With the release of kick returner-reserve running back Chad Simpson, it the conventional thought heading into 2010 was the running back pecking featured Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, and Mike Hart. Addai is the primary back, normally averaging 17 touches a game. He is also an outstanding pass blocker. Brown is the change-up back, bringing more speed and explosion to mix. Hart is the short yardage back, or Mungro-back (named after former hybrid fullback-running back James Mungro, who retired from the NFL in 2007).
Barring injury, this group looks pretty well set. All are relatively young, yet experienced. So, knowing this, how can someone like Devin Moore, a second year player out of the University of Wyoming who grew up in Indiana, hope to have any shot at making the active roster?
Chime in with me if you've heard this tune before: Special teams.
Before we get into how Moore can fill needs on special teams, let's focus a little bit on his skills at running back. On the WIBC radio show "The Heavyweights" last week, hosts Jeffery Gorman and Will Wolford raved about the strides Devin Moore was making during the off-season. The main attribute Moore brings to the table is speed, speed, and more speed. While oddly not invited to the 2009 NFL Combine (despite rushing for 1,303 yards and seven touchdowns his senior year), Moore held his own "Combine" near the Indianapolis airport. fourteen NFL teams attended this workout, and they witnessed Moore run a 4.41 40 time.
Had he been invited to the 2009 Combine, Moore would have placed #1 among the running backs who were invited. Donald Brown ran a 4.51, and we've all seen his speed on the field.
Moore also has good hands, runs clean routes, and is a willing and capable blocker. At 5'9, he reminds me an awful lot of a young Dominic Rhodes. Prior to Rhodes' 2002 ACL injury, he was one of the fastest players on the team. He also was the kick returner on special teams. But, despite being a tough guy, at 5'9 playing the running back position, you are going to get your ass beat-up. If there is one red flag on Moore as a running back it's that he often takes big hits which can result in fumbles or injury. If he wants to make it in the NFL, he needs to start watching tape of Edgerrin James and post-2002 Dominic Rhodes. Watch have the juke, glide, and weave would-be tacklers away from them. With Edge, all throughout his amazing eleven-year NFL career, I never once saw him get blown up. Take note of that, Devin.
But, like most silly attributes, speed is over-rated in the NFL. Terrell Davis of the Broncos in the 1990s wasn't all that fast. He has two rings. Edgerrin James was never a burner. He's a sure Hall of Famer (if not, then the Hall means nothing, especially with Michael Irvin's and Joe Namath's busts already in there). Vision, intelligence, and versatility are what make running backs great. Speed helps when you break away from the first four tacklers, but getting past those four tacklers takes a lot more than just speed. Thankfully, Moore has the best running backs coach the league has ever seen teaching him in Gene Huey. Huey has coached Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai, Roosevelt Potts, James Mungro, and Dominic Rhodes. He takes four round picks and turns them into legends. He also takes no-round picks and turns them into pro-ready backs.
With Addai, Brown, and Hart pretty well locked into their respective slots at running back, it seems the only way Devin Moore will make this active roster is on special teams. In his interview with Gorman and Wolford, Moore talked about how he was working on his kick returning skills. With a 4.41 40 time, special teams returning is one area speed can greatly help you.
In the past, the Colts have shown a willingness to keep four running backs, especially if one of them is a kick or punt returner. Should Moore beat-out players like rookie Brandon James for special teams return duties, he will certainly make this roster. Interesting note, many people really consider James a serious burner on special teams. He ran a 4.50 at the Scouting Combine. Moore ran a 4.41. Just sayin'.