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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Colts' rushing attack expected to change in 2014


By on 2/26/2014 08:30:00 AM

Indianapolis Colts' running back Trent Richardson was traded for last year with the assumption that he would make the backfield a unit to be envious of in the NFL. There were injuries along the offensive line for the Colts last season, and the young and talented Vick Ballard tore his ACL in practice after only one regular season game. Ballard rushed for a healthy 814 yards as a rookie in 2012, and upon his knee injury early last season, the Colts became thin at the running back position with only Donald Brown and Ahmad Bradshaw left to carry the load.


Bradshaw and Brown are both expected to become free agents on March 11th, but there is conversation brewing about the Colts potentially paying Brown to stick around. There are also whispers circling the NFL about Bradshaw re-joining the Giants, with New York expected to exercise caution with David Wilson's fragile neck.

Josh Hallett, Wikimedia Commons

Colts' offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is already favoring a two-headed approach in 2014, and if Brown is to remain in Indianapolis, his playing time will be split with Richardson and Ballard. Brown averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season, and is eyeballing a situation that will accommodate his abilities.

With Richardson and Ballard set to push the wagon for the Colts in 2014, it is easy to see that there will be unease for Chuck Pagano and company this off-season. Richardson failed miserably in his debut season with the Colts, and recently underwent surgery on his shoulder. He is not expected to miss off-season activities, but any time not spent improving is a setback for Richardson.

With only a rookie season to gauge in which to grade Ballard, the Colts are preparing to ease him along, and will not assume production from the 23-year old.

Both have shined at moments in their careers, but also carry question marks of durability and production. The Colts need help on both sides of the line and in the secondary this off-season, and will likely address these needs in free agency and in the NFL Draft.

We already know that Hamilton wants a blend of Richardson and Ballard in 2014, but even with this in mind, the running back situation will be a wide open competition, with a potential free agent addition or drafted running back having the ability to factor into the equation as well.

General Manager Ryan Grigson is an avid supporter of contention, telling Mike Wells of ESPN.com that only Super Bowl-worthy players will take the field for the Colts this season:
“At any point in time you'll know how we do things with the Colts, it's the best players play,” iron sharp as iron. We're going to try to have the most competition at each position group and whoever wins that spot is going to be the starter and it's who is going to get us to that next level, which is Super Bowl XLIX and that's the mindset. You're either all in or all out."
The Colts have continued to improve under the guidance of quarterback Andrew Luck, and with a few more pieces in place, they are a team that can make some noise well into the winter months of 2015. Shoring up inconsistencies will make them dangerous, but producing a quality rushing attack is necessary to ease the pressure on Luck, perhaps putting an end to his turnover-heavy playoff performances and pushing the Colts over the top in the AFC this year.


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