This is the latest article in my "What To Expect" series. With all of the versatility in offensive linemen, I have split up the Colts' linemen in three overlapping categories.
Players with ability to play center: Jeff Saturday, Mike Pollack, Jamey Richard, Steve Justice, and Kyle DeVan.
Players with ability to play guard: Ryan Lilja, Mike Pollack, Charlie Johnson, Jamey Richard, Dan Federkeil, Steve Justice, Corey Hilliard, Jamie Thomas, Cornelius Lewis, Kyle DeVan, Brandon Barnes, and Tom Pestock.
Players with ability to play tackle: Ryan Diem, Tony Ugoh, Charlie Johnson, Dan Federkeil, Corey Hilliard, Jamie Thomas, and Cornelius Lewis.
Tony Ugoh will start at left tackle in his third season as a Colt. Ugoh struggled last season after having a great rookie season. Ugoh will never be as good as his predecessor, Tarik Glenn, but he might be considered a better run blocker.
In fact, if Glenn had not retired, Ugoh would probably be the Colts' right guard, and all of the centers that the Colts drafted last offseason would not have been drafted.
Ryan Diem will once again be the Colts starting right tackle. Diem has done much more than was expected of him ever since he entered Indianapolis, helping the Colts of the 2000's have one of the best lines in NFL history. Diem is a better pass blocker than Ugoh and has less holding calls than him.
Jeff Saturday re-signed this offseason, even after reports said that he would sign elsewhere. Saturday makes all of the Colts line calls and he has been Manning's body guard since Manning was just an average player.
The Colts probably would have not been that bad off if Saturday would have signed elsewhere, Jamey Richard looks like a potential star.
Jamey Richard will probably be the heir to the Colts starting center job when Jeff Saturday retires. Richard started bad last season in the Hall of Fame game, but he showed much improvement and toughness down the stretch.
Ryan Lilja got injured last season after the Colts chose to re-sign him over Jake Scott. Some reports were saying that the Colts were going to release Lilja, but he managed to make it through the draft.
Lilja was replaced by Charlie Johnson last season. Johnson was moved to guard after the Colts decided he was a liability as an offensive tackle.
Mike Pollack should start right away at guard. Pollack was the Colts first draft choice last season, and he showed some promise. He needs to stay healthy if Manning wants to have any stability this season.
Pollack might receive competition from Dan Federkeil, Charlie Johnson, and Jamey Richard, but I expect Pollack to be handed the job.
Charlie Johnson and Dan Federkeil have done enough to keep roster spots even when the Colts drafted three centers, that says a lot. Federkeil is one of the little Canadian population in the NFL and started week one at guard for the Colts.
Both Federkeil and Johnson can play both guard and tackle.
Steve Justice had a bad season. He let Jamey Richard leap frog over him in the depth chart, and he could not stay healthy. If he continues to struggle, the Colts might consider releasing him before the season starts. Even if he makes the final cut, he needs to show more to make the cut in 2010.
Corey Hilliard will have to defend his job with every ounce of energy he has. Jamie Thomas and Cornelius Lewis will be looking to make the roster over him. Hilliard can play guard, but he is most natural at tackle.
Thomas and Lewis have potential, and are good run blockers, but they will have to fight hard to make the roster. They are prime candidates for the practice squad.
Tom Pestock, Brandon Barnes, and Kyle DeVan will not make the roster but have a chance to land on someone's practice squad.