Colts’ Polian: Ijalana is a Tackle, Drake Nevis will Play the Nose

ESPN’s AFC South Blogger Paul Kuharsky has been spending the last couple of days in Anderson covering the Colts. Today he provides fans with a couple of updates from Bill Polian and Head Coach Jim Caldwell that provide some insight into the direction the team is taking as the 2011 NFL Preseason is about to get underway.

First, Polian suggests rather strongly that rookie offensive tackle Benjamin Ijalana will not be a regular season starter at guard. “I think you put him at tackle and let him go. The young ones will ready when they are ready, and then they will get on the field. They certainly have enough talent, that’s obvious.”

If this holds true, look for Jacques McClendon, Mike Pollak, Kyle DeVan, Joe Reitz, Jaimie Thomas, and newly signed Josh Beekman to duke it out for guard spots. The offensive tackle rotation will very likely be Linkenbach and Castonzo at left tackle and Diem and Ijalana at right tackle — if Reitz is on the final roster, he will likely serve a “Charlie Johnson-like” role as a guard who can move outside if needed.

Second, Kuharsky reports, “Polian said he felt good about Antonio Johnson and Drake Nevis as the team’s nose tackle, suggesting he isn’t looking for anyone else.”

There has been a lot of scurrying about amongst Colts fans regarding who would be the backup nose tackle behind Antonio “Mookie” Johnson and it appears that Polian plans for Nevis to work his way into the role. Although Nevis was a penetrating defensive tackle in college who wreaked havoc in opponent backfields, he has also been compared to Booger McFarland, who helped turn a horrible run defense around in the playoffs when the Colts won Super Bowl XLI. There is little doubt that Nevis will need time to develop if he is to become as good as McFarland was, but he has an inside track on the job. (It is worth noting that Coltzilla favorite free agent defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is also built exactly like Drake Nevis)

In any case, the defensive tackle depth chart of A. Johnson, F. Moala, D. Nevis, T. Harris, E. Foster looks significantly improved from a season ago. Do not be surprised if undrafted rookie Ollie Ogbu uses the preseason to stake his own claim for a spot in the rotation. There may be more talent on the roster along the defensive line this year than there will be roster spots. A promising player could end up on the practice squad.

The final bit Kuharsky shares is that the Colts plan on keeping a third quarterback around as the 46th active player on game days until Manning’s health situation becomes clearer. At that point, look for the team to keep another special teams ace around. Polian said “In our case, now because of Peyton [Manning's] situation, we’ll probably have to carry a third quarterback. We’ve never done it before really, we’ve had that guy on the practice squad. Absent an injury to one of your quarterbacks I think the 46th guy is a good thing for the game, it gives you primarily an extra guy to play special teams.”

Check out the rest of Kuharsky’s story to see Caldwell’s comments on bringing in free agents Jamaal Anderson, Tommie Harris, and Ernie Sims.