Last year, it was pretty obvious that the Colts had made a shift in philosophy along the defensive line. When Tony Dungy coached the Colts, he was often quoted as saying size had nothing to do with the atrocious play of the defensive tackles during the 2006 and 2008 seasons. During both those years, the Colts run defense set records for inept play, often starting people like Raheem Brock (275 pounds), Eric Foster (268 pounds), and Keyunta Dawson (254 pounds) at a position where the normal weight of a player is well over 300.
After Dungy left and Jim Caldwell took over, you stopped seeing Eric Foster starting games at DT. Dawson was converted back to defensive end, and Raheem Brock was transitioned to a "joker" linebacker for some defensive packages. He rarely played DT in 2009, unless it was on a rush down. The full-time replacements in 2009 at DT were Antonio Johnson (310 pounds), Daniel Muir (312 pounds), Fili Moala (303 pounds), and Ed Johnson (300 pounds). Also, in 2009, the Colts drafted Terrance Taylor (319 pounds) in the 4th Round out of Michigan. Taylor didn't make the final roster, but his drafting, along with the other players listed, signaled a pretty obvious shift in philosophy along the defensive line.
Now, you might be asking why I keep italicizing the word "shift" in every paragraph. I'm doing so because, for some reason, Chris Polian and the Colts don't like that word when it's used to explain a change in philosophy or mindset with the Colts and their personnel decisions. Why do they not like this word? Beats me. What I do know is that their explanations for why they don't think the change in offensive linemen this off-season is a shift are rather silly and humorous.
After the jump, Chris Polian explains why dumping the team's best guard last year, Ryan Lilja (6'2, 290 pounds), and replacing him with players like Andy Alleman (6'4, 310 pounds) and Jacques McClendon (6'3, 324 pounds) is not a "shift."
You, I don’t know if it’s a "shift." And I think its kind of analogous to what we did on the defensive line last year, where we may have gotten a little bit too far from the norm, and may have gotten to a little bit of an extreme. Anytime you acquire a player, you’re certainly looking at his size and his strength. Its an old Bill Parcells axiom: You don’t want to become too much of one thing at a position. Otherwise, your team becomes that. Just as we focused a little bit more on size that the defensive line last year, its been a little more of a focus [on size with the offensive line], but I don’t want to say it’s a "shift" because we would have always liked big offensive linemen. You know, Ryan Diem’s big guy. Tarik certainly was. Charlie Johnson is 300-plus pounds. It's something that’s been… it’s not a shift because the guys we’re bringing in still have feet and stil have athletic ability. But, to be honest, its probably something that we are taking a bit more focus on.
Look, I really have no idea why Chris Polian, who sounds much more media-friendly and savvy than his father, is fumbling all over himself to to explain why all the guards on the Colts are seemingly over 310 pounds now, but it's fairly obvious that the brass at West 56th Street do not like this word "shift" even though that is exactly what is going on here.
Their philosophy has indeed "shifted."
To prove this, I'll provide you all with the definition of the word "shift."
–verb (used with object)
2. to transfer from one place, position, person, etc., to another
So, um, yeah. When the definition of the word is placed right there in front of you, all this juggling and disagreement over the use of one word when applied to an obvious change in personnel preference between last year and this year is a bit humorous. It's especially humorous when Chris Polian says it isn't a shift, and then compares the... what word should I use that means the same as shift but isn't shift... change? transition? alteration? swing?... oh, whatever! It's a friggin' shift and I'm calling it a shift. The Polians can disagree all they want. Next they'll tell me the sky isn't blue, it's navy.
Anyway, not wanting to call the offensive line changes a shift, and then comparing it to the stark shift in defensive line philosophy last year, just seems kind of contradictory.
If the Colts were always interested in bigger lineman, why did they always bring in people like Jeff Saturday, Ryan Lilja, and Kyle DeVan? If it isn't a shift, why dump (for no reason whatsoever, it seems) the team's best guard (Lilja) and replace him with a cast-off from the horrid Kansas City Chiefs (Alleman)? Alleman is certainly not a better overall player than Lilja; nor is McClendon, Adam Terry (if they move him to guard), Jaimie Thomas, Mike Pollak, or Jamey Richard.
The only difference between those guys and Ryan Lilja is that they are bigger.
And, no offense, if Tony Dungy and Howard Mudd were still coaching on this team, I highly doubt the club would be dumping smaller players for bigger ones. It's likely not a coincidence that the departure of Dungy and Mudd had something to do with this little shift in personnel along the defensive and offensive lines. Dungy was a defensive guru, and spent a lot of time working with the defense and the d-line. Mudd was the o-line coach, and he preferred coaching smaller, quicker players.
Again, I like Chris Polian and he seems like a good, intelligent guy. But please, don't assume we are stupid, Chris. Don't assume you can just talk a bunch of contradictory nonsense that will placate us into thinking that the Colts have not made an obvious, deliberate shift in how they evaluate and bring in offensive line talent.