FINDING A BLEND

Preseason is a time for roster evaluation and experimentation across the board. It is a time to try personnel groupings before the regular season. The club is doing such with the offensive line because now is the time to experiment possibilities.

INDIANAPOLIS – How the club lines up across the board on the offensive line this Friday night against Green Bay remains to be seen.

What is for certain is that preseason is the time to evaluate personnel and experiment to a greater degree than would be done once the regular season hits.

What is certain also, is that head coach Jim Caldwell will not tip his hand prior to the club's game Friday evening at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"I can't tell you until the next couple of days or so with exactly what lineup we are going to go with," said Caldwell.  "That all depends on how guys come through practice, and where we are…So we'll see come game time, things could change come game time.  It would be tough for me to tell you today what that line's going to look like or any other position that we have until maybe we get to what we would anticipate to be a Saturday of game week, which is Thursday. Oftentimes even then it's still two hours before the game and things change." 

One possible notable change for the Green Bay game, the preseason the game club is targeting with a regular season-like approach, is that veteran Ryan Diem could see some time at right guard.  Diem, an 11th-year pro, has opened 139 of 146 career games with Indianapolis but after opening 23 of 30 games at right guard in 2001 and 2002, he has seen starting action exclusively at right tackle since then.

Again, preseason is a time to try things a bit from the norm.  This may be something for Diem this Friday.  He worked previously at the spot in camp, but did not see action at guard last Friday when the team hosted Washington.
"There is obviously a good chance that that's where (Ryan Diem) is going to lineup as a starter," Caldwell said this week.  "That is where we worked him some last week.  He didn't play there in the game.  We just didn't quite think he was ready for it.  He hadn't had a whole lot of reps there, but this week is different.  But our intent is to maybe get him a little bit more time at that position."

In the preseason opener at St. Louis on August 13, Diem started at right tackle, with Mike Pollak at right guard, Jeff Saturday at center, Joe Reitz at left guard and Jeff Linkenbach at left tackle.  Against Washington, Anthony Castonzo opened at left tackle and the others started in the same position for a second straight game. 

As linemen know how to adapt to changes, Diem may be in that mode this week.

"I think we're trying to figure out what that group is right now, so it's going to involve me taking a few snaps at guard and seeing how that goes and seeing what our best group is," said Diem. 

The club has been merging newcomers along the line during camp.  In addition to Castonzo, second-round pick Ben Ijalana is being indoctrinated.  Reitz, who spent most of last season on the club's practice squad, is a potential new performer as well.  Linkenbach was a rookie free agent in 2010 who started four of 16 games.  He started one of four appearances at left tackle, and he started all three appearances at right guard.  The remaining action for Linkenbach last year was on special teams. 

One constant in the NFL is change.

"It's a different group, I think it's a group that we need to get out there and practice some more together and gel a little bit," said Diem.  "There are a couple guys that don't really have a whole lot of game experience out there.  So anything we can do in practice and the preseason right now is big, and it will help.  It's (the Green Bay game) a big opportunity for us to come together as a unit and see how we're going to fit together with these five players.  We're approaching this week like it's a regular season game, full preparation, meetings, (offensive) install, film study, everything.  It's a big week for us."

Caldwell is using the time remaining prior to the season to find the best working group.

"We try to settle in a little bit, obviously," he said.  "We're working towards a goal of having a unit in there that's going to work in together for a period of time and get a good sense for one another.

"With (Jeff) Linkenbach and Joe (Reitz), those guys have been around.  So they've had a good sense of the system for a while, so they were a little bit ahead of the young guys, the guys who are just fresh on the scene more or less.  They all seem to be making real good progress. (They are) smart guys, that's the great thing, and is one of the things I think is important about that position.  You have to have guys that are cerebral and able to adjust.  Patience and aggression down there in the trenches is extremely important, but the intelligence portion of it is also important because things happen so quickly.  I think all those young guys are making progress."

As for Diem possibly playing at guard, he stated this week, "I'm excited.  It's something I haven't done in a while.  We're still trying to come up with the best combination, so that's going to involve me taking a few snaps at guard and seeing how that goes and what our best group is."

As for the younger players and the questions they have for established veterans, Diem sees a pattern.

"It's more of an 'assignment' thing," he said.  "I think guys are figuring out the technique and the assignments.  It's coming together.  They're asking us for help the best they can.  We're trying to guide them along and get us on the same page because the O-line all works together.  If all five of us aren't on the same page, it's not going to be pretty."

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