Entering the offseason, there were major needs (offensive line, secondary, etc.) and then there were secondary needs (running back, defensive line, etc.). The Colts addressed all of them - with the most recent being running back. On Monday, the team signed former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw.
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Giants, Bradshaw quickly became a very dangerous speed back and he enjoyed a great six year stint in New York. He rushed for 4,232 yards and 32 scores on 921 carries (4.6 yards per carry) and he also caught 132 passes for 1,087 yards and 3 scores. Twice in his six years he has rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season, including last year (1,015 yards and 6 touchdowns while averaging 4.6 yards per carry). He was a part of 2 Super Bowl championship teams (XLII and XLVI) and even scored the game winning touchdown with 57 seconds left in Super Bowl XLVI to beat the New England Patriots in Lucas Oil Stadium.
The downside, however, was that he was prone to fumbles and more significantly, injuries over his six year run in New York. He fumbled a total of 19 times, including 7 in 2010 alone. And more importantly, he has dealt with lingering ankle and foot issues. In fact, he has broken bones in his feet at least three different times since 2009 alone, and this past January he underwent another surgery on his right foot to replace a previous screw with a larger one. He has missed quite a bit of practice in the past few years due to his injuries and in the past two years has missed six games.
Playing through those lingering issues often, however, he has proven his toughness and when healthy he has shown his speed too. Bradshaw is an electric player who can be game-changing. With the emergence of David Wilson and Andre Brown, however, the Giants didn't want to pay his $3.75 million salary next season and they released him. He was on the market for quite a while, and though he visited the Steelers, Packers, and Broncos, he went unsigned until he reached a deal with the Colts on Friday after a Thursday visit.
Ed Valentine of Big Blue View, while speculating on Bradshaw's future with the Giants, wrote back in February just a few days before Bradshaw was released that, despite the injuries:
Bradshaw is still an outstanding player when he can get on the field. He had 1,015 yards rushing in 2012, the second 1,000-yard season of his career. His 4.6 yards per carry average was his best since 2008, and equaled his career average. Bradshaw is also one of the few fiery, vocal Giants. On a team that seems to have few truly emotional leaders you wonder how much his presence might be missed.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin commented after Bradshaw's release on the 5-10, 214 pound back's toughness, saying that:
"Bradshaw has great toughness. He plays through anything. He doesn't just talk about playing hurt. He does play hurt. If anyone knows the quality of this man's pain threshold, all you need to do is watch him on a Monday when he can't even walk. He gets a little better on Tuesday, a little better on Wednesday. By Thursday his spirits are back up and whether he can or he can't, he's telling you he's practicing on Friday, and he does. And he plays on Sunday. And he goes through the same cycle. He did that for two or three years."
Bottom line is that Ahmad Bradshaw is a very good and tough football player who struggles with injuries. That's the type of player that the Colts absolutely can take a chance on. I wrote a little while back about how I felt comfortable with the running back position, and I feel much better even now.
Now, I feel there is an issue that we must address, and that is the issue of what role Bradshaw will play on the Colts. Many think he will just instantly become the starter. No. He won't. The coaching staff really likes Vick Ballard (and I do too, if it helps) and he has earned the chance to be the starter entering training camp. If Bradshaw ends up starting, he will have to win the job in training camp. And I just don't think he will. Barring an awful camp from Ballard, I think that he will be the starter and that Bradshaw will be backing him up. I don't care about the debate of who is the best running back on the roster, what I care about is who will be starting. And I think that will be Vick Ballard.
That said, Ahmad Bradshaw will likely have a big role in the offense still. He will see a significant amount of snaps, and especially considering his skills in the passing game, he will see a lot of playing time if he stays healthy. He is one of the best pass-blocking running backs in the entire NFL and he also is very good catching passes out of the backfield. That will mean big playing time for Ahmad Bradshaw, even though Ballard likely will be the starter.
What does this mean for the other backs? We'll look at it more in depth a bit later as this is neither the time nor the place for it, but it likely means trouble for Delone Carter. I discussed it briefly a few days ago here, if you're interested. We'll cover it more in the coming days, but Ballard and Bradshaw will be the first two on the depth chart - that we know almost definitively.
I love this signing. Bradshaw is a very good player and will compliment Vick Ballard well. Neither guy is at his best when carrying the load, so having two guys is key. The Colts have two pretty good backs and they have depth at the position too.
Ryan Grigson saw a need and he addressed it. And this was a real good move for the Colts' GM. Let's hope that Bradshaw is adding to those two Super Bowl rings very soon. And he could be a big part of getting it, too.