Hello fellow Colts fans!
As a fan, I frequent on most NFL-related sites, such as Colts Authority, r/NFL, Stampede Blue, Colts.com, ESPN Colts, and even Bleacher Reports' Colts section at times.
Today, I ran into a very, very interesting analysis (or a few) regarding to Alabama running backs and how they've factored into the NFL. Today, a Texans fan by the screen name of Barian_Fostate (of all fans), ran an analysis about Trent Richardson and most Alabama running backs, an analysis written in Reddit's NFL section. I figured that it was a very important analysis that I couldn't afford to hold to myself. I just had to share with fellow Colts fans on here. So, if you can, get comfortable and read below:
It's not about the fact that they all came from Bama, it's the fact that all these Bama backs have (mostly) not been used properly. Bama's offenses is basically a carbon copy of the Texans/Seahawks/Redskins offense. It's all zone runs, lots of PA boots thrown in with deep shots to Amari Cooper (and Julio Jones back in the day). For a running back, reading zone blocking is way, way different than reading power. In a zone scheme the reads are often protracted and take more time since any one of three or four different holes could open up over the course of one run.
For instance, on a zone stretch the primary read might be a 5-tech defensive end. If his offensive tackle executes a successful "reach block" and seals the edge, then he races to the corner and tries to turn up field. If the defensive end beats the tackle to his outside shoulder, then his read suddenly becomes off the guard and center (depending on the alignment of the defensive front). Again, he's reading to see if the defenders are on the right or the left of their blockers. Because of the lateral motion of the run, defenders can't really "two gap" like they normally would against a north-south power run scheme. Either they contain play side, or pursue back side, not both. The back reads which linemen win, which linemen lose, and makes his decision based off of that. The read takes longer, but if you have a back that can do it they can be deadly. Often this vision is what makes or breaks a one cut zone runner rather than athletic ability (case in point Arian Foster and Alfred Morris).
Now, on a power scheme the back is often reading one designed hole that the play is intending to get the ball through from start to finish. It's a faster read, and more often than not the back has to follow a full back or pulling lineman into the hole and react based on whatever chaos gets created in the wash. Power runners are often more athletically gifts (or just flat out bigger humans) because they have to bounce, juke, and pound their way through a mass of bodies that usually ends up in different places than initially planned. A lot of pure zone runners either lack the instinct or lack the physical ability to succeed in power schemes because it's a completely different style of read. Similarly, a lot of pure power runners fail in zone schemes because they lack the vision to dissect multiple blocks at the same time and make a decision to cut up field at the appropriate time (think Darren McFadden failing miserably last season when the Raiders switched to a zone scheme).
So what does this have to do with Bama backs? Indy runs power, Green Bay runs zone. Trent Richardson's bruising reputation in college caused him to get labeled as a "down hill power runner" coming into the league, but in reality he was just a one cut zone runner that also happened to be really, REALLY hard to tackle. He's basically Marshawn Lynch 2.0, except Lynch also happens to be in a zone scheme where his talents and vision can flourish with his ability to fight for yardage. Cleveland ran power, found out quickly that he wasn't a power runner, and traded him to Indy, who is now also finding out that he has no idea what he's doing in a power scheme.
Contrast all this with Lacy, who is in a scheme that runs lots of stretches, lots of pin and pull zone plays to the edge, and lots of tosses in order to get into situations where he is most successful - in space. Lacy thrives when he has time to read his blocking, so the Packers cater to that by using a lot of run plays that take longer to develop than the Iso's and Dives that come with most power run games. Will the Pack run a power play every now and then to take advantage of Lacy's size? Absolutely, but their bread and butter is letting Lacy read zone blocking and use his size and power to break tackles in space. Lacy is a very similar back to Trent Richardson. Both of them are big, powerful runners. The only difference is that one team is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, while the other is not.
Immediately, I feel the urge to summarize another point that was shared in regards to Pep Hamilton, which I thought was very important. Here's a question from another fan from Reddit's NFL section in regards to Hamilton's plans, etc:
I've heard the colts have the same style as Stanford in the NCAA . Smash you in the mouth with our run game until you are worn out in the fourth quarter on top of play action throughout. They probably are more suited to a shanahan style offense- zone read running with heavy play action and qb rollouts . I'd say Luck fits the mold of Elway another Stanford qb that had success in this system .Richardson can be the next Terrelle Davis. If he truly excels in a zone read scheme , colts would need another receiver if Wayne does not come back 100% .
And again, here's an answer to above statement from the same Texans' and NFL fan (Brian_Fostate):
Yeah that similarity comes from Pep Hamilton being the ex-Stanford OC. It's a rough transition trying to go to a power game with an undersized (and overall depleted) offensive line, especially when your top offensive weapon goes on IR and you don't have any other receivers that fit his mold. It's going to take at least another year before Hamilton gets all of the guys he needs, and I don't see the offense really hitting their stride unless he adjusts the run game to fit Richardson's skill set. They have all the potential in the world to be a top 5 offense, they just need an off season to make it happen.
Very compelling points above.
Fellow Colts fans, this is why I am not an advocate of abandoning ship early. This is why I'm not an advocate of firing Pep Hamilton prematurely. This is why I suggest giving Trent Richardson another chance, an offseason, and another year. These, above posts, are reasons of optimism going forward. These are reasons why in Grigson, we trust. These are reasons why in Pagano, we trust. The Colts' personnel have made significant process going forward and I endorse my full support for the Indianapolis Colts and its overall direction.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Questions?
Thank you for reading and go Colts!