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Marlon Mack’s Week 5 Display Should Yield Larger Role in Colts Offense

San Francisco 49ers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts rookie running back Marlon Mack leaped off of the screen Sunday afternoon in the Colts 26-23 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. His 91 yards on 9 carries, and a touchdown, confirmed what we all saw flashes of in the preseason with his speed and big-play ability. We’ve now seen Mack make defenders miss in between the tackles in the preseason, and now witnessed him kick it outside and turn the corner.

Though his receiving ability was another key reason for gaining Chris Ballard’s interest and adoration, he’s yet to truly flash in that regard. With only 3 receptions, and 25 carries (146 yards/5.2 yards per touch) through the three games he’s been active, after Sunday it’s clear that he deserves a larger share of the pie in the Colts backfield.

Chuck Pagano stated yesterday “Yeah, I think it’d be wise to try to find ways to get him the football and get him more involved.” in response to a question of if Mack’s role will increase. I think it’s fair to assume that we all agree that that’s a good idea.

It’s not even so much that Mack churned out 91 rushing yards Sunday, rather that he did it on only 9 carries and was quite successful on most of those carries. What made it particularly awkward is that there was such large gaps in game time without him getting any looks as well.

Let’s gain some perspective on this real quick.

On the Colts initial possession of the game, Mack took a first down play 9 yards reading his blockers and getting out of bounds. His next touch came on 2nd-and-5 with less than a minute to go in the first quarter featuring an offensive line breakdown — he had nowhere to go and was stopped for a short loss.

Mack’s next touch came with 9:58 to go in the second quarter, on 2nd-and-9, which was a screen pass that he nearly broke, but was tripped up by T.Y. Hilton’s leg swinging around. He gained 6 yards, but was negated by a holding call on Donte Moncrief.

Mack took another carry with 3:48 remaining in the second quarter for a 1-yard loss in which he may have had a cutback lane, but was largely swarmed by the 49ers defense. Mack didn’t get another touch until 4:02 remaining in the third quarter which was his 11-yard run that looked very similar to his 9-yard carry very early in the game. The very next play he broke off his 22-yard touchdown run.

Mack got two touches on the Colts following possessions in which he nearly put another score on the board with a 17-yard gain down to the 1-yard line. Mack only accrued one more carry until 2:17 to go in overtime where he broke a 35-yard run which you can argue gave the Colts the ability to attain the win.

Despite losing yardage on a couple of his rushes, Mack outgained Frank Gore, Robert Turbin and Jacoby Brissett combined on the ground with only 9 attempts. Though the argument can also be made that diversity in the backfield on passing downs keeps the Colts offense less predictable, I want Mack getting the majority of those opportunities going forward — especially over Turbin who is so indecisive in space.

Pagano touched on that as well yesterday, putting a premium on Mack’s — and all running backs — ability to protect in the passing game. When asked about what the main challenges for a young back were, Pagano responded:

“Being an every-down back — mostly protections. I think that’s the toughest thing for young backs to pick up and learn.”

(without all the mumbo-jumbo in between those quotes of course — you’re welcome).

Pagano continued:

“Having missed some time -— Classroom is one thing, he’s been in the classroom. But, until you actually go out there and executing it live, and you’re executing it live in practice, it’s difficult.”

For the most part, what seemed like long stretches without Mack getting any action, it really wasn’t all that long. Yes, Mack should have gotten more attempts through that time span, but Pagano’s right in this regard. Mack just came back from two games off, and if you recall Mack came up a bit soft after his 35-yard run (shoulder), so there may have been some underlying issues with just how healthy Mack actually was Sunday.

The good thing is that Mack was a real weapon in Week 5, he left the game without being injured (at least with our current knowledge of the situation) and will likely be ready to go Monday night against the Tennessee Titans — and hopefully for the rest of the season.

It appears as though his workload will increase, we know what he offers, but I think the Colts probably used him about as much as they responsibly should have given his time off and the need for him to take on this role we speak of as the season continues.