Devil's Take - Fixing The Run Game

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Can adding another RB, even a superstar RB, fix the Colts run game woes?

Welcome to the Devil's Take! Today I'm tackling a topic that has been discussed a little bit since the end of the season, the running game. There has been some discussion here at Stampede Blue that perhaps the Colts need to take a look at picking up a free agent running back, notably Reggie Bush or Steven Jackson. Is this something the Colts should be looking into? Personally, I say no.

Last May, I wrote a fanpost titled "The hated Donald Brown". In that article, I spelled out several reasons why Donald Brown had basically been setup to fail as a RB for the Colts. I also pointed out that the issues at RB were part of a bigger issue. That still holds true to this very moment. The issues the Colts face in the running game have gotten only marginally better in 2012 than they had in any previous season since 2007. As we all know, the offensive line play has been less than productive for several seasons now when it comes to running the ball. Even with Manning still under center, the Colts had become all but a pass only offense for his last 4 seasons here.

You would think that with the greatest QB of all time, in my humble opinion, that you could do enough passing the ball to open up the run game. Unfortunately, as evidenced by Manning's final season under center in Indy, being able to pass the ball at will does nothing for the run game. You can't run the ball if you can't block anyone on defense, and the Colts quite frankly haven't been able to do that. It hasn't mattered who the running back for the Colt is or was, since the 2007 season ended, the Colts ability to run consistently has pretty much been nonexistent.

The current state of the Colts running backs are actually pretty decent. We have a home run hitter in Donald Brown, we have a big heavy back in Carter who can get short yardage, and we have what now looks to be a starter in Vick Ballard. Call me crazy, but I still think Brown has the ability to be a big contributor on this offense. I do think he could go for 1000 yards with a team that has a good o-line, but with the Colts, I see him as a younger Darren Sproles. I don't see any reason to rush out and spend money on a big name guy, or even draft another running back, at this point. The Colts just need to really focus their money and roster spots on fixing the offensive line issues.

  • In 2004, the Colts had 10 regular season games with more than 100 yards rushing. The team would finish with 1852 yards rushing.
  • In 2005, the Colts had 10 regular season games with more than 100 yards rushing. The team would finish with 1703 yards rushing.
  • In 2006, the Colts had 10 regular season games with more than 100 yards rushing. They had 2 additional games that almost made 100 yards rushing (88/92 yards). They also had 4 consecutive 100+ yard rushing games in the playoffs. That's a grand total of 14-100 yard rushing games out of 20. They would finish the season with 1762 yards rushing.
  • In 2007, the Colts had 8 regular season games with more than 100 yards rushing. This was the final year of a healthy Marvin Harrison, the first year without Tarik Glenn at LT, and the first year of Addai as a full time starter. This is the last season that the Colts would field a 1000 yard rusher. They would finish the season with 1706 yards rushing.
  • In 2008, the Colts had 4 regular season games with more than 100 yards rushing. They would only generate 1274 yards rushing.
  • In 2009, the Colts had 4 regular season games with more than 100 yards rushing. They would only generate 1294 yards rushing.
  • In 2010, with an injury riddled team, the Colts had 6 regular season games with 100 yards rushing. They would only generate 1483 yards rushing. Addai and Brown combined for 1002 yards (497/495).
  • In 2011, without Peyton Manning, the Colts would generate 5 regular season games with 100 yards rushing. Curtis Painter led the team in one game with rushing yards. Leading rusher was Donald Brown with 645 yards.
  • In 2012, with a new rookie offense featuring only Reggie Wayne as a veteran presence, the Colts racked up 7 regular season games with 100 yards rushing. They would add 1 playoff game with 151 yards rushing against the eventual SB champ Ravens. They would generate 1671 yards rushing and the leading rusher was Ballard with 814 yards. Brown who missed portions of the season with injuries, generated just over 400 yards on roughly half the attempts that Ballard had.

In looking at those stats, there are a couple of misleading tidbits. While the Colts did in fact rack up some 100 yard games in 2010 and 2011, these were due in large part to a few long runs by the various running backs. With the loss Manning in 2011, the Colts pretty much loaded up on the run, as evidenced by the big increase over the previous seasons. Having Painter as your QB will do that to you. In most instances, the Colts failed to even meet the league's rushing average of 3.9/4.0 yards per attempt. To make matters even worse, from 2008 to 2011, the Colts would finish 31st, 32nd, 29th, and 26th. Prior to 2008, the Colts would routinely finish around the 16-19th range in rushing the ball. Even when James went out with his knee injury, the Colts racked up 1600 yards and finished 19th.

Now of course, the 2012 season had the Colts finish 22nd. So what changed? Protection. In 2006 and 2007 we had no problem running the ball with a rookie and Dominic Rhodes….. in every year since our offensive line stability and talent level has gotten worse and worse. It’s no coincidence that our running backs have been injured more and less productive. We lost a great LT, lost a quality LG, and the Colts NEVER replaced that loss. Add to it Ryan Diem basically becoming a shell of himself, and the line became a joke. The Colts offensive line on paper in 2012, was the best the Colts had fielded since 2007. The athleticism of Luck and the inventiveness of Coach Arians enabled the Colts to make something out of nothing. The crappy strength of schedule did help some as well.

If the Colts were to pursue bigger/better bodies on the offensive line, I really believe that this Colts running attack can easily jump back up to the middle of the pack it once maintained on a yearly basis. When our offensive line was able to block, we were able to generate positive running yards most of the time. Despite how bad our offensive line pass blocked in our playoff loss to the Ravens, the Colts rushing attack was probably the best we had seen all year. I won't say that adding a superstar couldn't boost the Colts, but I think we have plenty of talent on the roster right now that could make leaps and bounds with proper blocking.

As always, thanks for reading and I appreciate all the comments. Follow me on Twitter!!! @DevilsReject97

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