Back in August of 2012, Colts offensive lineman Ben Ijalana tore his ACL during training camp. This was an injury to the same knee that cost him much of his rookie season in 2011.* Ijalana, who was taken with the 49th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft after the Colts traded up in the second round to acquire him, was then amazingly placed on the waived-injured list. When no team put a claim in for him, Ijalana was placed on Injured Reserve for 2012.
The decision to subject Ijalana to waivers was the strongest signal that the new regime in Indianapolis did not have much faith in him. Prior to the injury, reports from OTAs and camp did not reflect well on the former Villanova standout, including a comment from Mike Chappell that, back when he was still on the Colts roster, Peyton Manning did not think much of Ijalana. In fact, Ijalana was reportedly in danger of simply being released outright before his second knee injury in 11 months.
Unfortunately, Ijalana is yet another player from the Chris Polian-controlled drafts now be labeled "bust." Prior to Ijalana, the last offensive lineman Chris Polian traded up for in the second round was Tony Ugoh.
As we get closer and closer to the first in a series of OTAs for the 2013 Indianapolis Colts, a few eyes will be on Ijalana, who has remained in Indianapolis to rehab his knee. IF he is healthy, and IF he can figure out how to play competitively at this level, Ijalana can become a bit of an X-Factor on this new Colts offensive line.
Now, it's important to keep this in mind: The Colts clearly have little faith in either Ijalana's chances of staying healthy or his playing ability (or both). They signed free agent Donald Thomas to a four-year deal and retained Joe Reitz. They also have Mike McGlynn, who was signed as a UFA last year. Any thought of Ijalana returning to right tackle were squashed when Gosder Cherilus was inked to a five-year deal with Indianapolis in March. It's also very possible general manager Ryan Grigson could draft another guard.
Clearly, Grigson has a strategy to move on from Ijalana. So, any of you hopeless romantics out there thinking "there's still a chance" need a bucket of ice water dumped on your heads.
That said, if Ijalana can get it together an prove to both this coaching staff and front office that he was worth the 49th pick, that would be a HUGE boost to the Colts offense in 2013. Should Ijalana last until training camp, it's worth keeping an eye on him and his progress.
* It's not completely clear if the same knee was injured both years or not. See the links from reader Arminian in the comments below for context.