There are good arguments to be made for keeping either one of the Colts' current offensive guards to pair up with Dylan Gandy next season.
When you look at two important stats for offensive linemen — penalties and sacks allowed — Ryan Lilja holds a slight edge in staying free of infractions. In 43 game appearances and 36 starts during his four years in Indy, the Colts' left guard has been flagged just four times. Oddly enough, three of those four penalties — a false start and two holding calls — were committed this year. His only other penalty was a false start back in 2005. He's also only been charged with allowing 5.5 sacks during those four seasons, including 1.5 this year so far.
By contrast, four-year veteran Jake Scott has appeared in 53 games, including 50 starts. He's been flagged 16 times, including four times already this season. During his career, he's drawn 11 false start penalties and five holding penalties. Three of his false starts and one holding call are from this season. As far as sacks go, Scott's been charged with allowing seven during his career and one this season.
Break it down by game appearances and Lilja has a .09 flags per game versus .13 per game for Scott. The sacks comparison is a dead heat on a game-by-game basis.
The caution flag on Lilja is his durability. Don't forget that he missed significant playing time last season due to a knee injury. He started just five regular season games while appearing in 11, splitting time with Dylan Gandy.
Scott has started 58 consecutive games, including a few at the tackle position. And that's another major consideration when thinking about which of the two would be more valuable to keep. As Scott showed during the San Diego game, his versatility in being able to move outside and play well — even though he didn't take a snap at the position in practice last week, was huge in keeping the Colts in the game after Ryan Diem was hurt.
I also like Scott's overall size. He's 6-foot-5, 295 pounds compared to the more spark-plug build of Lilja at 6-foot-2, 290 pounds. While both men are talented performers in the running game and in protecting Peyton Manning, the fifth-round pick out of Idaho gets my vote if the Colts can only hold onto one of the two when you consider his versatility and durability.
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The other advantage to keeping Scott is that the Colts could then plug Gandy in to the left guard position, where he gained starting experience last season, leaving Scott in his current spot. Keep Lilja instead, and either he or Gandy would have to switch to the right side where neither player has as much game experience.
The "X factors" in all of this though might be Bill Polian and the Kansas City Chiefs. Last year, following the Colts' win over the Ravens during the playoffs, Polian was asked a question about Ryan Lilja. And I'll tell you what, the man's face lit up while he talked about his left guard. When asked what Lilja brings to the team, Polian replied without hesitation and with conviction.
"Toughness, athleticism. Great competitiveness. He can handle anybody that people put up against him," he said. "He's not the most imposing physically-looking guy, but he's a really good player."
So you know the Colts president is going to find it hard to part with a player he spoke about in that way.
But the Kansas City Chiefs are expected to have Lilja near or at the top of their wish-list this offseason when he becomes a free agent. Lilja, who is from Kansas, was originally an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State that made it to the final cuts of the Chiefs' training camp his rookie season. The plan was to put him on the practice squad, but the Colts snatched him away and put him on their active roster.
According to Nick Athan, our Chiefs publisher and team expert at the Scout.com network, Lilja's name has come up as of late while he's been covering the team. And he believes they will be looking to replace three of their five current offensive linemen during the offseason, with Lilja as their top target.
So who would you pick if you had to make a choice between the two? Talk about it in this thread in our ColtPower Insiders Forum for our members.
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