There are 88 players in the NFL who have rushed for more yards this season than Colts backup running back Robert Turbin, who’s tied with Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin with 131 yards rushing. He’s behind a group of players that includes 14 quarterbacks (one being Andrew Luck), a fullback, and a wide receiver, as well as 72 running backs.
Yet there’s only 12 players in the NFL who have more rushing touchdowns than Turbin’s six (all of them running backs), and no running back who has received at least 20 carries this year has a higher percentage of his carries go for first downs than Turbin (who has converted 42.1% of his carries for first downs). Only 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick ranks ahead of Turbin using that criteria among all players.
Clearly, though Turbin hasn’t had a ton of chances, he’s produced. He’s rushed 38 times for 131 yards and six touchdowns this year, while he’s also caught 22 passes for 150 yards. He’s touched the football 60 times, and 23 of them have gone for a first down (38.3%). He’s been a very efficient back, serving primarily as Indy’s goal-line back but seeing an expanding role as he’s been used in other situations too. Last week, he scored two touchdowns in the Colts’ rout of the Vikings.
“He’s a good player,” head coach Chuck Pagano said on Tuesday. “He’s a talented guy. He has good measurables. He works extremely hard. Like everybody else, he prepares really well and he takes advantage of every opportunity that he’s been given whether they’re blocking roles, as a runner, as a pass protector, he’s done a great job for us. Special teams, he hadn’t been a core teamer. He didn’t come in here as a core teamer, but he’s a selfless guy and a team first guy so he embraced that role and he’s done a great job for us on special teams. And then every time you put him out on the field he seems to produce. It’s a credit to him as a football player, a teammate, his character – glad he’s on our side.”
When Turbin signed with the Colts this past offseason, he knew he was going to be slotted behind a potential future Hall of Famer on the depth chart in Frank Gore. He knew he wasn’t coming to compete for a starting spot, he was competing for the backup spot. But he went to work trying to win that number two running back spot, and slowly but surely he emerged as the winner of that competition. Since then, he’s been valuable to the Colts in a number of areas, but perhaps none more so than as a short yardage back. The Colts had massive struggles a year ago converting on situations with a yard or two to go, but this year they’ve used Turbin in those situations and have seen results. And Turbin has also proven able to get into the end zone, as though he came to the Colts with just one career rushing touchdown in 58 games, he’s scored six in 13 games with the Colts.
The Colts will have a decision to make on the free agent-to-be this offseason, but based on what we’ve seen from Turbin this year the Colts have to consider bringing him back. He’s produced whenever he’s been given the chance, and he’s been a nice complementary piece in the backfield behind Frank Gore.