The Colts updated their unofficial depth chart Tuesday, promoting rookie LT Anthony Castonzo and LG Joe Reitz to the starting spots, unseating OT Jeff Linkenbach and LG Jacques McClendon respectively. While it was noteworthy to see Castonzo get his first (somewhat) “official” nod as the starter, what happened at Tuesday night’s practice was just as interesting and may wind up being more impactful.
As Phil Wilson of the Indy Star tweeted, the Colts first team offensive line was comprised of the following: LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Joe Reitz, C Jeff Saturday, RG Ryan Diem, RT Jeff Linkenbach.
If you are dyslexic, there is a decent chance you did a cartwheel when you saw that Ryan Diem was not the “starting” right tackle. A chorus of cheers rang out from Colts fans (and people that want to see Manning make it to his 40th birthday) as it appears the team is making adjustments to the weakest (and most important) positions on the line: the tackles. Linenbach, in my opinion, is not a “special” player at the tackle position. He is, however, average and average would be a significant upgrade over recent “performances” at right tackle. The general speculation seems to be that the Colts hope that rookie OT Ben Ijalana can grab hold of the RT position sooner, rather than later. Until he does, Manning should be feel more secure with Linkenbach at RT than Diem.
Now to the other part of the “news”: Ryan Diem is still a starter. Flashback about a month to the end of the lockout and the start of free agency. The Colts had a decision to make: “which below average offensive linemen will we keep around for depth purposes.” Most fans and bloggers seemed to prefer Charlie Johnson, thinking Johnson had the ability to play OT in a pinch, while perhaps having real value by sliding inside and playing guard. Johnson eventually signed a ridiculous contract ($10.5 million over 3 years) with the Vikings, and the Colts decision was made for them. Ryan Diem eventually restructured his contract and Colts fans braced themselves for another year of water boarding.
Diem’s ability to slip inside could change all of that. If he is successful at guard, the Colts off-season moves (restructuring Diem instead of cutting him) and non-moves (letting Johnson walk) could reap great rewards. Diem’s issues in recent years have been an inability to move his feet and match the quickness of edge rushers. At guard, he will not be asked to be as mobile, and instead can utilize his size and strength. In doing so, Diem will provide what we all hoped Charlie Johnson would: a solid interior lineman that can play tackle in a pinch.
Of course, now that the coaching staff has found a new home for him, it should be painfully clear to all Colts fans that, at least for another year, we are Diemed if we do and Diemed if we don’t.