The Colts find a meaningful contributor out of their class of undrafted free agents at the beginning of almost every new season. The most recent players to stick out are second year cornerback Jacob Lacey, third year tight end Gijon Robinson, and fourth year safety Melvin Bullitt.
This season, undrafted rookie free agent guard/tackle, Jeff Linkenbach has taken a lot of snaps with the first, second, and third team offensive lines at both left guard and left tackle. Unlike many of his rookie counterparts, and a veteran free agent addition like Adam Terry, Linkenbach has used this opportunity to make a big impression on Colts fans, coaches, and management.
In the Colts preseason games against the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills, Linkenbach was on the field for more than three quarters of each game. In that time he was nearly perfect picking up his assignments, and neutralized any defender he locked onto.
He of course made mistakes. There were rare times when a blitzing defender would come inside or outside of Linkenbach and he was either slow to react or missed his opportunity to get a body on the rusher. Still, this is to be expected from a rookie who is still learning his role on the offensive line and getting used to the speed of the NFL game.
The importance of his development to the offensive line this year cannot be undervalued. At this point, Linkenbach has made a very strong case for making the regular season roster. In fact, it would be surprising and disappointing if he did not do so.
Adding this kind of versatility, from a player who is capable of performing at a noticeably high level at two different positions on the offensive line, to a unit that has been decimated by injuries and searching for a replacement to veteran Ryan Lilja is outstanding for the line’s development and future. It would not be surprising to see Linkenbach push for a starting spot midway or later in the season — not unlike starting right guard Kyle DeVan did in 2009, when he beat out former second round draft pick Mike Pollak for the spot.
Keep a close eye on Linkenbach in Thursday’s matchup with Cincinnati. If he is capable of filling multiple spots on the offensive line successfully again, he could not only secure a spot on the roster, but propel himself into the role as one of the team’s primary backups at four spots on the offensive line.
The game should mean a lot to him, not just for the obvious professional ramifications, but also because he helped the Cincinnati Bearcats have one of the most potent offenses in the NCAA in 2009.