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Camp Competition: The Offensive Guards

We all remember this. Excuse me while I go in the bathroom and puke.

I can't state this any simplier: linemen Ryan Lilja and Jake Scott STINK. The thought of them starting AGAIN this year at the guard spots has me breaking out in hives. Last year, the Colts offensive line did a fine job protecting Manning... overall. However, there were times during games (like the MNF game against the Rams), where Manning took some bad hits. More often than not, the hits were a result of the other team exploiting the weaknessess in the Colts' offensive line.

Those weaknesses were Jake Scott and Ryan Lilja.

This year, the Colts enter training camp armed with a nice stable of young, athletic linemen. This is how the Colts have built, arguably, the best sustained offensive line in the modern NFL, by emphasizing athletic ability over size and bulk. For seven years, Peyton Manning has hardly ever been touched when he drops back to throw, and the Colts run the football with great success. However, against the San Diego Chargers late in the season and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs, the Colts o-line could not protect Manning with any consistency.

The reason? Both teams schemed their 3-4 defenses to spread Colts tackles Tarik Glenn and Ryan Diem wide. At the snap of the ball, the linebackers would attack the middle of the o-line: aka, they'd attack Lilja and Scott.

The Colts should expect to see this scheme ad nauseum next year, just as teams stupidly tried to copy New England's "Manning Scheme" in 2005. I have no faith that Scott and Lilja will be able to combat this. If they couldn't do it in two games, they simply can't do it. This is why I'm intrigued by the prospect of having Dylan Gandy and Michael Toudouze starting at guard this year.

Or, possibly moving tackle Ryan Diem back to guard (where he started his career) and have either veteran Makoa Freitas or rookie Charlie Johnson start at RT.

I am actually in favor of the second option moreso than the first. Diem is a better guard than tackle, and Freitas has proved he can play tackle in the NFL. When Tarik Glenn went down for 5 games in 2003, Freitas started those 5 games and played excellent at LT. In one game against the Carolina Panthers, Freitas stoned DE Michael Rucker, holding him to no sacks and no QB pressures. At that time, Freitas was a rookie.

The bottom line here is Jake Scott and Ryan Lilja should not start this year, unless there is an injury. If the Colts enter the 2006 season with those two as the starting guards, there better be a damn good reason.

The one wild card in this is Dylan Gandy. Gandy was a fourth round pick in 2005 and the coaches are very high on him. He started some games late in the season last year at OG, and played well. He could very well be a starter full-time this season.