INDIANAPOLIS — With the month of July upon us, and the start of training camp now within sight, it's time for the Indianapolis Colts' Burning Questions series.
We continue today with the center position:
» Now considered one of the best at his position in the NFL, what's the next step for Ryan Kelly?
Kelly in 2019 was voted to his first Pro Bowl, becoming the first Colts center to be named to the league's annual all-star game since Jeff Saturday in 2010. He played in all 16 games last year, anchoring one of the league's top all-around offensive lines; the Colts ranked seventh in the league in rushing (133.1 yards per game) and their sack percentage (5.87) ranked tied for eighth. Kelly, according to Pro Football Focus, was the sixth-highest graded center in the league (73.0); his 74.6 run-blocking grade was fourth at the position, and he was only one of seven full-time centers to allow one or fewer sacks on the year. So now that Kelly has been recognized as one of the top players in his position in the NFL, what's next? If he can continue this pace, he'll be able to etch his name among a list of some all-time-great centers in Colts franchise history that includes Saturday (five Pro Bowl selections), Ray Donaldson (four), Dick Szymanski (four) and Bill Curry (two).
» Is Javon Patterson ready to take the backup center reins?
Taken in the seventh round (246th overall) by the Colts in the 2019 NFL Draft, Javon Patterson was expected to compete for the backup center job as a rookie last year when he suffered an ACL injury during offseason workouts, prematurely ending his first NFL season. After working his way back, and after Josh Andrews, the Colts' backup center the last two seasons, signed a free-agent deal with the New York Jets earlier this offseason, it appears Patterson could be in line to take that backup job and run with it with a strong training camp and preseason. The 6-foot-3, 307-pound Patterson played in 48 games (42 starts) at Mississippi and was primarily a left guard, where he made 37 starts, but he also made three starts at center and two at right guard. That's the kind of position flexibility the Colts and offensive line coach Chris Strausser like up front.
» Who else along the offensive line will be getting center reps during training camp and the preseason?
The Colts headed into training camp last year with Kelly, Andrews, Evan Boehm and Joe Haeg all more than capable of taking reps at center. While Boehm was traded to the Miami Dolphins just before the start of the regular season, Indy had a solid, and experienced, group at center throughout 2019 in Kelly, Andrews and, in an emergency, Haeg. But those spots are now wide open heading into this year's training camp, especially after Haeg signed a free-agent deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this offseason. There's the aforementioned Kelly and Patterson who will be snapping to the quarterbacks, but who else might add those responsibilities to their plate? We know Danny Pinter, the Colts' fifth-round pick out of Ball State in this year's NFL Draft, was selected primarily as a guard after playing tackle the last two years of his college career, but he's also going to be tasked with learning the center position as he goes. Guard Jake Eldrenkamp is another candidate; he played 33 total snaps at center for the Colts in the preseason last year before spending much of the regular season on the practice squad. Starting right guard Mark Glowinski could also possibly be an emergency option at center, where he played a few snaps during the 2018 preseason.