With the Colts' offense sputtering in recent weeks, the ineffectiveness of the offensive line has been magnified. The running game has been virtually non-existent again this season, with backs having very little room to operate. Even QB Peyton Manning, who is being hit more than usual, appears to be hurrying throws and bracing for contact before it comes.
Former OL coach Howard Mudd believed that, as long as Manning was the club's greatest asset, the No. 1 priority of his linemen would be protecting their QB. As a result, the club acquired smaller, quicker linemen that were more apt for pass protection, as opposed to bigger, nastier guys that could put defensive linemen back on their heels.
The way we hear it, a change in the philosophy of acquiring linemen is needed to begin successfully repairing the problem this offseason. The Colts must find a better balance between linemen that can hold up in run and pass blocking, while putting more of an emphasis on acquiring better talent and not allowing their own guys to leave.
Team president Bill Polian threw the offensive line under the bus following the Super Bowl loss to the Saints, with OG Ryan Lilja, widely regarded as the best run blocker on the team, being made the scapegoat with his release. Lilja is thriving this season as a key part of Kansas City's top-ranked rushing attack.
Former Colts OG Jake Scott was another rugged run blocker that the club failed to re-sign following the 2007 season.
Polian signed huge OT Adam Terry and OG Andy Alleman in free agency this offseason, but neither player made the final 53-man roster.
Drafting offensive linemen has been a problem for Polian in recent years; former second-rounders, OT Tony Ugoh and OG Mike Pollak, have been busts. And the Colts waited until the fourth round of this past April's draft to select OG Jacques McClendon.
McClendon, who took more snaps at center than guard during training camp, has been used only sparingly as a blocking tight end in short-yardage situations despite the Colts having a revolving door at the guard position, which includes the underachieving Pollak, undrafted rookie Jeff Linkenbach, who was manhandled in Week 12 against the Chargers, '08 seventh-rounder Jamey Richard and former Arena-leaguer Kyle DeVan.