The running back position for the Colts has, for the most part, been a constant question mark for the Colts over the past several years. The last time they had a running back top 1,000 yards in a season was in 2007 by Joseph Addai - leaving the Colts on a current streak of seven consecutive seasons without a 1,000 yard rusher.
The Trent Richardson trade did not work out for the Colts at all, and they parted ways with the running back this offseason. It became clear way before that move, however, that the Colts would need to add help at the running back position either in free agency or the draft (or both), and that became a noticeable need.
The team addressed that need by adding a guy who has been one of the best running backs in the NFL over the past decade in Frank Gore. Spending ten years with the San Francisco 49ers, Gore played in 133 games and racked up 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns rushing (averaging 4.5 yards per carry) and added 342 catches for 2,883 yards and 11 touchdowns in the receiving game. He has been named to the Pro Bowl five times and has topped the 1,000 yard rushing mark in eight of his ten seasons.
The concern that many have with Gore (if they do have a concern) is that he's 31-years old. And as many people are aware, running backs at that age or older are reason for concern. It's certainly possible that Gore will begin to wear down, and in fact we've already seen some signs of that. But let's look a little more at the big picture. Firstly, he addressed a big need for the Colts. We already looked at how the team needed help at the running back position, and Gore provides that help. It won't be a surprise to see them add a rookie in the draft to develop behind Gore, but he's the big addition of the offseason for them and he fills that need. Secondly, Gore provides a very clear upgrade at the position for the Colts. As we already mentioned, the Colts haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2007. Gore has rushed for 1,000 yards in six seasons since that year, including in each of the last four. Consider for a moment this comparison of the Colts' leading rusher by year to Gore in that same year:
|Year||Colts' Leader||Yards||TD||Avg.||Frank Gore||Yards||TD||Avg.|
In other words, in Frank Gore's ten seasons in the NFL, he would have been the Colts' leading rusher in nine of them - with the only exception coming in Gore's rookie year and with the Colts having borderline Hall of Fame back Edgerrin James in his prime. Sure, history isn't a perfect illustration of future success, but when Gore has consistently produced over the past decade and the Colts' run game has consistently been a struggle, it's impossible not to see Gore as a big improvement - particularly over a backfield consisting of Trent Richardson, Boom Herron, Zurlon Tipton, and Michael Hill - as was the Colts' roster in the playoffs.
So what should we expect from Frank Gore in 2015? Well, it would be very unreasonable to expect him to provide All-Pro play. He's been great over his career and has a solid case for the Hall of Fame one day, but at 31-years old his best days are behind him. That doesn't mean he can't still produce, it just means that taking his best career year and expecting him to replicate that in 2015 is unrealistic. Furthermore, don't expect him to rack up his normal workload. In his ten seasons with the 49ers, Gore averaged 244.2 carries per season - and in his last nine seasons he averaged 257.2 carries per season. The last time a Colts' back received that many? Joseph Addai in 2007 - and it likely isn't a coincidence that it was the Colts' last 1,000-yard rushing season. But here's the point - don't expect Frank Gore to receive his same normal workload with the Colts in 2015. He'll likely be the feature back of a running back by committee in a passing offense. That will lead to less carries than he may be used to, but that shouldn't lead to less effectiveness.
Ultimately, it's reasonable to expect Gore to have the best season by a Colts running back since 2007. It's reasonable to expect him to be a dangerous weapon in the Colts offense. It's reasonable to expect him to continue running hard and playing well. He won't be a Pro Bowler this year, but he should still be a good running back for the Colts who provides the upgrade they needed at the position.
Quick Summary: Frank Gore:
Weight: 217 pounds
Age: 31 years old
Years Pro: 10 seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers (2005-2014)
Drafted: Drafted in the third round (65th overall) by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft
Statistical Resume: Played in 133 games (119 starts) in ten years with 49ers; has rushed for 11,073 yards and 64 TDs while averaging 4.5 yards per carry; has caught 342 passes for 2,883 yards and 11 TDs; five-time Pro Bowler
Contract: 3-year, $12 million contract with $6.5 million guaranteed; $4.5 million cap hit in 2015 (per Spotrac)