OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Michael Bush #29 and Samson Satele #64 of the Oakland Raiders celebrate after Bush scored a touchdown against the Chicago Bears at O.co Coliseum on November 27, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
I give in. You're right.
I spend so much of my time looking for the grains of truth beneath the surface, searching for holes and other deficiencies with the Colts, that I forget that (when it is all looked at collectively) it comes off as negative. It creates the appearance (fair or unfair) that I hate the franchise, or that I think it sucks.
So, again, I relent. I apologize. I beg forgiveness.
I need to do a better job telling you what I like (and what we, as a group, think is working) in addition to the other stuff. Plus, it's the offseason, and it's time we start looking ahead to things that, on the surface, should work well for our favorite team.
With this new series, I'm going to write about what does not worry me as we head into the 2012 season. I obsess over all other sorts of issues (the secondary, the negative perception of the fanbase, lack of ticket sales, the crazy owner, etc.), but I don't write enough about the stuff that doesn't have me losing sleep. We'll start with the offensive line because, unlike previous years, I think this group has a chance to be really, really good.
The New Additions: OC
I won't BS you. I'm glad Jeff Saturday is gone. Part of it is personal. I didn't like that he, effectively, lied or misrepresented what I wrote about him following the Colts epic loss to the Saints last year. I'm sure he doesn't care, and maybe you don't either, but it pissed me off. It pissed SB Nation off. I lost respect for the guy, and after talking to a few writers at the NFL Draft this year, I'm not alone.
I have no idea if Saturday's replacement, Samson Satele, is a borderline Hall of Famer (as Saturday is), but I do know that if I had to choose today between Satele or Saturday, I'd take Satele. Again, part of that is personally motivated, and I bring it up just to keep things on-the-level, not to rehash old wounds. The other part of it is Satele seems to be a pretty damn good center entering the prime of his career.
Pro Football Focus recently listed Satele as one of their "Secret Superstars." PFF acknowledges that Satele was inconsistent while playing in Oakland, but, really, who is consistent playing there?
So with all of that inconsistency and negativity why is Satele a Secret Superstar? Well, in spite of it all, those stretches where Satele gets it right are the sort of quality that you just don’t stumble over when searching for centers.
Center is perceived by many to be a more cerebral position and, as a result, physical dominance in the middle of an offensive line is a rare thing to see. Performances such as his display against the Jets, one of the most physical and aggressive run defenses in the league, make the mouth water at the potential that a player entering his sixth season still has. Against players like Mike Devito, David Harris, and Sione Pouha, Satele consistently got the upper hand and paved the way for the Raiders to pick up an astonishing 5.3 yards per carry through the Jets’ A-gaps in that game. Working left and right Satele was equally comfortable and he even got himself out into space on a reverse to lay a block on Jim Leonhard that helped spring a 23-yard touchdown carry by Denarius Moore, handing the Raiders a lead late in the third quarter.
With Satele anchoring the middle, and with promising second year left tackle Anthony Castonzo protecting the quarterback's blindside, the Colts have a solid foundation for their new, re-tooled offensive line. It's worth noting that, despite my personal dislike right now for Saturday, the man can still play. However, Saturday is 36, and 2012 is likely his final year in the league. Satele is 27, and if he can find his groove in Indianapolis, he can anchor the o-line for another five-six years.
The New Additions: OG
The question now is, who fills in the rest of the line? My answer: Who cares? Whoever it is, they're likely better than the guys that played last year.
The Colts new coaching staff are moving 2011 second round pick Ben Ijalana to guard, a position he is more naturally suited for in the NFL. They also traded for RT Winston Justice, signed OG-OC Mike McGlynn, and drafted OT Justin Anderson in the seventh round. Jeff Linkenbach and Joe Reitz, holdover starters from last year, are also on the roster. The team also signed journeyman tackle George Foster.
As recently as today, there was speculation that the Colts might have interest in former Steelers OT Max Starks. Starks played for current Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians when both were in Pittsburgh.
With Ijalana, McGlynn, and Reitz in the mix at guard (along with, possibly, undrafted rookie Hayworth Hicks), those options are eons better than us trying to sort through guys like Mike Pollak, Jamey Richard, or Jacques McClendon.
The New Additions: OT
At right tackle, I'm pretty convinced Winston Justice is locked in there. For starters, it's clear Ryan Grigson brought him to Indy (trade with Philadelphia) because Grigson likes him. I have gotten mixed results on Justice from Philly writers I trust. One thing has been consistent: Justice is a high character guy who works hard and takes pride in his work. So, he has that going for him. He's also had success and gameday experience, which is something the other tackle prospects don't.
However it shakes out, a potential starting line of LT Castonzo, LG McGlynn, OC Satele, RG Ijalana, RT Justice is a significant upgrade over LT Castonzo, LG Pollak, OC Saturday, RG Reitz, RT Linkenbach. I like keeping Reitz and Link on the team for depth, but it was pretty clear last year (at least, for me) that those two are not starting caliber. On average, undrafted players such as them rarely are.
This new line is formed of highly drafted players. McGlynn is a fourth rounder from 2008. Justice (2006), Satele (2007), Ijalana (2011) were all second rounders. Castonzo is a first rounder from 2011.
Why I'm Not Losing Sleep
Obviously, things like chemistry and familiarity need to be worked out, but that's what OTAs and training camp are for. If the line is talented (and this one seems to be), it should play well. With a rookie quarterback and an uncertain backfield, it makes sense to beef up the offensive line. In year's past, the play of the o-line would be a big topic of discussion during the offseason. Prior to the 2011 NFL Draft (and the 2010 one as well), I was practically screaming that the Colts o-line was a major weakness.
Now, it doesn't worry me. In fact, I think it might be a strength in 2012. We shall see.