Running back Robert Turbin didn’t put up the volume stats in 2016, but he was incredibly effective in his role.
He rushed for 164 yards and seven touchdowns on 47 carries, proving to be a very successful short yardage and goal line back. He gained a first down on 42.6% of his carries, which was tops in the league among all running backs with at least 20 carries. He also contributed by catching 26 passes for 179 yards and score, and he was a good blocker (Pro Football Focus gave him the second-best blocking grade for any running back last year).
His success in those roles led the Colts to re-sign him to a two-year deal this offseason, and it’s also led them to publicly suggest that Turbin could see an increased role in 2017. While that exact role is yet to be determined as others compete for time in the backfield too (like Marlon Mack and Christine Michael, plus of course starter Frank Gore), the Colts have been quite impressed by Turbin this offseason.
“I’ve been really pleased with Robert Turbin,” offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said on Wednesday. “He’s had a hell of a spring – much better this spring than he was this time of year a year ago. He’s really gravitated toward a leadership position and helping guys out. He gets on guys when he needs to. Again, I go back to him and the roles he played for us last year he was totally unfamiliar with, had never done. You look at a guy that’s been in the league for that long and all of a sudden now he’s a third-down protector, something he’d never done before. Obviously you guys know short-yardage, goal line, things like that. As the year evolved on, we saw more and more and he improved and he was there for us. I can’t say enough good things about Robert.”
That answer about Turbin was part of Chud’s response to what the Colts’ running back personnel will look like in 2017, so it’s clear that Turbin is on the offensive coordinator’s mind when it comes to the discussion of running back playing time and things related to that.
As we’ve said numerous times, offseason performance doesn’t always translate to in-game performance in the fall, so all of this talk about who impressed in the offseason program must be treated with a healthy bit of caution. But Turbin has impressed the coaches, and that’s especially important when it comes to a discussion about playing time. We could see him move into a larger role in 2017, and if he keeps up the production that he showed last year and that he’s apparently showing this spring, he should continue to take advantage of those opportunities.