The Colts’ offensive line hasn’t been the dominant force they were last year to start this season but they are still playing at a very high level. They currently have only allowed six sacks on the season which is the fewest in the NFL. While there is a lot of room for improvement in the ground game, this team has been getting it done for the most part in the trenches.
The best player on the offensive line this year on film has easily been newly paid center Ryan Kelly. Kelly is playing at a fringe All-Pro level this year as he currently ranks as PFF’s fourth highest graded center. He has given up just 1 QB hit and 2 hurries in pass protection in 226 pass blocking snaps. In today’s film room, we will look at some examples of his play from the past few weeks and break down why he is one of the league’s best centers.
Ryan Kelly has played at a completely different level the past two seasons. To start his career, he was an extremely talented center who just couldn’t build any consistency due to injuries. Now that he has stayed healthy the last two years, and has a superstar in Quenton Nelson next to him, he has hit his potential and looks like a top tier center in the league. His combination of athleticism and the strength to bully players in the trenches has made him an elite run blocker. This is a massive hole up the gut on a big third and short against the Bengals.
Ryan Kelly (and Anthony Castonzo) dominating their blocks at the point of attack on a third and short. Powerful run blocking here. Taylor has to make the defender miss in the hole next time. pic.twitter.com/Z4UK1fjTRA— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 27, 2020
His athleticism is straight up freaky. Back at the combine, he tested as a elite athlete among center prospects and it shows on film. I would say that he is the best center, maybe interior offensive linemen, in the NFL at climbing to the linebackers on run plays. It’s not just how quick he gets into space but it’s also the excellent angles he takes and the physicality he displays to move linebackers out of run lanes. He makes it look easy here as he quickly climbs up and shields off the defender from the hole.
Ryan Kelly may be the best center in the league at climbing to the second level. This is elite stuff right here pic.twitter.com/zPq5wLtKVM— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 27, 2020
The Colts are their most successful in the run game when they can get Kelly, and Nelson that is, on the move and in space. He is so athletic and is an true asset on these outside runs. He pulls on this play and lines up his target perfectly in the hole. He neutralizes the linebacker with ease as Jonathan Taylor is able to get outside and go untouched for 10+ yards.
Good things happen when the Colts get Ryan Kelly on the move. Excellent pull block in space here pic.twitter.com/RV33TPeSMI— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 27, 2020
One element that seemed to be missing from Kelly’s game early in his career was that physicality to finish blocks. He always had the ability but it never truly showed up on film and he was a bit more of a finesse blocker. That completely changed late last season as he was looking for ways to finish players and establish his physicality. He is uncovered on this play but he keeps his head on a swivel and finds work on Mark Glowinski’s man, knocking him to the ground. Love this mindset in pass pro.
Ryan Kelly finding work in the passing game pic.twitter.com/15wg5gcs4R— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 27, 2020
The game against the Browns may have been Kelly’s best run blocking performance of his career. He looked like a man on mission all afternoon and was simply dominating the trenches. Honestly, it looked like an Alabama linemen playing against FCS linemen. Only it was players like Sheldon Richardson and Vincent Taylor rather than FCS players. This is the perfect example of the dominance as he easily reaches the shade nose tackle and drives him out of the play. The one arm shove to knock the defensive tackle off balance is simply disrespectful to do against an NFL player.
Good lord Ryan Kelly is moving people at will in the run game pic.twitter.com/h7zVnNzwX9— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 27, 2020
Another play and yet another perfectly performed reach block on the interior. Here he gets his face in front of the shade tackle and drives him out of the middle of the field. This opens a truck sized lane on the interior that any running back in the league could get a big gain through. Kelly did this all game against the Browns and it was such an elite performance on the interior.
I am so happy the Colts already paid Ryan Kelly. They may have him at a discount right now lol pic.twitter.com/HBxpIrIUFv— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 27, 2020
Like I mentioned earlier, his change from being a bit of a finesse center to one who can dominate with strength inside has been a huge development in his game. The Colts’ offensive line wants to establish a presence in the trenches that if you are off balance at all or playing at half speed, we are going to bury you. Kelly did that on this play as he is able to re-anchor his positioning on the block and toss the defensive tackle onto his back.
Look at this second effort by Ryan Kelly on the block. Literally decleats the defender. Whewww pic.twitter.com/j4PhyMf9Dg— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 27, 2020
Ryan Kelly was rewarded with the largest contract for a center in the NFL this past offseason when he signed a 4 year extension worth nearly 50 million dollars. That contract is going to look like a bargain in a few years. Kelly is playing the best football of his career and the scary part is, he is only getting better.
Each season he has grown in terms of his play strength and has become a more dominating physical force on the offensive line. He was already a high IQ player and elite athlete before so this development is exactly what he needed.
I’m not sure what kind of awards or honors will be coming Kelly’s way this upcoming offseason but I do know that he is one of the top players in the NFL at his position and playing like the top offensive lineman on the Colts this year. When we talk about players to build around and superstars on this Colts’ team, Ryan Kelly’s name needs to be in that conversation. His play has been at a completely different level since the beginning of last year.