Ahmad Bradshaw is known as one of the best all-around running backs in the NFL for a reason. He's been both an effective runner and receiver for the Giants since he was drafted.
But what makes him special, and a vital addition to the Colts offense that allowed 41 sacks last year, is his pass blocking.
That's because Bradshaw is really, really good at it.
Even before signing Bradshaw, Ryan Grigson made it clear that giving Andrew Luck better protection was his No. 1 offseason priority. Gosder Cherilus, Donald Thomas, Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes are proof of that. Chuck Pagano reaffirmed that goal a few weeks ago when he said he hoped Luck would be sacked half as much this season.
It's unlikely the Colts will attempt 628 passes again like they did in 2012. Not under Pep Hamilton's offense. But they will have to rely heavily on Andrew Luck's arm from time to time. And in those situations, the running back better be able to consistently pick up blitzes.
That's where Bradshaw will make a difference.
I thought Vick Ballard was a mediocre pass blocker last season, but I couldn't blame him much when he was playing behind such a leaky offensive line. It could be easy for a rookie to make mistakes when so many defenders were easily flying toward Luck.
But rookie or not, it's hard not to raise an eyebrow at Bradshaw's pass protection compared to Ballard's.
Interesting stat: @pff graded Vick Ballard 42nd in pass blocking among 59 qualifying RBs last season. They had Ahmad Bradshaw 1st overall.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) June 11, 2013
While Bradshaw and Ballard both gave up two sacks last year, Bradshaw was at fault for only three quarterback hits and two hurries. Ballard meanwhile surrendered two hits and nine hurries.
So even though Ballard may be a serviceable pass blocker, especially if his play improves in his season year, Bradshaw is an elite blocker. Pair that with his running and receiving skills when healthy, and Bradshaw could make the Colts offense better than any other addition they've made this offseason.
The key is whether or not he can stay healthy. If Bradshaw does eventually go down, Ballard can easily step in and play a big role for the offense. That makes him one of the best backup running backs the Colts have had in several years, as long as he avoids any regression.
Bradshaw's addition should finalize the goal to keep Luck upright. No one can be sure just how all of these new pieces will mesh together, but at least on paper, the offense is set up to be much more efficient this season.
For now, check out this video to get an idea of Bradshaw's pass blocking.