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.