Colts Offensive Line Analysis: Part Two

Scout.com's Ed Thompson continues his analysis of the Indianapolis Colts offensive line. In Part Two, the focus is on run-blocking, penalties, and some summary thoughts on what it all means for the Colts now and during the upcoming offseason.

If you missed Part One of this feature, click here to read it.

Rushing

When you look at the rushing success overall of the two running backs, Joseph Addai and Kenton Keith, there is little to complain about in regards to the offensive line. But when you look at the numbers closely, two things become apparent.

Both backs are having consistent success up the middle and to the left side of the line, averaging at least four yards per carry in those directions. Keith maintains that minimum when running inside right between Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem's left shoulder. But when he tries to go wide right, he gets his worst results. Addai doesn't share Keith's problems getting outside to the right, instead, his worst production has been to right side of the line where he's been counting on Diem and Scott or Gandy and Scott to pave his way. Addai averages just 3.6 yards per carry running to that area. Keith is averaging 4.2 yards when running to that area of the field, but out of the five zones, it's his second-least productive area of the field.  

No matter how you look at it, the running back's results are indicating that Saturday and the players to his left are helping to provide consistently good opportunities, while the right guard and tackle spots are currently contributing to the least productive rushing results.

And the running game could be better for a team with championship aspirations. There are currently 39 running backs in the league who have 99 rushes (Keith's current total) or more. Out of that group, based on average yards per rush, Keith ranks 14th with 4.44 yards per carry while Addai is 16th with 4.34 per carry — slightly below the players in the top third. So Scott and Diem's contribution to pulling down both back's production can't be overlooked.

Penalties

Another factor that can help or hurt an offense's production is penalties — especially at critical moments in the game. 

This is another area where Diem is faltering. He's already been flagged for five false starts and two holding incidents in 10 games. At the end of last year, he had four false starts and one holding penalty. 

Jake Scott already has three false starts and one holding call this year. In his three previous seasons, he was flagged for eight false starts and four times for holding. So he has to be perfect the rest of the way to avoid being penalized more frequently than his average number per season.

Ryan Lilja has been called for one false start and one holding penalty so far after drawing just one flag (for a false start) during the previous three seasons. 

In six starts, rookie Tony Ugoh was called for just one false start. His replacement, Charlie Johnson, has also been called for just one false start in five starts. Last year, Johnson was called for two false starts and one holding penalty. 

Center Jeff Saturday is continuing his nearly perfect play in this area by being called for just one holding call this year. Over his nine-year career, he's been flagged just three times for false starts and six times for holding. If he finishes the last five games without another penalty, he will have drawn an average of just one penalty a year over nearly a decade of play.

It's also worth noting that third-year reserve guard Dylan Gandy hasn't drawn a flag for a false start during his NFL career. And he's been called just once for holding, during his rookie season. Over the past two seasons during 12 starts and 20 game appearances, he hasn't cost his team a single yard in penalties.

Michael Toudouze, Corey Hilliard and Daniel Federkeil have all avoided penalty calls during spot-duty this season.

What it all means...


Ryan Lilja ready to protect Peyton Manning.
AP Photo/Tom Strattman

In an earlier feature comparing Ryan Lilja and Jake Scott — two players who will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the year — I stated that if the Colts could keep just one of the two, I'd stick with Scott over Lilja, even though I think both are talented players. One of the factors in that analysis was that Lilja was severely hampered last year by a knee injury and was still taking some practice time off this year, apparently to reduce the stress on that knee.

But after looking at a much more complete picture of the two, I'm not so certain that the Colts wouldn't be better off with a Lilja-Gandy tandem at guard next season if one of the two current starters has to go. 

That may all be a moot point though if the bidding for Lilja gets too high, and as I stated in that previous feature, Kansas City is expected to make a major push for Lilja during the offseason. And in addition to the money, the location would be attractive to Lilja, who still lives in Kansas.

But the bottom line is that both Scott and Ryan Diem don't appear to be playing at the same level as the left side of the line. Whether you look at sacks allowed, rushing production in their area or penalties. Scott's allowed the most sacks, at almost double the rate of the three players tied for second place in that category. He's second in penalties and shares responsibility with Diem on the right side for lackluster run production in their area compared to the left side. Scott should get some credit though for contributing to solid results in the middle along with Jeff Saturday. So Diem is more likely the weakest link in run-blocking at this point on the right side. And Diem leads the team in penalties and is tied for second in sacks allowed.

After watching Charlie Johnson in his games last year at right tackle, and considering both Diem's performance and second consecutive season with multiple injury problems — that have included his ankle, neck, shoulder, groin, upper arm, calf and abdomen — it wouldn't be surprising to see Johnson take over the starter's role after this season at right tackle. I'll cover the salary cap implications, which are very interesting and actually support making this move at the end of the year, in an Insiders feature next week.

And if the bidding for Jake Scott during the offseason escalate beyond what's reasonable based on his current performance, you could see two new starters on the right side of the Colts line in 2008.

Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and are syndicated through FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.

Statistics referenced in this article are provided by STATS, LLC. Copyright 2007 by STATS, LLC. Any use or distribution of such Licensed Materials without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited. 



Colts Blitz Top Stories