On August 2, a day after Ben Ijalana went down with a catastrophic knee injury for the second straight year, news broke that the Indianapolis Colts had waive-injured their second-year offensive lineman. I wasn't too surprised to hear of Ijalana's Indy demise, considering that he has largely been a disappointment since being drafted in 2011 and that the Colts sorely need to solidify their offensive line as they move into the first season of the Andrew Luck era. Indianapolis's next move, though, was a bit more unexpected, as general manager Ryan Grigson scoured the Arena Football League ranks to nab offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe from the San Antonio Talons. Nsekhe may look like a gimmick signing, but his presence may give us some hints about how the Colts' offensive line is shaping up as pre-season games loom.
Ijalana was the Colts' second-round pick in 2011, so, despite the fact that he missed much of his rookie season due to injury and didn't play particularly well when he was on the field, you know that coaches were probably counting on him to eventually claim a starting spot. The big question was whether he would be a guard or a tackle under the new regime, and he seemed to be battling newcomers Mike McGlynn (guard) and Winston Justice (tackle), along with holdovers Joe Reitz and Jeff Linkenbach, for reps. Within hours of his latest injury, he was cut and replaced by the behemoth Nsekhe, a behemoth at 6'8" and 325 pounds. If we assume a one-for-one swap in terms of Ijalana and Nsekhe, I have to think that Ijalana was on the fast track (or at least the medium track) for a tackle slot, because Nsekhe is very unlikely to slide over to guard. Since Anthony Costanzo in installed on the left side, Ijalana was the likely favorite at right tackle, meaning that Reitz and Linkenbach are likely vying for playing time at guard. McGlynn figures to get some love on the right side, since he has a history there and with Grigson. That leaves Reitz and Linkenbach.
Linkenbach seems to be one of those veterans that coaches like, and he has proven versatile so far in camp under offensive line coach Harold Goodwin. Add in the fact that Reitz has battled some nagging injuries this summer and is not a world-beater by any means, and the starting line may consist of Costanzo, Linkenbach, center Sampson Satele, McGlynn and Nsekhe come opening day. If Nsekhe seems like a longshot here, well, maybe he is, but the Colts have hardly been standard bearers on the line in recent years, and Nsekhe's bulk could do wonders in terms of buying some time for Luck to learn his craft.
If nothing else, Nsekhe would be a compelling story, an underdog to complement golden boy Luck.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.
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