The Indianapolis Colts have been able to generate 200+ rushing yards per game in the last two games. The offensive line has certainly been a big part of getting things going on the ground. Fans knew the return of Anthony Castonzo would have a positive impact on the unit but contributions from rookies have also earned a great deal of attention.
After struggling with injury in 2017, center Ryan Kelly has been somewhat overlooked this season. Two high draft picks were used to address the offensive line and both have understandably warranted their share of the attention. Matt Slauson’s horrible back injury pushed free agent Mark Glowinski into action at right guard, causing fans to pause and take a look at what they’ve been getting out of an otherwise obscure signing.
Lost in this mix is Ryan Kelly who has been earning the praise of his offensive line coach and who is tasked with leading a line that that continues to show signs of improvement. We already looked at the role he played as a pass blocker but now turn our attention to his impact on inside run plays. The guards have been getting attention, but how much credit should Kelly receive for Indy’s high powered ground game?
Let’s take a look.
Kelly’s (#78) worst snap of the game sees him get blown up by Raiders nose tackle Johnathan Hankins (#90). He is off-balance from the moment he engages and is never able to recover. This allows Hankins to push his way into the backfield and directly into the running lane. This is a one-on-one loss on the goal line and will certainly be a play that Kelly hopes to avoid repeating in the future.
Here, Kelly gets a nice initial push and turns Hankins outside to give Marlon Mack (#25) a nice crease to the inside. Still, he is unable to maintain the block and Hankins comes off of it to hit Mack in the hole. If Kelly manages to maintain this block, Mack may have a chance to bounce this run for a much bigger gain.
If you were looking for additional opportunities or negatives for Kelly on inside runs in this game, you won’t find any. He drives the defender back immediately on this play and has him beat one-on-one. Right tackle Braden Smith (#72) teams up with right guard Mark Glowinski (#64) to ruin the 3-tech defensive tackle’s life and shoves him all the way over into Kelly’s man.
This dominance on the inside allows Nyheim Hines (#21) to run for a big gain up the middle.
Remember Johnathan Hankins? He was one of the most sought after defensive tackles in the NFL during 2017 NFL free agency. He ended up joining the Colts to help provide the beef Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 scheme required. He paired with Al Woods to make it difficult to run up the middle against Indianapolis a season ago. He weighs 325 pounds and is a very hard man to move... for most people.
Kelly draws Hankins one-on-one for this goal line carry and unlike the first clip in this series, he utterly dominates him. He drives him out of the hole, creates a nice lane for Marlon Mack and does a nice job of finishing the block, shoving Hankins well wide of the play.
This is a horrible holding call. Kelly is trying to get an inside seal on Hankins to provide a nice cut back lane for Hines. He does an excellent job of maintaining his balance in space and mirroring Hankins as he attempts to make a play. When Hankins plants to come back inside he loses his base and Kelly is there to exploit it. Ultimately, Hankins falls to the ground and the official throws up all over himself and the reputation of NFL referees.
Kelly is again tasked with taking Hankins one-on-one and maintains outside leverage to give Marlon Mack space to get outside. Granted, this isn’t a successful play but Kelly does his job and gives Mack a chance to take on edge defenders and linebackers.
If you ever wanted to know how strong Ryan Kelly is, I recommend coming back to this story and looking at this clip. He gets an incredible initial punch on Hankins on this play, bending the massive defensive tackle to his right and away from the hole. This initial punch made it nearly impossible for Hankins to have any impact on the play. Jordan Wilkins has a nice lane to run into, following Quenton Nelson (#56) to the second level.
Here, Kelly does a nice job of getting the initial seal on Hankins and knowing when to release to the second level to help Nyheim Hines break off a bigger run. The edge defender on the backside of the play tries to come over to chase Hines down but Kelly is in the way.
Look at Kelly’s initial anchor and transition to power against Hankins in the hole. Nelson does come over to help for a moment but quickly releases to get a body on the linebacker. I’m not convinced Kelly needed any help at all. He overpowered Hankins from the start and created a nice lane for Hines to come through.
Rookie P.J. Hall (#92) has no chance on this play. Kelly and Nelson double him off of the snap. Once Nelson releases, Kelly keeps his legs churning to drive Hall well wide of the hole and onto his knees.
While Nyheim Hines bounces this run back to the outside, look at the nice work Kelly does in the middle. He seals Hankins and passes him off to Glowinski before he releases to punish linebacker Kyle Wilber, putting him on skates. If left tackle Anthony Castonzo gets a better block on Clinton McDonald (#97), Hines may have a easy touchdown run to the inside.
Frankly, Ryan Kelly spent much of the game dominating the Raiders offensive line. There were inside run blocks and seals where he had some help, but he regularly out-muscled Johnathan Hankins in the middle, showed nice balance while on the move, and good timing to release and get to the second level. If he continues to be this strong for the running game on his own, it bodes well for the Colts having continued success.