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Step into my Office: Running Backs

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Last week, we took a look at how the quarterbacks on the Colts roster fared in 2016. This week, we’ll review the running backs.

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Let’s be honest. The Colts haven’t had a viable running game since the first three years of Joseph Addai’s career. Since, it has been a cluster of different running backs and horrific run blocking offensive lines.

And the Trent Richardson experiment.

When the Colts signed Frank Gore, it looked like that would change. And it kind of did? In the last two years, the Colts have finally had something resembling a running game. In 2016, the Colts, as a team, churned out 1,628 yards.

Most of those yards went to Gore, who became the team’s first 1,000 yard rusher since Addai in 2007.

As a team, the Colts ran for 13 touchdowns as well. back-up Robert Turbin led the way with seven touchdowns. Gore had four, while Andrew Luck (the team’s second leading rusher) has two. As a whole, the team averaged exactly 4 yards per carry.

In the passing game, the running backs made their presence known as well, combining for 84 catches for 592 yards and five touchdowns. Not bad.

Compare these numbers to last year, and we see a huge improvement. Last season, the Colts rushed for 1,438 yards (only 3.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. Gore was the only rusher to score in 2015. Oh, and Luck was somehow still the team’s number two runner last year.

Yeah, I would say 2016 was an improvement.

But let’s take a look at the team’s top three running backs (Gore, Turbin, and Josh Ferguson)

Frank Gore

While a frustrating year for Gore, it was an improvement over the 2015 campaign. As noted, Gore ran for over 1,000 yards, becoming the first player to do so in a Colts uniform since 2007. He also became the first player 33 years or older to run for 1,000 yards since 1984. Impressive.

Yes, Gore’ touchdowns were down, but that is in large part to the Colts using Turbin as the goal line running back.

Compared to the rest of the NFL, I was surprised by what I found from Gore. In terms of yards on the ground, Gore was one of only 12 running backs to rush for over 1,000 yards (he was number 12).

However, the rest of his numbers aren’t even on the radar. His 3.9 yards per carry was barely in the top 30. Only four touchdowns put Gore nowhere close to the top of the league, and he had only one run over 20 yards. He did finish 15th in yards per game. But at 64.1, I’m not sure how great that is.

Good news, though, was that Gore only had two fumbles all season. That puts him well below almost every other starting running back in the league. A majority of players who tallied two fumbles were quarterbacks.

And finally, Gore also finished 13th in the league in first downs gained (only for rushing, obviously).

So what have we gleaned from Gore’s stats? Compared to the rest of the league, he was decidedly average. Which, compared to past years, is a vast improvement for the Colts roster.

Keep in mind, there were some games (like the second loss to Houston) where Gore only had 10 or fewer carries, for some reason. The Colts did migrate away from the running game at times, affecting Gore’s numbers.

Robert Turbin

If I took numbers way out of context, I could tell you that Turbin scored a touchdown once every seven times he ran the ball.

For a running back, that sounds incredible. However, Turbin only had 47 carries on the season.

I think Turbin was an interesting case, as a lot of fans didn’t know what to make of the free agent. And I don’t think the coaches did either. In the first half of the season, he had 16 carries for 39 yards and two touchdowns. In the second half, Turbin had 31 carries for 125 yards and five touchdowns.

Once the Colts began using Turbin in goal line, and short yardage situations, he became an extremely efficient back for the Colts.

Josh Ferguson

Oh Josh Ferguson.

Here is a player we heard so much about during training camp and the pre-season. And he simply was not very good this season.

Ferguson saw a ton of action during the first few weeks of the season, especially in the passing game. In total, Ferguson had 27 touches (catches and rushes) in the first eight games, only one less than Turbin.

In the second half of the season, Ferguson had a total 8 touches, with seven of those coming in the Jets and Vikings games. Basically, Ferguson became non existent in the second half of the season.

I would imagine, though, that we’ll see a heavy dose of Ferguson again next season. Hopefully, he’ll improve in his first full off-season with the Colts.

Position Grade: C+/B-

I think I’m a little jaded here. The running game really wasn’t great. in fact, I called it “average” in this post. And, in my mind, “average” is a C. However, the way the backs were utilized in the passing game, and the vast improvement over everything we’ve seen in recent history, made me bump up the grade a little.