The Indianapolis Colts addressed many, many needs this offseason. Among the biggest overhauls were the offensive line, defensive line, and secondary. Those were the clear-cut, glaring needs the team had, but they also had several second-tier needs. One of those was the running back position.
Many people thought that the running back position needed to be addressed, and yes, it was indeed addressed. In the seventh round of the draft the Colts took Kerwynn Williams out of Utah State - although even then the move was to boost the special teams as well.
There has been a lot of uncertainty recently as to how the Colts' running backs will do, and many Colts fans have questions about the position that figures to play a larger role in Pep Hamilton's new offensive system. I, for one, do not.
Yeah, I would like to have more depth and better talent. But it's the NFL, and you can't build a team filled with the best. Some players won't be the best in the league, but that doesn't mean that they won't be good players or a big help to the team. Vick Ballard, the projected starting running back, is one of those guys.
Last year, Ballard finished the season out by starting the last 12 games and ended up with 211 carries for 814 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and 2 touchdowns on the year. He also added 17 receptions for 152 yards (8.9 yards per catch) and 1 score (that game-winning flip into the end zone in overtime against the Titans). Hamilton's offense figures to utilize running backs in the passing game much more often than Bruce Arians did last year (which isn't saying much), and as the team's leading pass catcher at the position a year ago Ballard has yet another edge on the other guys as the starter. Barring something crazy happening in the preseason, Ballard will be the starting running back week one for the Colts. Does that scare you? It shouldn't. Though he wasn't expected to do much in his rookie season, Ballard impressed in camp enough to the point that some (including myself) wondered if he could end up as the starting back by season's end. Due to injuries to Donald Brown, that happened much sooner, and when Ballard got his chance he made the most of it. He isn't the most talented guy, but he is a hard runner who likely will continue to improve in things such as his vision and decisiveness when carrying the ball, to name a few.
Backing up Ballard and being the change of pace back for the Colts will likely be Donald Brown (although if the rookie Williams really impresses in camp and preseason he could see more playing time in this role). Brown has had a much maligned career thus far (he's most well-known for the "Dammit Donald!" incident), but as a backup and change of pace back, he's not too bad. The real concern is injuries for him, and this camp he will have competition in Williams - but Brown holds the clear advantage at this point to earn the role.
Delone Carter also looked good last season in very limited action (which was pretty much exclusively short yardage situations). He carried the ball 32 times, gaining 122 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and scoring three times. While his action was severely limited (and his season cut short by injuries), he actually looked impressive in short yardage situations - the very role the Colts asked him to fill. His spot on the roster isn't secure, however, with fullbacks like Stanley Havili and Dan Moore coming in to provide some power running, but Carter is the best power back on the roster and if the team wants a guy to play that role, Carter is worth keeping around.
We don't really know who will win these camp battles that we figure to happen (Williams challenging Brown; Carter fighting for a roster spot; etc.), but I don't think the running back position is as great of a concern as most do. Could it be better? Of course. But there aren't 32 Adrian Petersons. The Colts have several guys who are solid players, including the starter Vick Ballard - who, once again, really impressed last year. Paul Kuharsky, in his article bringing attention to Ballard and the Colts confidence in him, quoted Chuck Pagano as saying the following:
"Vick is a solid, solid guy; Donnie is a home run hitter," Pagano said. "If he gets the edge and hits a crease, he can take it the distance. For Vick, look at that last drive of the regular season against the Texans: We got the ball with 9:46 on the clock, we ran 12 plays, 11 runs, and we ended up taking a knee. Vick took the lion’s share of carries on that drive. He just keeps getting stronger, the more carries he has the better he gets."
With Pep Hamilton likely bringing an additional focus to running backs (both in the run and pass game), the position gains a little more importance. I just don't think it needs to gain any extra players. It very well may, but at this point I feel comfortable with the running backs - even if I'm the only one.
What are your thoughts on the running back position? Explain and discuss it in the comments.