For years the Colts have been known as having one of the most consistent offensive lines in the NFL. Howard Mudd built his reputation of getting more out of less and finding ways to make low draft picks, waiver acquisitions, and undrafted free agents the envy of the league as pass blockers.
In 2007 the Colts started to see the offensive line Mudd carefully built, the solid starting five of Tarik Glenn, Ryan Lilja, Jeff Saturday, Jake Scott, and Ryan Diem begin to crack. Glenn retired, and the Colts could only afford to retain Lilja or Scott.
The Colts unfortunate injury luck continued as Ryan Lilja, the guard they chose to retain, suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2008, even Saturday missed time to injury. Mudd plugged Charlie Johnson and rookies Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard and made it work. Unfortunately, though, Pollak struggled in his role and 2008 starter Tony Ugoh lost his starting job to Charlie Johson at left tackle in 2009.
Ryan Lilja returned from his knee injury in 2009 but struggled as a run blocker and was released by the Colts. The surprise of the 2009 offensive line had to be Kyle DeVan, an undrafted player who played for the Boise Burn in Arena II football who took over for Mike Pollak.
DeVan’s story is pretty fantastic. For starters, he made the team, while 2008 draft pick Steve Justice was let go. Then, even though former second round pick Mike Pollak started his second season as the starter at right guard, he began getting more time rotating with Pollak. For four games DeVan moved his way from situational back-up for Pollak to full-time substitute for entire series.
By week nine against Houston, DeVan was starting, and took over as the full-time starter for the remainder of the season. He showed signs of gradually improving throughout the duration of the year, playing his best football late in the season and in the playoffs. In fact, while the Colts struggled running outside of Diem and struggled running inside to the left behind Lilja, DeVan did a nice job of both pass and run blocking, possibly becoming the most dependable lineman on the team.
Imagine how well he could play, and how much he could develop as a starting right guard in his second season. He may also not be susceptible to the ever-present discussion of getting bigger on the offensive line. Both Lilja and Scott were under 300-pounds, in fact neither were much over 290. DeVan is 6-foot 2-inches tall and weighs 306-pounds.
If DeVan continues to develop he should keep his starting spot at right guard and could make a play this year for being a permanent facet on the offensive line. It would not be too surprising if DeVan was the eventual replacement for Jeff Saturday at center, as his collegiate experience and professional experience before he played in Indianapolis was at center.
It would be worthwhile to keep the offensive line concerns limited to left guard and potentially the team’s future at left tackle.