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Monday, September 13, 2010
Why didn't Colts do more on O-line?

By Paul Kuharsky

The mailbag is filling up with notes from panicked Colts fans.

The gist of their questions: Isn’t it time for the Colts to make a move to get one of the disgruntled offensive linemen out there: Marcus McNeill or Logan Mankins?

Sure, if the Colts found them a system fit, adding either would give a big boost to the offensive line.

But it’s uncharacteristic for the Colts to go outside looking for help. Those guys would be costly, and making a move would amount to a concession that Indy underestimated its offensive line issues.

Charlie Johnson
Colts tackle Charlie Johnson, shown here last season working against Mario Williams, might be better off moving inside and playing guard.
That’s the confusing part of this.

Bill Polian was quick to say the offensive line was a primary issue in the Super Bowl loss to New Orleans.

But the Colts did little to fix it. Left guard Ryan Lilja was released. Two street free agents, Adam Terry and Andy Alleman, didn’t stick. Only one of eight draft picks was spent on an offensive lineman, and Jacques McClendon was not active in Houston.

The Colts couldn’t do major free-agent shopping because the CBA limited the top teams’ ability to do so.

Still, with the head honcho saying it was a concern, it sure seems like the Colts could have done more on the line to ensure better protection and better run blocking.

On a bad foot, Charlie Johnson put forth a courageous effort against Mario Williams. But Johnson’s not cast as a left tackle by a lot of personnel folks. If Indy had a franchise left tackle, Johnson would likely be better as a guard. Polian missed on Tony Ugoh in 2007. The guy they hoped to be the heir to Tarik Glenn was waived/injured and is now on IR.

Putting Peyton Manning at risk is a dangerous game. He was face down on the turf, an official checking on him after one hit. He bounced up. But will he always? He absorbed two sacks, eight additional hits and stuff that didn't register in the stat book.

The guys the Colts do have will play better. Manning can continue to get the ball out quickly and make pressure less of an issue. Joseph Addai can make the most of what’s there. Not every team has a Williams-like threat to mess things up.

In Sunday's loss, the Colts didn’t choose to go with two tight ends very often, leaving Johnson mostly on his own. Put tight end Brody Eldridge in to help the way I imagined and you’re taking one target out of the arsenal. Maybe the Colts do that more if they find it necessary. The choice at Reliant Stadium was to throw it more quickly with more options running routes.

I don’t expect Polian to be making calls about McNeill or Mankins Monday.

Polian talked before camp about throwing all the linemen in a pot and seeing who came out as the best group. Injuries to Jeff Saturday, Johnson and others made that system more difficult and there was no time to build continuity with the five who started against the Texans.

Still, today, I can understand why Colts’ faithful are wondering today why there wasn’t more in that pot.