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The Colts Should Continue to Start A.Q. Shipley at Center

Khaled Holmes will likely be ready to return soon, but Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson thinks that the Colts should continue to start A.Q. Shipley at center anyway.


I don't think it's a huge stretch to say that the way the Colts' offensive line is playing right now could possibly be the best it has played in the Andrew Luck era.  Overall, they've given Andrew Luck plenty of time to throw and have looked much improved from a year ago in run blocking.

Especially for an offensive line, consistency and continuity are among the biggest factors.  I wrote about it in training camp and I'll echo it here: having the offensive line all play together and learn to play together will be a huge boost to the play of the line overall.  The Colts really haven't known that in the past few years, dealing with injuries and continual shuffling along the line.

This year, however, the Colts have maintained that consistency.  In all three games they have had the same starting five linemen - Anthony Castonzo (LT), Jack Mewhort (LG), A.Q. Shipley (C), Hugh Thornton (RG), and Gosder Cherilus (RT).  And actually, between the five of them only one player has missed a single snap - Hugh Thornton, who missed 8 snaps on Sunday due to a minor injury before returning.  The Colts have had 220 offensive snaps this season.  Between the five starting offensive linemen, that's 1,100 possible snaps.  Total, there have been only 8 snaps missed and all by one guy.  That's about as consistent as you can get, and it has helped a Colts line that has looked much improved.

As such, I think that the Colts need to continue to start A.Q. Shipley.  He has played well and maintains that continuity.

Ever since the beginning of the offseason, it has been Khaled Holmes' job as the Colts' starting center.  That's why all Ryan Grigson did to seriously address the center position was to sign Phil Costa, who soon after retired.  The Colts were confident in 2013's fourth round draft pick to step in and start, and they still are.  I think Holmes could be a good center, too.  But all we've actually really seen from him on the field were a few impressive preseason snaps.  That's it.  Because on the first preseason drive, Holmes went down with a high ankle sprain.  The hope all along from the Colts was that Holmes would be ready for the regular season opener, but it was always uncertain.

Jonotthan Harrison, an undrafted center out of Florida with potential, looked good in the preseason filling in as the starter.  But he really isn't a guy you want to start right now.  He looked good in the preseason, but he still has work to do.  When the rosters were cut down to 53-players and Holmes' status was still very much in the air, Ryan Grigson brought back a familiar face - A.Q. Shipley, who had recently been waived by the Baltimore Ravens during final cutdowns.  Grigson had traded Shipley away the previous offseason after a 2012 season in which Shipley was the team's best center.  He brought him back this year, and it looked likely that he would start just days after being signed by the Colts.

That's exactly how it worked out, and Shipley has started the first three games, playing well.  Holmes was a full participant in practice last week for the first time since his injury, so it seems like he's close to being ready to play.  And that means that the Colts will have a decision to make about their center position.

"That's a great question," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said today when asked who will start at center this Sunday versus the Titans.  "We'll obviously see where he's at Wednesday when we get back to practice from a health standpoint. Again, our guys have had success. We have over 500 yards yesterday and over 140 on the ground, 160-some the week before on the ground, pass protection has been good. The guys are playing well right now."

To me, Pagano's non-answer seems to give the answer as to what the Colts should do.  Pagano praised the offensive line for how they have played, and to shake things up now seems to be the wrong thing to do.  The Colts should play Shipley (who has played well overall) and most importantly maintain that continuity and consistency along the offensive line.  They know that they have Khaled Holmes that they can turn to if Shipley and the offensive line stop playing well, but for right now I think the answer is clear - the Colts should continue starting A.Q. Shipley at center, regardless of whether or not Khaled Holmes is ready to play.