few days, although there may be better prospects out there later in the month, as teams cut their fringe players.