Super Bowl XLIV Preview: Colts O-Line


Position Starter Backup
LT Charlie Johnson Tony Ugoh
LG Ryan Lilja Jamey Richard
C Jeff Saturday Kyle DeVan
RG Kyle DeVan Mike Pollak
RT RyanDiem Michael Toudouze

Scouting Report

Charlie Johnson beat out long time starter Tony Ugoh to claim the starting right tackle spot this season. Johnson, who started at guard the last couple of seasons, has good size at 6-4 305 lbs. once he gets a hold of a defender, he’s hard to shed. Johnson has a good quick first burst off the ball, but has some trouble moving laterally. He will more often than not try to force a defender inside instead of allowing them to get outside of him.

Ryan Lilja is a bit undersized for a guard at 6-2 290, but is a smart blocker and uses his smarts to his advantage. Lilja is great at picking up and detecting stunts and twists at the line of scrimmage. However, he does struggle with his pad level and does not get a good push of the line of scrimmage, rather relying on using angles and holes to get to the next level in run protection.

Jeff Saturday has been the rock on the Colts’ offensive line since his first start in 2000. He is perhaps the premier center in the league. What he lacks in physical tools, he makes up for with his strength and smarts. Saturday is great at recognizing blitzes, twists and stunts, and using his body to cut off a blitzer’s angle to the quarterback. His strong hands are hard to shed once he gets a hold of a defender. Saturday has the strength to hold off and sustain a double team of defenders up the middle. He does have trouble against quicker, stouter guards and his physical skills have declined once he blocks in the open field.

The rise of Kyle DeVan is the stuff of legends. After spending training camp with the Redskins in 2008, he was on and off the Jets roster the rest of the season. In spring 2009, he played with the Boise Blaze in the Arena 2 League while working as a substitute teacher. He is quick and agile for a man his size.

Ryan Diem has been another rock on the offensive line for the Colts for the past eight years. Diem is another Colts linemen who depends on smarts over physical skill. At 6-6 and 290 lbs, he is more of a finesse blocker and uses his large body to simply get in the way of rushers. He struggles with counter moves, as he tends to lunge instead of keeping his feet moving. He does have decent foot speed and lateral quickness for a tackle his size.

This is perhaps the best pass protecting line the Saints have faced all year, having given up just 10 sacks on the season. However, the line has struggled in run blocking, as the Colts are the worst rushing team in the league statistically.

The play action pass is the staple of the Colts offense and the Colts’ offensive line sells the play action as well. For example, Ryan Lilja will pull and take on a tackle while Charlie Johnson will take on the guard. When Lilja pulls, opposing LB see that and think rush, drawing them into the line and away from coverage. That split second is sometimes all Peyton Manning needs to find Dallas Clark in the seams.

Expect the Saints to send multiple fronts to defend the Colts’ offense. The Saints rely on a base 4-3 defense, but have used a 3-4 defense the last couple of weeks to get to Kurt Warner and Brett Farve. Don’t be surprised if Gregg Williams decides to mix in a 3-2-6 or a 4-1-6 against the Colts front in order to put quicker players on the field to get to Manning.

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