INDIANAPOLIS — With the month of July upon us, and training camp right around the corner, it's time for the Indianapolis Colts' Burning Questions series.
We continue today with the center position:
• What kind of impact can a fully-healthy Ryan Kelly make?
Lots of expectations were put on the shoulders of Ryan Kelly when he became the 18th-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and he would answer the call by starting all 16 games for the Colts as a rookie and, by most accounts, playing very well for a player of his age and experience.
But then the injury bug hit.
Kelly suffered a foot injury during training camp last year and required surgery, and wouldn't return until Week 5 of the regular season. He battled through a few other nicks and bruises before he suffered a concussion in November against the Tennessee Titans.
Kelly tried to work his way through the concussion protocol, but just never was able to clear the final hurdle, and the team eventually decided to shut him down with just a couple games left to better ensure a clean bill of health moving forward.
The symptoms eventually wore off early in the offseason, and Kelly is back to full health as he enters his third NFL season. If he can stay healthy, the expectation is he'll continue to be a solid, young anchor for an improving Colts offensive line, and he'll also be counted on to help lead the way for fellow first-round pick Quenton Nelson in his rookie season this year at left guard.
Those two, as well as another rookie guard in Braden Smith, could very well form an extremely talented and dominant offensive interior for years to come. The hope is Kelly has gotten a couple more major injuries out of the way and it'll be smooth sailing from here.
• Who's going to be the backup center?
The Colts were very fortunate to have an undrafted rookie, Deyshawn Bond, step in and be able to play in place of Kelly when he went down with his foot injury during training camp last year. In doing so, Bond became just the fifth undrafted rookie to start at center Week 1 in the NFL since 2001.
Bond played well through the first three games of the season, but very early in the Colts' Week 4 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, he suffered a season-ending quad injury.
From there, the Colts had to scramble a bit at the center position. They tried first-year player Adam Redmond for the rest of that Seahawks game, and then Kelly was able to come back by Week 5. But when Kelly suffered his concussion against the Titans a few weeks later, in came veteran free agent signing Mike Person, who would start four of the final five games, with rookie Anthony Fabiano getting a start in a blizzard Week 14 against the Buffalo Bills.
That's five names in at the center position in one season.
This year, it appears that by solidifying the offensive line as a whole, the backup options at center, accordingly, are much more set in stone, too.
Veteran free agent signee Matt Slauson likely enters training camp as the Colts' starting right guard, but he has a wealth of NFL starting experience playing center, too. Then, the Swiss Army Knife of the group, Joe Haeg, was seen working as the second-team center during offseason practices. While Haeg has been more of a guard and tackle during the first two years of his professional career, it's hard to find someone who can fill in at literally all five offensive line positions and not skip a beat like Haeg could.
As for Bond, he continues working his way back from his quad injury, and wasn't seen working on the field during offseason practices. We'll hope to get a better update on his status when the team reports to camp July 25.
Other names to look for at the position who could take snaps during the preseason: Tyreek Burwell and Mark Glowinski.