New Colts’ offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars will earn his paycheck this season.

Should any of Peyton Manning's starting offensive linemen go down this season things could get interesting - and not in a good way for the Colts.

Replacing long-time coach Howard Mudd, a magician at his craft, is a tall task.

Doing so with the hand he’s been dealt will be even tougher.

Behind the starting five, only one Colts’ offensive lineman has seen the field during a regular season NFL game – Mike Pollak.

Rookies Jacques McClendon and Jeff Linkenbach and second-year men Joe Reitz and Jaimie Thomas are all NFL virgins.

If the starting offensive line was healthy and thriving perhaps the contingency plan would an afterthought. But that hasn’t been the case for the Colts.

Center Jeff Saturday and left tackle Charlie Johnson missed the entire preseason due to health issues. Both might play in Week 1, but durability is a concern.

The Colts were in a similar situation entering the 2008 season.

Saturday and left guard Ryan Lilja were battling injuries heading into the opener. The Colts’ offensive line featured virtually no experience behind its starters.

They were beaten decisively by the Bears in Week 1 and nearly fell to the Vikings in Week 2. After missing the preseason due to his removed bursa sac (insert joke here) Peyton Manning was under intense pressure and the running game was beyond awful. The Colts eventually got things back on track but it was a rough start.

Team president Bill Polian is partially to blame for the Colts being in a similar position again.

After Polian curiously bashed the offensive line for its Super Bowl performance Lilja was released. The Colts signed free agents Adam Terry and Andy Alleman but neither made the team.

Then Tony Ugoh was cut loose just days before the season opener.

Three years ago Polian traded up to draft Ugoh in the second round. He spent much of his first two seasons as the team’s starting left tackle, but lost his job to Charlie Johnson in 2009.

Ugoh was given a chance to win the left guard job that was vacated by Lilja this offseason but was beat out by Jamey Richard – a seventh-round pick in 2008.

Given the current situation Polian might be wise to invest in hyperbaric chambers for his starting offensive line. If one of them gets hurt it could be a rocky ride.

Sure Manning has eyes in the back of his head and a lightning-fast release, but all it takes is a blown assignment and an awkward fall to flip the season upside-down.

Many have griped this offseason about the Colts taking a big risk with Curtis Painter as the backup quarterback.

That may be true, but they are taking a much bigger risk with the glaring lack of depth on the offensive line.

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