With Center Khaled Homes a full-participant in pads on Wednesday, it is unclear whether he’ll assume the job of the starter again. Holmes went down with an ankle injury in Week 1 of preseason against the New York Jets and has not played since. The Colts reportedly remain “committed” to Holmes as the long-term starting center, as he was the team’s 2013 4th round pick. This news certainly doesn’t bode well for his replacement, A.Q. Shipley.
In his 2 starts to date, Shipley has played well. According to the advanced stats provided by ProFootballFocus (PFF), he currently has an overall grade of +2.1, ranking him as the 9th best starting center in the NFL. A pretty impressive feat to say the least.
Shipley, a former 7th round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009, was claimed off waivers as he was a final 53-man roster casualty of the Baltimore Ravens in late August. He’s a bit of a journeyman, having been in 4 different organizations in his 5 years in the NFL (having also been a member of the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad through 2010-11). Of course, Colts’ fans will recall that he previously played with the Colts (*and played fairly well at that) during the 2012 season as then injured starting center, Samson Satele’s replacement. Following that season, he was traded to the Ravens for a conditional 7th round draft pick.
It begs the question whether this is deja vu all over again for Shipley. During 2012, in his 5 games starting as Satele’s replacement, Shipley had an overall ProFootballFocus grade of +8.1, ranking him as the 17th best starting center in the NFL. To put that in perspective, the incumbent, the underperforming Samson Satele, had a PFF grade of -5.7 in his 11 starts, ranking him as the 33rd best starting center in the NFL among active qualifiers. Satele returned from injury, and Shipley was relegated back to the bench despite clearly outplaying the former.
The money committed to Satele, a 3-year contract of $10.8M (including $5M guaranteed) signed in March of 2012, may have clouded Colts’ GM Ryan Grigson’s better judgment. It’s often difficult for GM’s to admit their mistakes, and having a presumed “journeyman” player like Shipley outplay your highly-paid free agent center doesn’t look too good in an owner’s eyes. After two underwelming seasons in Colts’ blue, Samson Satele was released in the early offseason and GM Ryan Grigson more or less begrudgingly admitted his mistake through the move.
Is the 2013 4th round pick that was used to select Khaled Holmes once again clouding Grigson’s better judgment? On a bad Colts’ offensive line last season, Holmes hardly played. He had 0 starts and played in a total of 13 snaps. It’s understandable that he may be a bit of a developmental project, but at the same time, if he couldn’t earn playing time on that offensive line, just how much talent and ability is truly there to start and build upon?
In both of his opportunities as a fill-in Colts’ starter, Shipley has played well. It’s true that the Colts have more invested in Holmes with the draft pick, but why mess up a good thing at the moment? A wise man once said, “If it’s ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
The Colts tried to in 2012, and it produced dismal results, as Shipley was better than Satele. The offensive line immediately got worse upon his demotion, as Satele clearly struggled. Shipley is currently playing like a Top 10 center in the NFL right now. If you had told me that to start the season, I would be ecstatic. Instead, the Colts are looking to once again replace him. In my opinion, it really doesn’t make sense from purely a football standpoint. Instead of trying to save face, Grigson should look at the best interests of the team on the field for both the here and now.