With the news that Marlon Mack may not be ready to start the season the running back position is very much a question mark. Because of this, I thought it would make sense to do some film breakdown of the performance of the running backs from the Colts’ second preseason game against the Ravens.
We’ll take a look at Christine Michael, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins, and compare their performances and abilities as we prepare for the contest with the 49ers that will likely have a big impact on who gets the lion’s share of the carries once the regular season arrives.
Nyheim Hines – 5’9”, 198lbs
As a point of clarification off the bat, I am not going to look at Hines’ work as a returner at all. Suffice to say it is abysmal. What I want to do is not let that overshadow his value as a runner, so I will be looking at his work in the backfield and in pass protection.
One of Hines’ most valuable traits is his ability as a receiving back. Here that is on display as the Ravens have guys blitzing up the middle. Hines simply releases to the flat, makes a nice catch, and takes it for a 9 yard gain.
On this play, Hines takes the ball up the middle on 3rd and 1. There is a defender in the backfield right away, and the blocking is not perfect with tight end Ross Travis getting beat to the inside. However, Hines gets the ball past the line to gain for a 3-yard pickup and a first down. Those runs matter, even if they aren’t huge on a stat sheet.
Here we get a great look at Hines as a pass protector. He quickly identifies the corner blitzing off the edge and moves over to take him on. He squares up to him and despite his smaller stature, provides a nice block that buys Brissett time to roll right and complete the pass. This is exactly the kind of thing you love to see from a rookie back, and one that will endear him to the coaches.
This one is another run that isn’t all that pretty. There isn’t much to work with, the line is collapsing, and there are multiple defenders converging on the area. However, Hines gets low and accelerates through what little hole there is to get the first down. The key here is that this play is 4th and 1. On those have to have it plays, being able to get the yards needed really matters, and that’s what he does here.
This last one shows yet another example of the surprisingly hard-running Hines going between the tackles. I was more than a little surprised going back and reviewing the film, at how well Hines did in those critical short-yardage situations.
As a guy who can convert on those critical downs and can pass protect and catch passes, that could make him a very valuable third down option for the Colts. But they really need to stop letting him return kicks.
In my opinion Nyheim Hines would rate as a close second to Jordan Wilkins in terms of the effectiveness of these three backs, although he is more useful as a third down option who can get those needed yards and provide pass protection or a capable outlet pass.
He was a pleasant surprise when his running impact was separated from his kick return duties. It seems clear to me that Frank Reich should use him less in a special teams role and let him be a valuable weapon in the backfield.