The brilliant breakdown of his lack of vision and decision making ability in the backfield this week on this very site showed us just why Brown is struggling to gain yards. The proof of his inadequecies in being decisive and seeing plays develop properly have now been well documented for the fanbase, and obviously those same issues I am sure have come up in the Colts own filmrooms and running back meetings.
However, there is also no disputing his athletic talent, as no one who was as productive as he was in the college game can be as bad as he has shown most of the time so far for us. He has good size, really good speed, and should be more productive than what he has been so far....yet, the simple fact is that he he simply hasnt gotten the job done so far.
As a high character player with talent and still on a rookie contract, there is little question in my own mind that he will make our final roster, and I agree with that decision. I like Brown as a player, the question I have tonight for all of us is this: How can the coaches utilize the talents and skills of Donald Brown better, to make him much more productive and turn him the weapon many of us thought he could be coming out of UCONN?
My ideas on that after the jump.
1. Use the TOSS SWEEP instead of the stretch play sometimes with him in the game.
Yes, I know the toss sweep means that you lose any chance for play action off of it, a staple of the Colts offense for years. But if you toss it to Brown right after the snap, it gives him the ball earlier in the play, either giving him more time to process the blocks in front of him or ideally just letting him use his speed to get to the corner.
2. Put Eldridge in front of him as a LEAD BLOCKER, and run some I FORMATION stuff.
I know we don't carry a full back, but Eldridge can do some similar things as a normal fullback can do in the run game. With this idea you can still use a 2TE/2WR/1RB personnel package, but instead of putting Eldridge on the line of scrimmage, instead put him back in the backfield in front of Brown as a lead blocker. Brown can then just read one player, follow his lead blocker, and make a decision easier on where to run.
3. If you want to run him inside, utilize the INSIDE TRAP play to get him going straight ahead with no decision.
This way there is no decision to be made most of the time, Brown can just know where the hole is supposed to be and then just attack. The Colts at time have run this inside trap play well in the past, and it is a better fit for Brown.
4. Run some 2 BACK FORMATIONS, ideally a split backfield with Brown and one other RB.
This would diversify our offense some, and add a new wrinkle for defenses to prepare for. I am thinking alot of the time on 3rd downs, we could go with both Addai and Brown in the game in the shotgun with Manning, and leak one of them into a route, potentially giving Brown a mismatch on a linebacker. Or you could just simply do some "PRO SET" stuff in the backfield with both Addai and Brown in the game, and send one of them in motion occasionally to get a potential mismatch of Brown or Addai on a slower linebacker in the passing game.
5. SPLIT HIM OUT IN THE SLOT.
With our 2 best slot Wide Recievers (Collie and Gonzalez) being somewhat fragile, Brown I think could be utilized in some situations as a slot reciever, working on a slower linebacker. He could run some simple option routes there, or just sit down in an open area against zone coverage. That would get him the ball more often, and protect our 2 injury prone slot recievers some.
6. THROW IT TO HIM OFTEN OUT OF THE BACKFIELD INSTEAD OF HAVIGN HIM PICK UP BLITZES.
We need to look at Brown as more of a bigger Darren Sproles type back, rather than a true one back answer. He can run deep routes I think out of the backfield, and if nothing else he will force the defense to have to respect his ability to take the top off coverage. As good as he is becoming at picking up blitzes as a blocker, I think that badly under utilizes him as a weapon. Instead, lets put him out in pass routes in the middle of the field and let him become someone the opponent has to fear running down the seams.
7. RUN THE JET SWEEP.
Putting Brown in the slot or split wide, we could then run all sorts of things with him putting him in motion pre snap. Once or twice a game we could show the popular "jet sweep", which is handing the man in motion the ball on a quick sprint. Later we could build off that using Manning's superior ball fake skills, and let him use play action faking it to Brown.
8. USE BROWN IN BUBBLE SCREENS
Another thing we could do is use Brown as a reciever, then throw him the quick bubble screens we run so often for Garcon. This would get Brown more involved in the game and get him the ball outside the tackle box where he can use his natural abilities. It also would save some of the pounding in Garcon, who is more important to our roster overall than Brown is quite frankly. And yes, doing this means we could get Brown and Carter/Addai on the field at the same time, better utilizing our entire offensive weaponry.
9. USE BROWN AS A KICK RETURNER
If we are going to play Carter as much as I think we should, we need to be able to use our best weapons in places they can help us. Brown is potentially a much better and more dynamic punt/kickoff returner than anyone we have currently, so rather than carry a first round pick who rarely sees the field, lets use him on one of the return units and see what he can do for us....I am thinking he'd be good at this, especially as a kickoff return guy.
Let's face it, Brown has pretty good talent and pedigree, but hasn't normally been very productive for how we have used him so far. He simply hasn't fit well to what our offense seems to try and pigeonhole him into. It is time for some coaching creativity to help him be more effective, because I think the talent is there....we just need to use him in areas he can perform in better.
To me, he is more of a speed, complimentary type back., not a workhorse type. We need to get him some touches in much more of a variety of ways. Think about how New England uses Danny Woodhead for example.....those are the types of plays I think Donald Brown can make for us, we just need to me substantially more creative in our thinking of how to use him. Brown is a better player than he is showing so far in his career in Indianapolis in my view, and it is up to the coaching staff to find ways to get the most out of his abilities.