INDIANAPOLIS —For a good chunk of the 2017 season, the center position turned into a rotating cast of characters for the Indianapolis Colts.
When starter Ryan Kelly went down with a foot injury during training camp, Deyshawn Bond, an undrafted rookie, stepped in and played well — until he suffered a season-ending quad injury on the team's first drive of its Week 4 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. Adam Redmond, who spent much of his rookie season in 2016 on the Colts' practice squad, had to fill in for the rest of that game in a loud, primetime environment at CenturyLink Field.
Kelly was able to return to the lineup the following week, but continued to experience some nagging injuries and nicks and bruises over the next seven games before suffering a concussion Week 12 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite returning to the practice field a couple weeks later, Kelly would never receive the clearance needed from an independent league neurologist to get back into game action, and he was placed on IR, officially ending his season, on Dec. 18.
Fortunately for the Colts, a seven-year veteran, Mike Person, was available to sign as a backup option on Oct. 3 after his release by the Kansas City Chiefs one month prior. Person stepped right in when Kelly went down, and, for the most part, it was as if he had been working with the Indy offensive line the entire season.
In fact, in his first start of the season Week 13 against the Jaguars – who featured perhaps the best defensive front of any team in football in 2017 — Person earned a grade of 88 on the day from Pro Football Focus, which placed him on its "Team of the Week" after their analysis determined he had allowed zero quarterback pressures on 41 total passing snaps.
"Making his first start of the season for the Indianapolis Colts at center, Mike Person had a fantastic game," PFF’s Sam Monson wrote. "He didn't allow a single pressure against what has been a wrecking ball of pressure in the shape of the Jacksonville defensive front, and he also got the better of them in the run game where he earned a solid grade. The only black mark against him was being flagged for being down field on a pass play, but the screen was delayed so even that negative wasn't Person's fault."
While Person was injured in that game and another first-year center, Anthony Fabiano, started the following week in a blizzard against the Buffalo Bills, Person was able to return to the starting lineup the following week and played solid for the final three games of the season.
With Kelly back for his third year in 2018, the Colts won't be looking for a starter at the center position moving forward, but Person, who enters the offseason an unrestricted free agent to-be, certainly did himself a favor with the way he performed in relief duty in 2017, and could very well be an option to bring back to Indy as a backup once again.
Guard Jack Mewhort, who had commonly worked in some center snaps at the beginning of practices as an emergency option at the position, is also an unrestricted free agent once the new league year begins at 4 p.m. March 14, though Bond and Fabiano could also be brought back to compete for a backup spot at center this offseason.2018 Colts Free Agent Watch:* *
- Wide receiver Kamar Aiken
- Inside linebacker Jon Bostic
- Safety Darius Butler
- Cornerback Pierre Desir
- Running back Frank Gore
- Cornerback Rashaan Melvin
- Guard Jack Mewhort
- Running back Christine Michael
- Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo
- Wide receiver Donte Moncrief
- Center Mike Person
- Quarterback Scott Tolzien
- Kicker Adam Vinatieri
- Tight end Brandon Williams