Colts Offensive Tackle Ryan Diem Looks to Improve on Best Season
INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Diem has experience, perspective and a few goals for the coming season.
He also has his own definition of success.
Diem, the Colts' starting right tackle, is entering his ninth NFL season, and the way he figures it, success this season will come down to pretty much two factors:
• Improving individually from last season.
• Improving as an offensive line.
"My goal is to carry over from last year and improve on that," Diem said during the Colts' recent offseason conditioning program. "I think, personally, last year was probably my best season. I was able to stay healthy and start all 16 games, and play the whole year. In my eyes, it was my best season, so I just want to carry on to the next year and improve.
"If that leads elsewhere, to more recognition, that'd be great, but if not, I'm going to keep working, and keep doing my thing."
Diem, a fourth-round selection by the Colts in the 2001 NFL Draft, has been doing his thing for the Colts for nearly a decade, moving into a starting role late in his rookie season and moving to his position of right tackle in 2003.
He has been a starter since, anchoring the right side of some of the NFL's best lines during that span and last season, he started every game for the first time since 2004.
"It's hard to do," Diem said. "Guys like (center) Jeff (Saturday) and former Colts left tackle (Tarik) Glenn who have done that, it's just impressive, because in this league, injuries happen. There's nothing you can do about it. Injuries happen.
"You have to be fortunate to get through 16 games. Go back to the preseason and it's 20 games, and to be able to play in all of those and be healthy is a blessing."
Diem's durability last season was particularly imant, because of the Colts' offensive linemen, only Diem was able to start all 16 games at one position. Charlie Johnson started 16 games, 12 at guard and four at tackle, and no one else started 16.
"He didn't miss a beat," said Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell, who said earlier this offseason Diem may have had his best season a year ago. "He didn't have those situations where he was out a week and in a week, so he was able to kind of continue to stay within his stride."
Saturday, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, missed four games with two injuries, and projected starting guard Ryan Lilja missed the entire season with a knee injury. Left tackle Tony Ugoh missed four starts.
"It was weird last year for sure," Diem said. "We had some young guys filling in real early. Jeff missed the first couple of games. You had Ugoh getting injured now and again, and Charlie moving around quite a bit. Charlie did all 16 games, but not in the same position. (Dan) Federkeil was in there a couple of times at right guard, then (rookie guard Mike) Pollak took over and did his thing. We had a lot of shuffling around."
Caldwell said recently that one advantage of last season's injuries on the offensive line was the experience gained by Pollak and rookie Jamey Richard, who started seven games at center and guard.
"It's one of those shuffling things, and you hear it over and over, but our group has to be ready," Diem said. "At any position, the backups have to be ready at a moment's notice.
"It's not always pretty right away, but we get it to where it works, then we work on small things and polish them and by the end of the year, we're feeling a lot better about ourselves."
The Colts' rushing offense and offensive line have been a focus this offseason among coaches and players. After ranking no worse than 19th in the NFL in rushing in eight of nine seasons, the Colts finished this past season 31st of 32 teams, rushing for an average of 79.6 yards per game.
Saturday has said the members of the line were embarrassed by the performance, and Diem said, "As a group, it definitely needed to be better."
"We were real inconsistent in the run game," he said. "It just wasn't good enough. That's where we hang our hats. The run game is very representative of the offensive line play. When you're averaging whatever we averaged – 3.0-something (per carry) – that's not good enough. It's definitely something we want to improve on this year.
"I put no blame on the running backs whatsoever, because if they don't have anywhere to go, it's not their fault. It's something we definitely need to fine-tune and get working a lot better, because it just opens up the rest of the offense.
"I think now we have a group that has more experience. You take our three young guys (Pollak, Richard and guard/center Steve Justice) and they all have a couple of games under their belt. They have a better grasp of the offense. Hopefully, we have Ryan Lilja back. Me and Jeff are still here and Tony's got another year. Charlie's coming along great. I think he played fantastic last year and we look to good things this year."