Colts Believe Ryan Kelly Is The Best Center In The NFL
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INDIANAPOLIS – Dave DeGuglielmo wasn’t mincing words when offering up a statement that Colts fans expected to hear at some point in Ryan Kelly’s career.
“I have no doubt that he is the best center in the National Football League,” DeGuglielmo, the Colts’ new offensive line coach, says of Kelly at the midway point of the 2018 season.
“He is the most complete guy. Turn the tape on, find me one better---strength, athletic ability, intelligence, quickness. You have to struggle to find a flaw, at that position, with that guy. He’s exactly what you want in terms of understanding the game and being a football player.”
DeGuglielmo was not stopping there with offering up the highest of praise for Kelly, which the O-line coach said he had already told his third-year center.
In 13 NFL seasons, which has included coaching All-Pro Nick Mangold and Mike Pouncey, DeGuglielmo says Kelly’s game is unlike anything he’s ever coached.
“In my opinion, and I have coached Pro Bowl centers, been around some pretty good ones, athletic ones, he’s the most complete center I’ve ever coached,” DeGuglielmo said of Kelly.
Coming into the 2018 season, this was a critical year for Kelly.
Injuries held him to just 7 games last season and there were still questions on if the Colts mis-judged taking a center with the 18th overall pick back in 2016.
That was no mistake, according to DeGuglielmo.
While DeGuglielmo was in San Diego during the spring of 2016, coaching with the Chargers, he was jealous when the Colts took Kelly just past the midway point of Round One.
"Those lucky sons of guns,” DeGuglielmo thought to himself.
Now, DeGuglielmo is getting a chance to coach a younger center who has seen his game ascend in his third NFL season.
“The difference in his play now and his play last year is his physical play is really coming out,” DeGuglielmo says. “He’s always been a smart guy. He’s always been athletic. But now, he’s actually physically moving people and getting after people on the second level and getting out to people on the edges.
“He is everything you look for. The fact that he’s finishing plays better than last year shows up on game tape.”
While Andrew Luck is not as publicly on the ledge that DeGuglielmo is walking on, the quarterback has even pointed out Kelly’s play in 2018, unprompted.
“Ryan Kelly is probably the most underrated offensive lineman in the NFL,” Luck said when asked about the offensive line following their win over the Raiders last week.
When trying to pinpoint why the Colts’ offensive line has had so much success this season, especially as of late, Kelly is not the reason most mentioned.
People point to the scheme, the resources invested in rookies Quenton Nelson/Braden Smith or even having Anthony Castonzo back in the lineup.
But DeGuglielmo has his eyes focused squarely on his center.
“It all starts with the middle guy,” the line coach says. “If you have an elite middle guy, that changes everything. Because we have a guy like Kelly, it allows us to adapt our protections and our run game completely different than if we were just playing with a run of the mill guy. A lot of the people don’t invest in that spot because they say they’ll make a guy.
“Listen, I’ve been on winning teams that just made a guy and that’s okay, too, because there are a lot of those guys in the league. Those guys keep the league afloat. But when you have an elite one, that changes things a little bit. He’s not just elite physically. He’s elite mentally, too, which allows me to put a lot on him in the protection world. He’s the glue that keeps those guys going. He’s the brains part of the operation, but also physical.”