In 2014, the Indianapolis Colts came so close and yet ended up so far away from their ultimate goal of the Super Bowl. They reached the AFC Championship game after two playoff wins, getting to the doorstep of the NFL's biggest game and their biggest dream, but in that game they fell 45-7 to the Patriots in embarrassing fashion. And what that showed us was that, while the Colts had a good season and came close to getting to the Super Bowl, they still have a lot of issues that they need to work on if they want to truly compete with the Patriots and get over that final hurdle to the Super Bowl.
Over the next week or two, we'll be looking at some of the biggest needs for the Colts that the team needs to address this offseason to get there. We'll be looking at several of these positions, and they'll be varying in just how much the Colts' need to address it. This series won't be in any particular order but will rather just explore one position at a time that the Colts should or could address this offseason. Today, we'll begin with the running back position (again, however, don't take this being first in the series as me saying that this is the biggest need, because it's not).
We reviewed the running back position yesterday, and it was a season full of ups and downs from the position for the Colts. One thing that is clear, however, is that the outlook for next season is not clear. There are plenty of questions swirling about what the Colts might do at the running back position and we'll certainly look at some of those options, but first let's explore why the position can be considered a need.
In 2014 both Boom Herron and Ahmad Bradshaw impressed, but there are still questions about whether Boom could shoulder the load at the running back position for a whole season and there are big questions about Ahmad Bradshaw's injury issues. Trent Richardson was a big disappointment and will likely be gone before the 2015 regular season begins. And, while the Colts like Zurlon Tipton, he's definitely not a starting-caliber running back and serves as a depth guy. Vick Ballard, who didn't play at all this season, is coming off of back-to-back season-ending injuries and there are questions about whether he could contribute after the injuries. The Colts' run game ranked 22nd in the league in rushing yards per game and average yards per attempt, and after Bradshaw was injured the Colts really didn't present a threat in the running game. While several of the players mentioned already will be back next season or at least get a shot in training camp, the Colts need to address the running back position to at least give the team a threat out of the backfield.
So what might the Colts do to address the position? First, we have to look at their current players. Boom Herron is a restricted free agent, but it's very likely that he'll be back with the Colts next year. That'll leave him with Zurlon Tipton and Vick Ballard coming off on an injury, plus Trent Richardson - though he's not expected to be with the Colts next season. The question of Ahmad Bradshaw is a more difficult one, as he's been injured in each of the last two seasons, but when healthy this year he was fantastic. He signed a one-year, $855,000 deal with the Colts last offseason and if the Colts could get him for cheap again I think it would be a tremendous low-risk move and one that they would do.
For the sake of our discussion here, let's say that the Colts have Boom Herron, Zurlon Tipton, Vick Ballard, and Ahmad Bradshaw on the team as they enter training camp next year. There's no guarantee of that and there's also no guarantee what will happen with Richardson - as, if his contract is guaranteed, they might as well bring him in for camp and make him earn a spot. But even with those backs, the Colts would probably address the position. Ballard and Bradshaw would bring injury concerns and then Boom and Tipton would essentially be the same thing they had to end this season - and that left us talking about how running back is a need.
With all of that said, I expect the Colts to add help at the running back position, but I don't really expect it to come in a big move. I've heard a number of Colts fans advocating for the team to draft Melvin Gordon or Tevin Coleman or another back with their first or second round pick, but I don't see that happening. We definitely can't rule it out yet, but I consider it unlikely. I wouldn't be surprised at all, however, if the Colts used a mid-round pick on a running back, as it's a deep class this year and it could add a nice piece to the Colts offense and the running back mix.
Bottom line: I don't think this is as big of a need as other people do, but it's no doubt a need. I think that entering camp with a combination of Herron, Tipton, Ballard, Bradshaw, and a mid-round rookie wouldn't be a bad combination at all - given that the Colts use their other picks and their cap space to improve the defense and the offensive line, both of which have bigger needs than the running back spot. I really think that group of backs is one the Colts could live with if they improve other areas. So yes, it's a need for the Colts, but it's not one that I expect them to address with a significant investment, nor one that I would consider one of their biggest needs this offseason.