Are The Arms Of Willie Colon Shrinking?

Willie Colon SteelersA little fun on a Friday I suppose or perhaps I have entirely too much time on my hands. A funny thing caught my eye this morning on a Post Gazette blog post by Gerry Dulac in which he emphatically states that if Steelers free agent offensive lineman Willie Colon is back with the team in 2011, he will not be moving to guard. Dulac claims that this misguided notion that several of us have had is rooted solely on the body type of Colon and as Dulac says, “specifically, that his short arms make it difficult for him to play tackle and make it more conducive to play guard, where you don’t have to reach for outside pass rushers.”

Now I have long read Dulac and certainly respect his opinion. He has access to several in the organization that us bloggers would dream to get 5 minutes of face time with. I still question his short arms statement that it makes it difficult for him to play tackle. Why? Colon really does not have short arms. Unless Colon\’s arms have shrunk from the 34 inches that Jim Wexell had him at back in 2006, which I suppose is possible or should I say plausible, I find that reasoning hard to swallow. Even Colon\’s agent stated back in August 2009, that despite his 6-3, 315 pounds size, Colon\’s got relatively long arms, great balance and good feet. Now I know agents will tend to stretch the truth, but surely they can\’t stretch a combine ruler. In fact the arm length that Colon has is the main reason he has been able to play all of these years at tackle for the Steelers.

If you look at the 2011 NFL Combine measurables from this past February, you will see that 34 inch arms are a little less than average for tackles, maybe by a 1/4 inch, but look at the 2011 guard class where Colon would be considered long armed. In fact his arms are a half inch longer than those of 2nd round draft pick Marcus Gilbert who measured in at the combine with 33 1/2 inch back scratchers. Colon in my opinion and many others has played well in his time at right tackle and he was easily the best lineman the Steelers had in 2009 and was rated by Pro Football Focus in the top 3 in the whole league.

Dulac states in the end though that the obvious reason why Colon will not be kicked inside is because he does not run well enough to play the guard position. Colon reportedly ran in the 5.34-5.36 range prior to the 2006 draft and I admit he surely is a tick slower 5 years later and coming off an Achilles injury, but I am willing to bet he could give Ramon Foster (5.57), Chris Kemoeatu (5.34) and Gilbert (5.46) a run for their money in the 40 still. Colon does not move with the grace of an antelope for sure, but neither does Foster who ended the 2010 season as the Steelers starting right guard. If indeed he is much less nimble with his footwork after suffering the injury last offseason, would it not make sense to put him in the phone booth at right guard? Sure the Steelers like to pull their guards, but they are not pulling one 60 plays a game and usually when they do, it is Kemoeatu that is doing the pulling. Did you see the times Foster pulled last year? It was pretty ugly in my opinion. Surely Colon would do no worse.

Dulac points out that Mike Tomlin never tips his hand as far as personnel moves go and I totally agree, but Tomlin also never ruled out the possibility back in March when asked about such move. He really could have nipped it in the bud there if it was so out-landish of an idea as Dulac suggest it is. Sure Gilbert and Keith Williams were drafted just last weekend and even though offensive line coach Sean Kugler said Saturday that Gilbert would be worked at all four spots on the line, Kevin Colbert announced on Sirius NFL Radio this week that they drafted Gilbert first and foremost to be a tackle. Short arms and all.

Assuming right tackle Flozell Adams indeed comes back next season like he says he intends to do if allowed to start and assuming left tackle Max Starks is fully recovered from his neck surgery, what do you do with a guy like Colon who has proven his worth should he return? What do you do if 2nd year lineman Chris Scott does not cut the mustard after being red-shirted his rookie season? What do you do if Williams does not progress as fast as you would like because of missed time due to the lockout? What if indeed Gilbert, as Colbert stated was drafted to be a tackle that can play guard in an emergency? I will tell you what I would do. I would kick Colon inside to guard and start him over Foster. Short arms, long arms or no arms.

Now in closing Dulac very well may be right on the money with his prediction on Colon. We do not even fully know if Colon will indeed return yet as we wait for the new rules of free agency, but hopefully he and others can clearly see where those of us that have suggested kicking Colon inside as an option are coming from. It is not as cockamamie of a suggestion as Dulac makes it seem that it is. Dulac says the Steelers will have cheerleaders on the sideline at Heinz Field before Colon sees time at guard. If we ever do have cheerleaders, I sure hope they do not have short arms, but I certainly hope they have big…

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