The biggest offseason addition made by the Indianapolis Colts this year came in the first round of the NFL Draft, as the team selected Alabama center Ryan Kelly with the 18th overall pick.
The move was an incredibly important one for them to make because they need to keep franchise quarterback Andrew Luck upright. The center position is one that helps keep pressure from coming up the middle but also acts as a leader of sorts for the offensive line, needing to be on the same page with the quarterback he's snapping the ball to. The obvious model for this is Jeff Saturday and Peyton Manning, and Kelly and Luck are certainly drawing those comparisons. Saturday and Manning started 172 regular season games together, however, while Kelly and Luck have yet to make it one. So for the time being, the Colts' current duo is simply working on developing chemistry.
“I think certainly the quarterback and the center are two of the kind of commanders, how I put it, for the offense," Kelly said on Tuesday. "We’re kind of making checks based on what the defense shows. I think we certainly have to be on the same page at all times to put our offense in the best situation to be successful. The more we can click on and off the field I think it’s certainly going to make life a lot easier and we’ll be more successful on the field.”
Kelly has been receiving pretty much all of the first-team reps at center so far in OTAs, which makes sense. The Colts need him to acclimate quickly to the NFL level and develop a good working relationship with Luck. So far, so good.
“It’s been great," Kelly said. "I think certainly taking one day at a time through OTAs and obviously off-the-field as well whether it’s just eating or just talking about life and just kind of figuring out what makes him tick. It’s obviously been a growing relationship and we’re just looking forward to getting back on the field for three more days at minicamp and continuing that before we go to the real thing.”
The center said that coming from Alabama makes it a bit easier to adjust to the NFL level, and he's being thrown into the fire early on. He's been the team's number one center since the moment he was drafted, and it has given him plenty of opportunities to learn the ropes. One thing that has made his transition easier, however, has been observing Andrew Luck and learning from him.
“One of the smartest guys I’ve ever been around, obviously," Kelly explained. "He can connect with pretty much anybody. A very wide-topic kind of guy. It’s been good, it’s been really good. I’m just kind of developing and learning how to be a professional and obviously watching him every day certainly makes it a lot easier.”
While much of the attention this offseason may be focused elsewhere on the position battles, one of the most important aspects of the offseason will be the development of Ryan Kelly - as a player and as a teammate with Andrew Luck. The adjustment so far has been good, and the goal for both Kelly and for Luck is to keep it that way.