In the Colts’ equivalent to the State of the Union address, Bill Polian answered a lot of questions about the offensive line and the running game in general. If Polian’s remarks are to be believed, Colts fans can look forward to some changes, but not until next year.
He reiterated his belief that the O-Line had a “less-than-stellar performance” in the Super Bowl, but went on to say that he had also expected them to bounce back with more “power and punch” this year. He cited two decisions in particular that he implied would increase the line’s punch: letting go of Ryan Lilja (whose off-season recovery was going slower than the team had hoped) and adding Jacques McClendon. Presumably, he was also thinking of the additions of Brody Eldridge, Adam Terry and Andy Alleman. Unfortunately, McClendon wasn’t able to get early reps due to a pre-season injury, Eldridge has been slowed by a rib injury and – as Polian puts it – “has not been himself,” and both Terry and Alleman failed to make the team. Polian admits that had he known these changes would pan out the way they have, he “would have probably… done more in the draft.”
He mentions being particularly disappointed with the middle three, but doesn’t give any insight into what might be done in the short term to improve their play… he just hopes to “play in these next four games basically the way we’ve played in the last three, which essentially is to outlast the opposition.” He believes the team has “a chance to get better with Brody back and hopefully Joe coming back.”
Going forward, the Colts will certainly look at their offensive line, and perhaps at their running strategy. Polian is well aware of the need to improve the offensive line. He is not avoiding changes just to spite the media or Colts fans, as Paul Kuharsky suggested. Polian acknowledged,
It’s an area we do need to address. I’m sure we will. That doesn’t preclude free agency, either, as we go forward. We’ll see what transpires in that area. We certainly do need, particularly at tackle, to address that.
Asked about using a fullback, Polian remarked that “that would require a complete makeover of the offensive line and a complete makeover of the running game,” but he didn’t dismiss it out of hand. He said that this was a change that couldn’t be done in-season, but that it was something the team would discuss in the off-season: “It has merit, but you can’t do it now.”
My thoughts: I am thrilled to hear that Polian has openly admitted that the O-Line is an issue, and the mock drafts that are warming up around the league may be more accurate when they select one for the Colts. What concerns me is Polian’s comment about the short term and the “strategy” to outlast the opposition. From my perspective, this team has NOT outlasted its opposition in recent games. They have definitely been able to fight back from deficits and nearly win the game in most of their losses, but I am wary of a game plan built on hope, or on the belief that somehow you can out-will your opponents. Remember – the other guys are paid, too. I had the same reaction when Caldwell, interviewed at halftime of the Cowboys game, indicated that he was hoping for some turnovers to come the Colts way – you just can’t expect that to be part of the game plan (unless you’re the New Orleans Saints, who focus and coach their players on causing turnovers). This team needs continue to work the basics – fundamental blocking, fundamental tackling, discipline in gaps, and – for Manning – throwing the ball away instead of forcing it.