According to head coach Frank Reich, the Indianapolis Colts ‘anticipate’ starting center Ryan Kelly returning this week, as he and his wife continue to grieve the tragic loss of their infant daughter (via The Athletic’s Stephen Holder):
The Colts anticipate Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly being back this week, Frank Reich said.— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) December 27, 2021
While 2nd-year interior offensive lineman Danny Pinter has filled in well during the past three games in Kelly’s absence at center, it still comes at a critical time for the Colts.
With starting right tackle Braden Smith being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday—and Eric Fisher nursing a ‘knee, toe, and pec’ injury, it is possible that the Colts could be without their entire starting offensive line otherwise (although it’s been speculated that starting right guard Mark Glowinski could be vaccinated and return a week earlier than the rest of his fellow starting offensive line colleagues on the Reserve/COVID-19 list).
Instead, Kelly’s return could slide Pinter into the adjacent starting right guard spot, which would allow for swing-tackle Matt Pryor to transition to right tackle again—with Chris Reed (LG) and potentially Julie’n Davenport (LT) rounding out the left side of the o-line.
Still not ideal, but not completely horrible either.
Kelly presumably gives the Colts a boost from a protection call standpoint in pass blocking, better ensuring that all potential opposing pass rushers/blitzers are accounted for pre-snap. He may also allow for more offensive versatility in run blocking play-calling too.
The 3x Pro Bowler gives the Colts one of their top interior offensive linemen back, when they’ve already lost way too many right now—for a team looking to clinch a playoff spot against the Las Vegas Raiders.