This series analyzes Colts players who have some of the most interesting storylines heading into the 2012 season. Feel free to add suggestions in the comments on who I should put "Under the Microscope" in future articles this summer. The series started with Jerry Hughes, and continues now with offensive lineman Joe Reitz.
Joe Reitz has been dealt a bad hand this offseason. Think a 2-7 offsuit hand in Texas Hold 'Em bad.
Despite starting 9 of his 11 games last season at left guard and playing some seemingly decent football in that time, both GM Ryan Grigson and Indianapolis Colts have made it clear they want a better player at the position.
Grigson first made that known by bringing in a former player of his in Philadelphia, signing free agent guard/center Mike McGlynn in March. As soon as that happened, it seemed like any memories Colts fans had of Reitz from 2011 went out the window.
McGlynn, a career backup who filled in as a starter for injured players in both Philadelphia and Cincinnati, was immediately christened a starter at guard by most. At least, that's the feeling I got.
I was one fan in the minority, still holding out hope for Reitz as if he was my own son. I liked what I saw from him last season, and I wanted to see more. Either way, McGlynn's addition made that wish seem less likely to happen.
After looking into how the Colts performed while Reitz was on the field last season, I've come a decision on what I really think of him and what I think he could provide to the Colts this season. Read on after the jump to see what it is.
Before I get into how Reitz played last season, I think it would be good to point a tweet yesterday from Indianapolis Star reporter Phillip B. Wilson. Reporters and fans tweeted throughout the first day of minicamps that every update should be taken with a grain of salt, but no matter what, this is a bad sign for Reitz.
Have to check with Joe Reitz on recovering from ankle injury. Today, he's #Colts' 2nd-team LG behind Seth Olsen.— Phillip B Wilson (@pwilson24) June 12, 2012
Cohesiveness is more crucial on the offensive line than any other positional group in football. If you're injury prone, which many Colts o-lineman have proven to be over the past several years, then the coaching staff could turn its back on you for a more reliable player. For Reitz, that could be either McGlynn, Olsen or any other players.
If Reitz is going to prove himself as one of the two best options at either of the guard spots, it starts with his health. Starting 9 games and playing in 11 won't cut it unless you've already established yourself as a high-quality player. Reitz hasn't.
Luckily for Reitz, some of the numbers relating to the offensive line's last season reflect well on him.
In the nine games that he started, the Colts averaged 106.4 rushing yards and 1.7 sacks given up. In the seven games that he didn't, the Colts averaged 90.7 rushing yards and 2.9 sacks given up.
Now, there's a lot of variables that go into those statistics outside of Reitz playing. Jeff Linkenbach had to slide over to left tackle in some games, meaning Quinn Ojinnaka had to play right tackle as well. The transition from Kerry Collins to Curtis Painter to Dan Orlovsky could have affected both totals. Donald Brown had a big outlier near the end of the season with 161 rushing yards earned mostly off of two huge runs.
And don't forget that Mike Pollak sucks.
Meanwhile, Football Outsiders isn't nearly as forgiving to Reitz as those statistics in this spreadsheet on Adjusted Line Yards for each team.
The Colts ranked 24th out of 32 teams in runs up the middle or behind the guards (3.87) and an even worse 30th in runs behind the left tackle (2.97, but that's probably an even bigger indictment of Anthony Castonzo).
So, what can we really believe when it comes to Reitz? Even I'm not sure.
Based on the eye test from watching every Colts games throughout the season, I like Reitz. I think he and Castonzo developed well on the left side and showed some encouraging play in both pass and run blocking.
At the same time, I had been watching Charlie Johnson and Kyle DeVan man those positions for the last few years before them. To me, that's the definition of the lesser of two evils.
In the end, there are so many variables to look at when grading an offensive lineman that it comes down to personal preference on what you want out of a player. Between good and bad, Reitz meets somewhere in the middle to me.
At worst, Reitz deserves a spot on the Colts roster as a backup. He proved himself to be a competent enough guard last season as a starter, and even if there is better talent in front of him now, he's still not a player I would worry about if he had to go into the game.
However, his injury history after one year with the team is frustrating. The Colts need players on the offensive line that can avoid landing on the injury report, and that's not Reitz as of now.
Whether you're a fan of Reitz or McGlynn or Olsen or Ben Ijalana or whoever at this point, treat this situation as a full-on competition. None of those players, not even Reitz, has earned the right to be named a starter heading into training camp. The staff will evaluate each player and eventually decide which one is the best one to run with the 1st-stringers.
So my suggestion is to keep an open-mind not only with Reitz and the offensive line, but with every position on the team. The best of the rest will eventually separate themselves. Unfortunately, that means we'll just have to be patient until that separation takes place.