So, the Colts made a surprise signing the other day, hooking in free agent running back Mewelde Moore, formerly of the Steelers.
In hindsight, grabbing Moore off the scrap pile is kind of a no-brainer. New Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians loved using Moore as a third down back in Pittsburgh. Moore was as effective for the Steelers in that role as Kevin Faulk was to the Patriots during their glory years. In many ways, Moore does for the Colts what Joseph Addai did for years. The difference is Moore is not injury prone.
Overall, this is yet another outstanding free agent signing. Moore is just a good, all-around back. However, it is very telling that G.M. Ryan Grigson made this move a week after minicamp concluded; a minicamp where he got to see all his backs in action. This means he saw all their strengths, their weaknesses, and the limitations due to injury (Delone Carter is still recovering from a thumb injury).
After seeing all that, the first thing he does is sign Moore, a versatile player with a strong relationship with the OC.
The question now is, what does this mean for Donald Brown? The answer isn't one Brown likely wants to hear.
Look, I'm not going to argue this point with anyone: Brown is a bust.
Fanatically arguing against that is a waste of your time. League people view him as a bust. Fantasy owners view him as a bust. He's a bust, period.
First round running backs are supposed to be no-brainer starters their rookie year. That is the expectation, fair or unfair. In hindsight, taking a back in the first round in 2009 was a huge mistake. Running backs are a dime-a-dozen these days. Meanwhile, players like Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt, and James Laurinaitis (all passed over by the Colts in the first round) aren't. Compounding the mistake is the fact that Brown still has not completely earned the No. 1 job because... well, he simply isn't that good.
He can't pass block.
He's an unreliable receiver.
He only runs well in a specific blocking scheme and style
The bust label for Brown is so pervasive that the Colts themselves have seemingly gone out of their way in recent weeks to talk him up.
Helpful tip for those you like to read through the cryptic language known as 'coach speak': Players who are truly good don't need to be talked up to the media or the fans. Usually, if a player is being talked up in the offseason, something is going on behind-the-scenes.
In the case of Donald Brown, head coach Chuck Pagano has practically been writing him love sonnets at press conferences or other media gatherings.
"Donald is an every-down back," Pagano said Wednesday, according to The Indianapolis Star. "He is doing a tremendous job and he is having a fantastic offseason. He understands, especially on third down as far as protections go and all of those things. Nothing is going to be more important than protections."
Donald Brown is NOT an every-down back. If you want an expert to give you his opinion on this subject, just go ask Peyton Manning. He did not seem to trust Brown on third down in '09 and '10, and for good reason. Brown whiffs in pass protection. This is an important aspect of a back's game today, folks. I don't care how fast a back is, or how many yards-per-carry he has. A runner who cannot block in the modern NFL is as useful as a wideout who cannot catch.
Now, if Brown has made some kind of grand transformation this offseason, then YIPPEE!!! Bully for him! However, I don't think he has. If he did, then why waste precious money and cap space on Mewelde Moore? Moore is a third down back. He's a good blocker. He's a reliable receiver (98 catches, 782 yards, 4 TDs in four years with Pittsburgh). He knows Arians' system. He's not seen as just a warm camp body. Moore is expected to make the 53-man roster, unless he gets hurt.
The team is also reportedly high on rookie Vick Ballard, and Delone Carter is only in his second year.
I want to reiterate that I like the Moore signing, but let's not stick our heads in the sand, people. This move did not speak well for Brown and the other backs. They either haven't figured out Arians' system yet, or the coaches don't have complete confidence in their talent.
Again, like many of you, I think Brown should be the starter going into training camp. However, I don't have much faith in him, and if the Colts did have faith that he truly is an "every-down back," Mewelde Moore would not be on this roster.
The question I keep coming back to is, what if Brown struggles in preseason? What if Moore looks better? What if Ballard or Carter look better? If Brown gets benched for the seemingly 15th billionth time this year, then Pagano is going to look foolish calling him his "bell cow." If Brown remains the "bell cow" despite stinking up the field with his consistently mediocre-to-bad play (or, worse, his bad blocking gets Andrew Luck hurt), Pagano will lose credibility much the same way former head coach Jim Caldwell did.
How this all plays out in training camp and preseason will be fascinating to watch unfold.
Well, fascinating for us Colts geeks.