We've talked about the center position a lot here on Stampede Blue, but it seems like we missed a guy who could play a role in the competition there: guard Donald Thomas.
Yes, folks, that's right - don't rule out Donald Thomas at the center position, because Colts general manager Ryan Grigson sure hasn't. In his pre-draft press conference today, Grigson was asked which position the Colts feel better about at the moment: center or safety. Here's what Grigson said:
"Both of them are still a work in progress, it's an evolving situation. We have talented players - actually, we have three snappers currently on our roster, with, I don't konw if you guys even realize but Donald Thomas has played snaps, albeit in the preseason, but he's played snaps at center. And if you go through most rosters and depth charts, you usually will have your starting center - your more true center so to speak - and then you'll have usually a guard that can snap or a guy thats a guard first that can also snap and play at a winning level as your second center. Like i said, we have three snappers right now, we'll keep our options open, and like all position groups, no matter who you are or where you came from, I think we've been pretty consistent in that the best players play and whoever is going to start for this team in 2014 has got to produce and play at a winning level week in and week out, period."
So, if you missed it, Ryan Grigson brought up Donald Thomas, unprompted, as an option at center, along with Khaled Holmes and Thomas Austin (the three snappers he referred to). Grigson did later note that the Colts used a fourth round pick on Holmes last year for a reason and that the Colts "obviously have plans for him," but he also noted that they're not just going to hand the starting spot to him but rather that he will have to compete and earn it. He said that, "we'll keep our options open" and that the Colts are "always trying to improve" at all positions, including center, and so therefore not to rule anything out. Grigson said that, "if someone out there has a chance to make us better, we'll explore that." Grigson was also asked about how last year he stated that he'd rather play a rookie defensive back than a rookie offensive lineman and he said that "it all depends on your situation" but that he would still lean that way because, with the offensive line, "it's still a harder learning curve, definitely."
Grigson offered a lot of comments about the offensive line and center position, but most of it was stuff that we've heard before just with different wording. The part about Donald Thomas, however, was new. And that's a very interesting note that Grigson brought up.
Now, before I say any more, I want to clarify that I still see it as unlikely that Donald Thomas will be starting at center in 2014. I think he will be starting at left guard and that Khaled Holmes will be starting at center - regardless of what happens in the draft. Thomas was a free agent signing by Grigson last offseason and started the first two games at left guard for the Colts, playing very well, but early in the second game he tore both his biceps and his quad and was lost for the year - the quad injury one that he's still recovering from. Grigson noted that he played some center in the preseason and is capable of playing there. And before you freak out about the Colts potentially moving a guard to center, consider another case where they did the same thing:
So if the Colts move Donald Thomas to center, it would mirror move of Jeff Saturday from OG to center. Saturday replaced Larry Moore.— Tom James (@TribStarTJames) May 1, 2014
Yes, folks, as Tom James so brilliantly pointed out, Jeff Saturday was originally signed by the Colts as a guard before being moved to center. So moving a guard to center wouldn't be unprecedented for the team. The big question, then, is whether Donald Thomas will be the next Jeff Saturday or the next Mike McGlynn (and no, I'm not talking about whether he'll be a good player or a bad player). Saturday played guard and then switched to center. McGlynn played guard but served as the backup center and, when an injury to the starting center occurred, McGlynn switched over.
I think Donald Thomas will be more like Mike McGlynn than Jeff Saturday in the fact that I expect him to be the starting left guard still next year, but especially after Ryan Grigson's comments today, don't rule him out as someone to switch over if Holmes gets injured or plays terribly. And regardless of who the Colts enter camp with at center, there's a chance that Donald Thomas will still be in the mix.
ANOTHER CENTER NOTE:
According to Aaron Wilson, the Colts brought former Broncos center Steve Vallos in for a tryout, though he left without a deal:
The Colts tried out center Steve Vallos. He wasn't immediately signed to a contract— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) May 1, 2014