INDIANAPOLIS — With the month of July — and the start of training camp — upon us, it’s time for the Indianapolis Colts’ Burning Questions series.
We continue today with the center position:
» Can Ryan Kelly earn his first Pro Bowl nod?
Ryan Kelly made a big jump to being considered one of the better centers in the entire National Football League in 2018, and was rewarded by being selected as a Pro Bowl alternate for the first time in his career. In the end, the Pouncey brothers, Maurkice (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Mike (Los Angeles Chargers) ended up playing for the AFC squad, however. But Kelly is clearly on the up-and-up, so can 2019 be the year he earns his first-career Pro Bowl selection? Kelly, who has allowed just one sack on 1,481 pass-blocking snaps in his three-year career, according to Pro Football Focus, hopes to earn that distinction by staying healthy all 16 games this season. After playing in every game his rookie year, Kelly has missed a combined 13 games the last two seasons with various injuries, including four games last year. If Kelly does earn a trip to the Pro Bowl, he’ll be the first Colts center to earn that honor since Jeff Saturday back in 2010.
» Who wins the backup job at center?
From Deyshawn Bond and Mike Person in 2017 to Evan Boehm last season, the Colts have seen some quality play from their backups at the center position when Kelly has had to miss some time. And entering the 2019 season, the team will continue to have solid options ready to go at center if needed. Boehm, a restricted free agent this offseason, signed his tender to return to the team this year; he started four games in Kelly’s place last year and made sure the offensive line didn’t miss a beat with him on the field, allowing just two quarterback hits and three hurries, according to PFF. Then there’s Josh Andrews, who, like Boehm, also has experience playing guard, but should get plenty of opportunities to show his stuff at center during training camp and the preseason. Finally there’s Joe Haeg, who added center duties to his expansive repertoire last year and performed well at that spot in 62 preseason snaps.
» How can Kelly anchor an improved running attack?
An offensive line position under the microscope for our “Burning Questions” series wouldn’t be complete without a look at how it can help the Colts improve their run game in 2019. Head coach Frank Reich, of course, has issued a challenge to his team that he wants to have a Top-5 rushing attack after finishing 20th in the NFL in rushing yards in 2018. Kelly will, of course, be a huge part of that, and he hopes to continue cashing in on the momentum created from Week 6 on last year, when he ranked fourth among 33 qualifying NFL centers with a 68.1 run-blocking grade from PFF. The Colts averaged 4.6 yards per carry when running the ball to Kelly’s immediate left and 4.4 yards per carry when running to his right last year, so there’s certainly a foundation to build off of in this area moving forward.