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Donald Brown Finding His Role with the Colts

Donald Brown has been as much maligned as any Colt in recent years, but this year he is off to a great start because finally the Colts are using him in the ideal way.

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps no current Colt has been as maligned and criticized as Donald Brown has been over his career.  I'll be the first one to tell you that I have been a part of that, and honestly, a lot of the criticism has been deserved.

I'll also be the first one to tell you, however, that we can't base our analysis purely off of preconceived notions from a few years ago.  In the case of Donald Brown, though, we have done just that.  We have established an idea that he is terrible, and we are determined to see the bad plays rather than the good so that we can support our theory.

That's not the way it should work.

Let's not allow our preconceived view of "Dammit Donald" pollute our analysis of him now.

Allow me to give an example.  Trent Richardson carried the ball 20 times for 60 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.  It was called "average" and "ordinary."  If it was Donald Brown that put up those numbers, though, I bet those words would instead be "bad" and "bad."  Granted, I understand that Richardson has established credibility and gets longer grace period and I understand that Donald Brown doesn't have that right now, and I'm not at all arguing against that.  But what I am trying to say is that we already are negative on Donald Brown before even watching him play.  So allow me to stun you with this statement:

Donald Brown is playing well this season.

He has carried the ball in 3 games this year, and has 13 carries for 120 yards, averaging 9.2 yards per carry.  On Sunday against the Jaguars, he broke a 50-yard run right up the middle.  On the year he also has 2 catches for 11 yards, with both receptions coming this past Sunday.

So why is Donald Brown having a good season this year?  I think I have the answer - it's the way he is being used in the offense.  He's not a starting running back, nor is he a feature back.  But in the past, the Colts have tried to use him as such.  What he is, though, is a playmaker who can come in for a few plays a game and do well.

Over his career, in the games where Brown has carried the ball ten or more times, he has averaged 4.05 yards per carry (330-1355-7) - still a respectable number.  In the games where Brown has carried the ball fewer than ten times, however, he has averaged 4.73 yards per carry (132-625-4) - nearly 7 tenths of a yard more per play.

His carry totals in the past three games this year?  7, 3, and 3.  And his rushing average is 9.2 yards per.  That's nearly a first down every time he has carried the football this year.  That's good - really good.  There's a reason why myself, as well as other media, have said not to give up on Donald Brown yet.  There's a reason why he was impressive in training camp, preseason, and so far this regular season.  There's a reason why Chuck Pagano has remained adamant that Brown will be a part of the offense.  It's because finally, Brown is in a role where he can succeed.

The Colts have Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw to take the overwhelming majority of the carries, leaving Brown able to get just a few per game.  And that's really what I think is best for him too.  So far this season, he has made the most of those opportunities.

Sure, he still isn't good in pass protection and sure, he doesn't look much like a starting running back, but here's the thing - that's not what he is going to be asked to do most of the time.  Now, finally, it appears as if the Colts are beginning to use Donald Brown the right way.

Because of that, I can honestly say that he has had a good season so far, and I can honestly say that I expect it to continue.