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Colts interested in Dolphins guard Justin Smiley

Joel at Arrowhead Pride sent me the link to this article by Ethan Skolnick at the Sun Sentinel:

It has been 38 days since Bill Parcells called [Justin Smiley], while last year’s starting left guard was on a hunting trip, and told him not to report to the facility for offseason workouts or anything else. He has stayed away since, and he’s not currently in South Florida.

The Dolphins generally liked what he did as a pulling guard and as a pass-blocker. But, frustrated by the maintenance required for his shoulder and dissatisfied with his straight-ahead run blocking, the Dolphins decided to go another direction.


My understanding is that the Dolphins did have at least two interested teams, the Colts and Seahawks, but held out for more than they were offered. And my understanding from two league sources is that, at this stage, they aren’t likely to get more than a late-round conditional pick (sixth or seventh), if that, largely because most of the NFL has been expecting Smiley to get released.

It's interesting that this article comes to our attention right as we are having a pretty nice discussion about short yardage issues with the Colts. Joe's article is excellent (the norm for Joe), but, for me personally, I disagree with it's core argument. The Colts do indeed have issues with short yardage conversation, and the reason for this is poor o-line play, regardless of what the numbers say. Numbers are sometimes deceiving, and you only need to look at the reaction from the Colts front office this off-season to see that the powers that be at West 56th street are, most certainly, concerned about the Colts short yardage woes.

I totally see Joe's point, but here's my counterpoint (and part of this is being Devil's Advocate here): Converting short yardage situations during the regular season means nothing if you fail to do it in "money time." No one remembers, or even cares about, that short yardage play the team made against Team X during Week Whatever. When the team fails to convert a 3rd and 2 to ice the playoff game against the Chargers in 2008, and fails to convert a key 3rd and one in the Super Bowl, the team does indeed have short yardage problems. The team must perform "when it counts." If it doesn't, the reason (or reasons) the didn't didn't get the job done will be viewed as a weakness.

That is the cold, hard reality of pro football.

Use the run defense as an example. No one cares, or hardly even remembers, just how AWFUL the Colts run defense was in 2006. I mean, near legendary awful. However, people do remember how amazing the run defense played in the four playoffs games the Colts won on their way to winning Super Bowl 41.

Now, back to short yardage, one of Joe's main points is the the runningbacks are as much at fault for the supposed failures to convert 1 or 2 yard plays as the o-line is. That might be true, but the Colts certainly don't agree. They aren't replacing the runningbacks this off-season. They are replacing the linemen. After the loss against the Saints in Miami, the Colts have cut guard Ryan Lilja (295 pounds), signed Andy Alleman (310 pounds), and drafted Jacques McClendon (310 pounds). They also drafted a blocking H-Back (Brody Eldridge) for, literally, the first time in Bill Polian's tenure as President of the Colts.

All these moves scream that the reason these conversations are not happening is a direct result of bad guard play and blocking at the point of attack.

Now, does signing Justin Smiley also follow this narrative? Maybe. As the article states, Smiley is a passing guard who is good at pulling, kind of like Ryan Lilja was. But Smiley is also 6'3, 310 pounds, which means he fits what the Colts are looking for in terms of bigger guards.

Again, Joe may very well be right about how the narrative has strayed from the numbers. But, clearly, the Colts don't buy that. People like Jeff Saturday and Ryan Lilja, who both questioned Bill Polian's mean-spirited tongue-lashing aimed at the o-line after Super Bowl 44, probably agree with Joe. Look at the numbers!

But, Bill Polian does not give a crap what Saturday, Lilja, Joe Baker, or me think. In his mind, the short yardage conversation for the Colts stinks, and the reason it stinks is the o-line. Polian's actions this off-season make that point loud and clear. It remains to be seen if Polian is right. If he isn't, then we can always go back to Joe's article and suggest that maybe the great Bill Polian over-reacted a bit after the loss in Super Bowl 44.

Countdown to Training Camp is two months, three weeks.