The Indianapolis Colts ran wild against the Oakland Raiders, rushing for 222 yards as a team. Marlon Mack led the way on the ground but Nyheim Hines was also very effective as the number two back. Hines rushed 11 times for 78 yards with an average of 7.09 yards per rush. The Colts have been using Hines really well in the passing game this season but this past game showed that they are beginning to figure out how to use him in the running game as well.
Hines was a pretty highly regarded prospect who fell to the fourth round in the 2018 NFL Draft. Hines made headlines at the NFL Combine by running a blazing 4.38 40 yard dash. Despite being a top level athlete with very good hands though, Hines couldn’t be more different from a traditional scat back in the NFL. The traditional scat back— the Chris Thompsons and Theo Riddicks of the NFL— are quick, nuanced players who have great vision but not the proper body to hold up rushing the ball. Hines is not that.
Despite being just 5’8”, Hines makes up for his smaller size by weighing a sturdy 200 pounds. He runs very hard and with excellent power for a smaller player. His contact balance and ability to build up speed as he runs downhill makes him a nightmare for defenders in the box. The Colts initially tried using Hines as more of a scat player to start the year and he was relatively ineffective. But now using him as more of a change of pace, run up the gut back, Hines has excelled.
Lets check out some film to show you all how I reached this conclusion...
Our first clip here showcases Hines’ natural athleticism and ability to get to the edge. It is a delayed run here where Hines is already facing the sideline to start the play. Hines is able to beat the interior defensive lineman through the hole and glides his way forward for a gain of 10— this play was called back for a hold on Jack Doyle.
Notice what he’s asked to do here though. The play design has him facing the sideline so Hines is not being asked to read the blocks or find a hole. He is just asked to accelerate to the sideline and get up field which Hines executes very well on this play.
The next clip here is an inside wham play— beautifully designed play I must add— with Hines taking it right up the gut for the huge gain. Hines is able to sidestep the defender in the backfield then accelerate up the gut behind great blocking from the offensive line. Hines’ ability to weave through traffic between the tackles is also a very underrated aspect of his game.
Notice what is being asked of Hines on this play yet again. He isn’t diagnosing a hole or reading blocks. He is hitting a designed gap up the gut and getting up field. This was the main point of emphasis for the plays designed for Hines this week.
The next clip in our Film Room is a play that won’t end up on any highlight films but is essential for staying ahead of the sticks. Just a simple inside sweep to start the downs, Hines is bottled up initially but he puts his head down and gets up field for a positive gain. Great balance by Hines to stay on his feet through the contact and also great footwork here to find the hole up the gut.
I will continue to reiterate this point— as it is one of the focal points of this piece— but again look at Hines’ assignment here. It is just to get downfield and create positive yards. Hines is able to execute this very well and drive his feet forward for more yards than he should have gotten.
This next clip again is just a simple sweep play where Hines is able to get to the edge and get the first down. He is able to follow his blockers and use his natural athleticism and burst to effortlessly get to the first down marker without even getting touched until he is quite a few yards down the field. Great blocks by both Mark Glowinski and Ryan Kelly to held make this run possible as well.
To keep track of Hines’ runs in this game so far though, it has mostly been just sweeps and inside runs. No zone runs or gap plays for him. Nothing that requires great vision or agility. Simple runs— for the running backs— that are just see hole and get upfield.
The next clip here again is a bit unspectacular but it— yet again— keeps the offense ahead of the sticks. Hines yet again is just asked to shoot up the gut behind his interior offensive lineman and get positive yards. Hines stays nimble on his feet while trying to find an outlet out of the backfield, but then quickly decides to drive upfield and get positive yards. Great job keeping his feet churning and falling forward for extra yards.
Something to note right here. Every clip that I have shown you up to this point came on one drive late in the second quarter. Head Coach Frank Reich— late in the first half— drew up five straight runs for Hines to get all the way inside the 10 yard line. Again, each one of these plays were either a sweep or inside power run.
First rush of the second half for Hines and the Colts start with an inside counter play. The offensive line opens up a huge gap and Hines is able to put his foot in the ground and get up field for a big gain. I do like the patience by Hines here to not hit the hole with full speed and to allow his blockers to get on their defender before he plants and gets up field.
Again though, notice the trend that I am pointing out. Another play where Hines doesn’t have to read a hole or a use great vision. Just get the ball, get downfield in a hurry, and create positive yards behind a dominant run blocking offensive line.
Another great play design on our next clip here. Zach Pascal comes on a fake jet sweep— a play that the Colts ran earlier— and it completely freezes the linebacker. With the mike backer out of the play— notice how hard #59 bites on the fake sweep— Hines is able to create a big play. Hines hits the gut with great burst and shows excellent contact balance in the hole after absorbing a hit. He keeps his feet moving and makes a big play.
Another inside run behind the interior lineman for Hines. Great design yet again by Coach Reich creates a big hole but yet again notice all that Hines is asked to do on this run.
This clip here shows off the ability of Hines on a very simply designed run. This is just a basic dive play but Hines is able to spin to the outside off of the initial penetration. He then lays a nasty stiff arm on the safety and finished the play with another spin in space on the linebacker. This play right here shows the skill set of Hines and why he is working so well in this offense.
He is executing very well in his gap and sweep plays by taking what is given to him. What makes him standout though— besides being a top level athlete— is his ability to create yards and fight through contact. That is a trait that is rarely found in traditional scat backs.
This last clip is actually a bit of a negative one but it proves the point I’ve been making this entire article. This is a designed sweep that the Raiders sniff out from the beginning of the play. As a result though, the middle of the field is open for a huge gain. And by huge, I mean a potential touchdown. There is nobody in the middle of the field. Hines does eventually find the cutback lane but he is too slow in planting his foot and is way late in reading the hole.
The emphasis of this entire piece— which I will sum up here in the analysis— is that Hines is much better as a north and south runner. Where he gets in trouble is when he has to go east and west and diagnose a play. The majority of his plays in this game were designed to give him north to south type runs.
So what was that point that I was bashing over your head the entire article? The Colts are finally using Nyheim Hines the way that he should be used. Hines is not a traditional scat back with great agility and shiftiness to make a play. He is a strong, downhill runner despite what his size says. Once Coach Reich realized this, he schemed plays that allowed for Hines to have his best rushing game of his pro career.
Early in the season, Hines was excelling as a passing down back but putting up fairly poor numbers as a runner. Once the offensive line solidified with Braden Smith at RT and Mark Glowinski at RG, running lanes have opened up tremendously for the Colts running backs. Coach Reich realized the best way to utilize Hines and Mack is to not make them these runners with great vision. Rather, allow these two great athletes to use their athleticism to create big plays through the big holes that his offensive line is creating.
Am I saying that Hines is a bad player? Not at all, in fact he has played remarkably well this year. All I am saying is that he is not a complete back and he is not going to be this agile runner with great vision. Reich understands that and is putting a very good role player in a role where he can find the most success.
Hines has been great in the passing game to start the year. If he can continue to run hard and effectively and Coach Reich can continue to scheme plays to his strengths, I expect a huge second half of the year for the rookie. Hines is not the scat back/ passing game back for this offense; he is the clear cut RB2 and is being schemed plays that maximize his success.