This past off-season, no one was more ripped, bashed, berated, and dogged by us Colts fans than Joseph Addai. You'd think the guy was caught making a sex tape with Peyton Manning's wife, or that he was the one who allowed Darren Sproles to run hog wild against Indy in the playoffs.
What Colts fans focused on was Addai's lack of run production in 2008, his inability to convert a critical 3rd and 2 in the playoff game against the San Diego Chargers, and how the team seemed to lose faith in him by them drafting a running back (Donald Brown) with their first round pick in 2009. Much of the anti-Addai sentiment was led by folks like KingRichard and MasterRWayne, two writers who often provide some very entertaining and substantive opinions here.
Though often their style has an "in your face" quality, that is why they are here.
We balance the "tough love" writing of KR and MRW with that measured styles of shake n bake and Colts Homer along with the statistical genius that is mgrex03. Of course, everything is balanced out at Stampede Blue by my undisputed brilliance and sage-like ability to be right about everything in football (cue induced vomiting).
Regarding Addai, the arguments shared by KingRichard and MasterRWayne had some merit this off-season. It's frustrating to not gain two yards on two attempts in a critical situation. It's frustrating to only get 544 yards for a season out of your "feature back." It's frustrating that, despite the most prolific passing game in football, the Colts still struggle to run the football with consistency. With all this frustration, the logical blame seems to always fall on Joseph Addai.
However, after watching five games very closely, and seeing both Addai and Donald Brown run in this offense, I really can't see how much of the Addai criticism is warranted anymore. In fact, I'll just say that Joseph Addai is playing about as well as I've ever seen him play, and that the problems with the running game have little if anything to do with him.
This season, much like last year, the Colts have been very inconsistent running the ball. Addai is averaging 3.4 yards a carry for 210 yards and 3 TDs. Donald Brown, the man picked #27 overall supposedly because Addai "stinks," is averaging 3.5 only a carry and has 2 TDs. Since we all seem to agree that Brown is a pretty impressive young back, logically we have to assume that Addai's 3.4 a carry average is not a result of bad technique, injury, or a lack of "toughness" on his part. Brown runs behind the same line Addai does, has the same QB (some guy named Manning, the one with the big forehead), and has the same WRs blocking on the outside.
If anything, the current backs for the Colts are likely the only reasons why this team isn't averaging 2.4 yards a carry! The point I'm trying to make here is it seems obvious to me (and to Bill Polian) that the running game issues are not Joseph Addai's fault.
The fault lies with our piss poor run blocking.
It's no secret to all of us that Mike Pollak and Ryan Diem are playing like dog meat right now, Pollak especially. The right side of the offensive line is a joke, particularly when the Colts run the stretch play right. Pollak and Diem consistently fail to sustain or seal their blocks, often resulting in a lot of Addai River Dance moves while he searches for any kind of cut back lane to gain yardage. The Colts have tried to remedy this by, essentially, benching Pollak. For three weeks, he has "rotated" his guard position with Kyle DeVan. Unlike Mike Pollak (a first day pick in the 2008 NFL draft), DeVan is a free agent who played professional football in friggin Boise last year.
Despite rotating Pollak out of the game, the team still has struggled to run right. In order to compensate, Tom Moore has altered some of the gameplan to utilize Addai and Brown as receivers. Just last Sunday, Addai caught 10 passes for 53 yards. When you really look at those receptions, they were often little more than extended handoffs, which average 5 yards a pop.
That's a helluva lot better than the 3.4 they're averaging running the ball. Addai has 26 receptions already this season. He had 25 all of last year.
So, for all the bashing Addai has gotten from many of us, I think it is finally time to sort of lay the KIBOSH! down on some of the Addai hating. I'm all for getting on any player if they fumble at the wrong time, drop a key pass, miss a throw they should make, or blow a block. What I don't think we need anymore is the Addai bashing. It isn't warranted and, in many ways, it isn't backed up by facts. If you think Addai sucks, then logically you must think Donald Brown sucks as well, seeing as both men are averaging the same yards per carry.
The Addai I've seen through five games is an active, hard-working, healthy, tough customer, which is what I thought he was prior to this season. I think we are also seeing that the reason this team struggled so much last year had more to do with poor blocking than Addai or Dominic Rhodes.
Oh, and chew on this for a second: Imagine how HORRIBLE this line would be now if Ryan Lilja did not come back healthy and the colts did not re-sign Jeff Saturday. Scary indeed.
Back to Addai, his pass blocking in 2009 has been a God send, and his receiving out of the backfield has helped sustain many a key drive this year. He's also helped the Colts improve running the ball in short yardage. Mind you, short yardage running isn't there yet, but I've seen three short yardage TDs from Addai, and all have mostly been a result of hard running on his part.
If there is one thing Addai does not have it is a "second gear," especially when he breaks into open territory. Donald Brown, however, does. While Brown lacks Addai's receiving skills and his blocking ability (overall), Brown can take a 4 yard run and turn it into a 50 yard TD. The problem we are having is our o-line is not getting Brown into open space. He's getting swallowed up by linebackers, who need to get blocked better by the likes of Pollak and Diem. I still firmly believe the Colts drafted Brown because they finally realized that a "feature back" doesn't work anymore in the modern NFL. You must have two good backs in order to win consistently. Look no further than the Jacksonville Jaguars and Maurice Jones-Drew to see what happens to a team when they do not have two complimentary, dynamic backs.
Again, this is not a post saying "DON'T YOU EVER CRITICIZE ADDAI AGAIN!" This is a post saying that much of the "Addai sucks and we need to get rid of him" rhetoric simply does not hold water anymore. Joseph Addai is a fine running back when he is healthy. No, he is not Adrian Peterson. Then again, Joseph Addai hasn't fumbled the ball 15 times in two years like Adrian Peterson has (most in the NFL). So, maybe not being AP is a good thing.
Addai is a solid, tough, multi-talented back. All he needs now is some better blocking up front and everything will be OK.