Running back Nyheim Hines was one of the Colts’ best performers as a rookie as he was a dynamic dual threat for now retired quarterback Andrew Luck. On the year, he played 499 snaps (44% of the offensive snaps) while getting 148 touches for 739 yards and 4 touchdowns. As he went into year two, the expectation was that Hines would get more snaps and playing time to provide an explosive element to the offensive and be a dynamic checkdown for new quarterback Jacoby Brissett. That simply hasn’t been the case though. In 2019, he has played just 298 snaps (31% of all offensive snaps) while getting just 84 touches for 457 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Hines is almost the exact player that he was a year before, he just isn’t getting on the field as much for some reason. In today’s film room, we will look at some of the positive plays that he has made this season and why the Colts have to involve him more in the offense in 2020.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Nyheim Hines is his ability as a pass catching back. A former wide receiver in his early years at college, he possesses soft hands and great route running ability for a running back. What really makes him special in this area is how he operates after the catch. With blazing 4.3 speed and quick feet, he is able to make defenders look foolish in space. Here he catches the check down and makes the linebacker flail to the ground with a missed tackle attempt. He then bursts up field makes another defender miss, former Pro Bowl safety Keanu Neal, before getting tackled. The result is a short dump off pass turned into a 15 yard gain.
Yards after catch and yards after contact are so important in the NFL. With speed all over the field, players have to be able to create with the ball in their hands and make defenders miss. This is what makes Hines such a dynamic playmaker on offense. Here he takes the quick swing pass out of the backfield on the blitz. He is out in space one on one with a cornerback and makes the defender look silly with a quick spin move. He is then able to explode up field and nearly beat the next defender to the sideline. The result again on this play is a short pass turned into a 20+ yard gain.
Everything you need to see from Hines as a receiver is shown on this play. Another blitz play where Hines is the hot route, quarterback Brian Hoyer makes a nice throw to the outside to the skilled back. Hines is able to catch the ball on the run without breaking stride as he turns up field. He hits the corner and is able to beat speedy linebacker Devin Bush to the edge for a big gain on the play. He yet again turns a short pass into a big gain (noticing a trend?). Even if his average depth of target is short, Hines is so dynamic after the catch that he needs to be heavily involved in the passing game each and every game.
Hines is less efficient as a rusher but he does do a few things well in this area of his game. He isn’t the biggest or strongest so he won’t necessarily win on short yardage plays. He also doesn’t have the best vision so it is tough to have him on stretch plays or zone runs. Where he is good though is quick dives and gap runs. When he doesn’t need to read the hole, he is extremely effective. Getteing him downhill where he can use his burst and explosion to get to the second level quickly, is the best option. Here he takes the dive up to the right side of the line. He shows good patience while the play develops and does a great job of getting skinny through the narrow hole. He is then able to break into the next level for the big gain on the play.
Hines’ ability as an athlete is unmatched in comparison to the other running backs on the roster. Other backs may be bigger, stronger, and have better vision but not one of them can match Hines as an athlete. Once he gets going downhill, there aren’t many better athletes in this league. Here he takes a quick read step before finding the hole up the middle. He quickly bursts through the lane and makes his way to the third level before the defensive lineman and linebackers can even realize it. His quickness and acceleration are insane here and the amount of ground he makes up in such a short amount of time is remarkable. The result yet again is another big play for the offense.
For a smaller “scat” type back, Hines does have some strength and contact balance in his game. Here against the Jaguars, he again takes a quick read step in the backfield before exploding through the hole. On his way to his first rushing score of the year, he makes one defensive back miss with a spin move while carrying another one into the end zone. Oveall, Hines isn’t the most consistent rusher but his ability to get chunk plays are exactly what the offense needed this year. He doesn’t need 10-15 carries a game but give him at least more than three a game (his average carries per game this season).
Get Creative with it
Hines doesn’t even need to be the primary back on the field at all times to get these touches. There are plenty of ways to get creative and get him the ball in space. Here is a good example of a play from this season. Hines is lined up in the slot as Marlon Mack is the primary back on the play. Before the snap, Hines comes in motion and takes the quick hand-off from the motion on the jet sweep. He is able to get to the outside and get the first down on the play.
He doesn’t even need to get a hand-off from this formation. Here Hines yet again lines up in the slot but he runs a route as a receiver on the play. With a favorable match-up against a linebacker and Hines’ background as a receiver, he is able to win this route easily. He takes the drag across the field and is able to turn the corner for a big gain on the play. With the Colts’ injuries to Chester Rogers and Parris Campbell this year, it would have been nice to see Frank Reich experiment more with Hines in as the slot receiver in a few formations.
The main point here is that it doesn’t matter how you get the ball to Nyheim Hines, just make an effort to do so. It can be from throwing it, from running it, or even tossing it to him. It doesn’t matter, just get the ball to him in space and let him go to work. Here the Colts run a reverse to Hines from the opposite side of the field and he is able to turn up field and get another solid gain on the play. For a team that had a mostly lifeless offense all year long with very few chunk plays, making an effort to involve one of the team’s most dynamic and explosive players would have been wise.
It is hard to fathom how little Hines has been used this season. For a quick comparison, running back Jonathan Williams has only logged 10% of the total offensive snaps for the Colts this year yet only has 30 less touches than Hines this season. That is insane. For a team that is near the bottom of the league in explosive plays and yards per play, involving one of their most dynamic players in the offense would have been more beneficial.
According to almost every stat and while looking at the film, Hines is almost exactly the same player he was in 2018. The only difference is that he is not getting on the field and he is not getting the ball as much. This has been a challenging season for the Colts’ coaching staff and they deserve credit for how they’ve handled a lot of the adversity they have faced. One thing that I just won’t understand is the lack of usage for Hines all season long. Hopefully in 2020, they get this play maker more involved in the offense.