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Indianapolis Colts 2015 Position Review: Running Backs

The Colts didn't quite get their first 1,000 yard rusher since 2007, but that doesn't mean it was all bad for the running backs in 2015. Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson takes a look back at the position.

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Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

After the Colts' final game of a rough 2015 season, running back Frank Gore wasn't happy.  The back told media postgame that it had been "the toughest season of my career" and that there had been "a lot of f***** up stuff."  "The toughest 967 [yards] I ever got," he added.  In short, he wasn't happy, and when asked about next year his reply was less than reassuring: "I'm under contract.  What can I do?"

It was an incredibly trying and frustrating season for Gore, and in what perhaps shows the depth of the Colts' recent running back struggles, Gore still posted the best season by a Colts' back since 2007.  He fell short of becoming the team's first 1,000 yard rusher since Joseph Addai did it nine years ago, but his 967 yards were the most of the Andrew Luck era and the most since that '07 season.

Gore was signed as a free agent last offseason and picked the Colts for the chance to win a Super Bowl and to play with Andrew Luck.  In the end, the Colts finished 8-8, missed the playoffs, and played nine games without Luck.  That made things a lot harder on Gore, as defenses were able to stack the box and key in on the team's run game with a backup quarterback in the mix, and added to a struggling offensive line, Gore didn't get many chances.  He got the carries and the touches, but running behind a poor line and with backup quarterbacks in the game isn't exactly a recipe for success.  Still, Gore played in all 16 games (incredibly the fifth-straight year he has done that) and rushed for 967 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 3.7 yards per carry.  He also added 34 receptions for 267 yards and a touchdown in the receiving game, averaging 7.9 yards per catch.  He totaled 1,234 yards and seven touchdowns from scrimmage this year, averaging 77.1 total yards per game.  But while he gave the Colts a legitimate threat in the run game for the first time in years, it wasn't easy for the back.  He rushed for the third-fewest yards in a season in his career and the lowest since 2010.  He had his worst rushing yards per game average since his rookie year.  He managed his first ever season without a 100-yard rushing game.  He became just the fourth player in league history to rush for more than 20 but less than 100 yards in all 16 games.  He finished with the worst yards per carry average of his career (by 0.4 yards per carry, too).  I think you get the idea - it was a rough year for Gore, though he provided a nice boost to the Colts.

Besides for Gore, the Colts had a number of different backs this year.  Daniel "Boom" Herron was projected to be their number two back, but he was hurt in the final preseason game.  The team waived-injured him, Herron eventually signed with the Bills, and then after a few games was waived, after which the Colts promptly picked him up.  He then played in six games for the team, rushing for 42 yards on 14 carries and catching six passes for 27 yards.  Before bringing back Herron, the Colts had re-signed Ahmad Bradshaw, who once again was a difference-maker before once again getting injured and lost for the year in his sixth game.  Bradshaw rushed for 85 yards on 31 carries but also caught ten passes for 64 yards and three scores.  Josh Robinson was the Colts' sixth round draft pick last year and made the roster out of camp, and he played in five games this year - rushing for 39 yards on 17 carries and catching six passes for 33 yards.  Fumbling issues once again plagued Robinson, however, as he was eventually waived and signed to the practice squad.  Another guy who made the team out of camp, Tyler Varga, was one of the standouts of preseason and played in three games for the Colts this year, rushing once for two yards and catching one pass for 18 yards.  After three games, however, he was placed on injured reserve.  The back who played in the most games this year, besides for Frank Gore, was Zurlon Tipton, who appeared in ten games as a backup running back.  He rushed just five times for 20 yards and caught five passes for 59 yards on the year, though, so his impact was minimal before he was released late in the season.  Lastly, the Colts brought in Trey Williams late in the year after signing him off of the Dolphins' practice squad.  Appearing in the final two games of the season for the Colts, Williams rushed twice for 12 yards.

In summary, the Colts' 2015 season was an improvement when it came to the running back position, but questions still remain.  A lot of the questions, however, have to do with other factors besides the backs themselves.  Getting Andrew Luck back will be a huge boost to the run game, as it will give the offense a legitimately dangerous passing threat once again and prevent defenses from being able to load the box.  Improving the offensive line will allow more holes for the run game to make things easier for the backs and give them more opportunities.  If the Colts do both of those things, we should see the running backs have even more success going forward.

Frank Gore will likely be back next year, though he will be another year older (33) by that time.  He showed that he could still be a threat this year, but the Colts will also need that number two back to play behind him.  Will that be Boom Herron, like we thought it would be last year before his injury?  Will Trey Williams factor into things this offseason?  Will Josh Robinson get another shot?  Will Tyler Varga?  Are the Colts moving on from Zurlon Tipton?  Would the Colts even consider bringing back Ahmad Bradshaw?  Those are some big questions about the position moving forward that we just don't know, but it does seem like the Colts need to find a change of pace back to play behind Gore.  I don't think they need to go out and invest a ton in the area because they have candidates in-house already, but finding that number two back will be especially important next year with Gore another year older.  Ultimately, if the Colts can improve the offensive cast around the running back position, Gore and the rest of the cast could have a better statistical season in 2016.

For more in-depth analysis of the Colts' 2015 season, check out Josh Wilson's other position reviews:

| QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | OLB | ILB | CB | S | S/T |