INDIANAPOLIS — Eight weeks through the NFL regular season, many outlets are doling out midseason awards. In this instance, Indianapolis Colts center Ryan Kelly is on the receiving end of some national notoriety.
Around The NFL writer Chris Wesseling published his 2018 Midseason All-Pro Team on Thursday, and Kelly was selected as the top center in the league through eight games. Wesseling wrote:
“With their top running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive tackle in and out of the lineup due to injuries, the Colts have averaged nearly 35 points per game over the past five weeks. For the first time in the Andrew Luck era, they can boast a back-to-back 100-yard rusher to go with three consecutive games allowing zero sacks. As bizarre as it may sound, the strength of this team is the offensive line, led by Kelly.
“‘I've coached Pro Bowl centers. I've been around Nick Mangold, (Mike) Pouncey,’ offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo raved this week. ‘I've had some really good, athletic ones, strong ones, smart ones. He's the most complete center I've ever coached. I have no doubt he is the best center in the National Football League. He's the most complete guy. Turn the tape on, find me one better. Strength, athletic ability, intelligence, quickness.’”
If you do what Coach Guge says and turn on the tape, you do see a center having a rock solid season. There aren’t official stats for offensive linemen to back up the film, but Pro Football Focus seems to echo DeGuglielmo's sentiment to some extent.
According to their grades, Kelly is currently the No. 6 center in the NFL through eight weeks. He also ranks in the top half of the league in sacks (one), hits (two) and and total pressures (nine) allowed.
Kelly has also shown toughness and has been dependable to his teammates, popping up on the injury report at times throughout the season but playing through. He even left last week's game briefly with a hand injury before returning to finish out the game.
As Wesseling mentioned, the Colts' run game has been humming lately (189.7 yards per game since Week 6), and quarterback Andrew Luck hasn’t been sacked since the first series of the Week 5 game against the New England Patriots. As the leader and main communicator on the offensive line, that all starts up front in the middle with Kelly. Rookie guard Quenton Nelson even recently pointed out the accuracy of Kelly's pre-snap calls and identifiers.
Since arriving in Indianapolis as a rookie in 2016, Kelly has been a standout. He started all 16 games and received recognition as one of the league’s bright, young offensive linemen.
However, his second season was a bit rocky after suffering a foot injury in training camp that required surgery. He would miss the first four games of the season before returning, but his season was limited to just seven games after suffering a season-ending concussion, missing the final five games.
Kelly’s return to form in his third year has been critical to the development of the Colts’ offensive line, and he is living up the expectations brought upon being a center drafted in the first round.
“Yeah, Ryan (Kelly) was excellent,” Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters last week. “I think he’s been pretty good all year and really his leadership in that area and really in every area as far as the offensive line play has been good. But I think it keeps getting better every week.”