INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts offense has been without center Ryan Kelly for the last three weeks due to a left knee injury. According to Pro Football Focus, the unit is missing one of the league's very best offensive linemen.
Out of 160 starting offensive linemen in the league, Kelly comes in ranked at No. 25 according to the football evaluation and grading website:
"Kelly had a rocky start to his career after being selected in the first round back in 2016. He's now one of the biggest reasons for the Colts offensive line turnaround. Kelly hasn't allowed a single sack or hit since Week 3."
Boasting a grade of 74.0, Kelly if PFF's seventh-ranked center in the NFL. In 10 games, Kelly has surrendered just one sack and seven total pressures otherwise. He has also been dinged for just three penalties.
It's easy to identify linemen as being good blockers or pass protectors, but Kelly is phenomenal before the snap whether it's barking out assignments to his linemates or identifying the MIKE linebacker.
"Yeah, Ryan was excellent," Colts head coach Frank Reich said about Kelly earlier this season when asked about his ability to make calls on the line. "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."
With Kelly leading the Colts' offensive line, they have seen heights we haven't seen from the group in years. For instance, quarterback Andrew Luck went without being sacked from the first drive of Week 5 all the way until the third quarter of Week 12 — a total of 239 dropbacks without going down, the third-longest such streak in NFL history.
"Ryan Kelly is probably the most underrated offensive lineman in the NFL," Luck told reporters after the Colts' Week 8 victory over the Oakland Raiders in which the team rushed for a season-high 222 yards.
With Kelly on the mend, the Colts have been on the receiving end of some sacks again — six in these last three games.
The run game has also taken a slight hit. With Kelly on the field in Weeks 1-11, the Colts averaged 112.4 yards per game on the ground, but average just 69.7 since without him.
Part of this is Kelly being out of the lineup, but another big part is that the Colts have faced some tough defenses. While Kelly's replacement, Evan Boehm, has done a nice job in Kelly's absence — PFF also ranks him as the NFL's seventh-best center in the last three weeks — Kelly's presence is invaluable to the Colts offense and their line.
PFF may have Kelly ranked in the top 25 and the No. 7 center, but his position coach, Dave DeGuglielmo, sees it differently.
"I've coached Pro Bowl centers. I've been around Nick Mangold, (Mike) Pouncey. He's the most complete center I've ever coached," DeGuglielmo said. "I have no doubt he is the best center in the National Football League. Turn the tape on, find me one better."
The next step for Kelly before he can hit the playing field is to begin practicing again, which he has yet to do since going down with the knee injury in Week 11. The Colts begin practicing again for Week 15 on Wednesday. We'll see if Kelly makes an appearance this week or if Reich has any updates on his status.