Friday, January 25, 2013

Colts 2013 free agents: Winston Justice

Winston Justice has largely been the unwilling recipient of the problems associated with other people's flawed perceptions. A huge man (6061/319) with the wingspan of a California condor and the feet of a dancer, fans, scouts and coaches expected him to step in and be a cornerstone NFL left tackle after a standout career at USC. He was drafted by the Eagles in the second round of the 2006 draft. They, like many teams, considered him in the first.

But it didn't work out that way. Manhandled by Osi Umeniyora in his first game, Justice earned the ire of Philadelphia's quick-to-judge, slow-to-forget fans, and even some teammates. But the fact was that Justice just wasn't ready for the NFL as quickly as he and his coaches thought he would be.

As time went on, Justice started at right tackle and acquitted himself well. Even Umeniyora later praised him as a player. But injuries and the resentment of Eagles fans who didn't think such a lofty draft pick and salary were deserved by a mere "right tackle," basically chased him out of town.

The Eagles traded him and their 2013 sixth rounder to the Colts for their 2013 sixth rounder. Nobody would have guessed it at the time, but the Colts had a much better season than the Eagles, so they actually moved up 20 spots in the sixth round to take Justice. Another master stroke by Colts GM Ryan Grigson, one of the people who help decide to draft Justice in Philadelphia.

Justice rewarded Grigson's faith with some good, if not excellent, play. A much better pass blocker than run blocker, Justice allowed on three sacks and six hits. He did give up 26 hurries (which is disproportionally high compared to the number of sacks he gave up), but the eye-ball test indicates that some of those hurries would have hits or even sacks had Justice not been so dogged in his second and third efforts.

On the minus side, he was no better than adequate as a run blocker, and was not immune to penalties.

Even more troubling was that injuries caught up with him again, this time it was concussions and a shoulder injury in the heat of the playoff race. But if the play of first young veteran Jeff Linkenbach and then street free agent Brad Sowell in his place is any indication of Justice's worth, he deserves MVP consideration.

Will other teams bid for him?: Maybe, talented tackles are rare. But Justice has a reputation not just for being injury-prone, but also not all that tough.

Chances he'll be back: Good, if he's healthy. Aside from left tackle Anthony Castonzo, Justice is the most talented offensive lineman the Colts have (and he was arguably more consistent until he was injured). If his head and shoulder check out, Justice could easily start at right tackle again, or serve as a swing backup.

1 comment:

bronzegod said...

Jerry, whats your opinion on the Colts fillings their needs in FA vs Draft? Of course they'll use both but I'm thinking they should use FA's mostly for the Oline, SS, OLB & WR, as you sld go for proven players there. I think needs are all OL (maybe move RT?); DE; SS; big WR; CB; OLB (replace DFree); & a speed w/size RB; Whatever u can't do in FA, fill with the draft. What's ur take?