Starter: Marlon Mack
Bench: Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins
The Colts were always a pass-first team, and have been for the past twenty years. Nonetheless, this was one of the finest seasons posted by Colts running backs in recent memory. The running back group started on shaky footing, with Mack injured and only two rookies after him.
After 5 weeks, a healthy Mack brought stability to the group, providing a true three-down back. Hines served the role of the change of pace, pass catching back and Wilkins was solid in limited action. Every member of the group is worth writing about.
After a rough rookie season, expectations were not high for Mack but his presence was key for the Colts offense. After he went down with an injury against the Redskins, the Colts struggled to pound the ball, and the offense became absurdly one-sided and inefficient. After he returned as the starter against the Jets in Week 6, the Colts went 9-2 to finish the season. Mack finished with 908 rushing yards on 4.7 yards per carry and scored 10 total touchdowns, which was likely just shy of a Pro Bowl nod.
Mack displayed his excellent one-cut ability and his breakaway speed and scored 9 rushing touchdowns, good for 7th in the NFL.
Rookie Nyheim Hines served as the perfect complement to Mack. On the receiving end, where Mack falters, Hines shines. Hines posted 63 receptions, good for third among rookies behind Saquon Barkley and Calvin Ridley. In 148 combined touches (63 receiving, 85 rushes) Hines accumulated 739 yards and 4 scores. He averaged 5 yards a touch.
The best case scenario for him would be to become the Colts’ version of Tarik Cohen, a small shifty back who can run and catch and take every ball to the house.
Next is fellow rookie Jordan Wilkins. His stats are mediocre at best, 336 rushing yards and a score, to go along with 85 receiving yards, but Wilkins was extremely effective as the third string back. He got those 336 yards on just 60 carries (5.6 yards per carry) and caught 16 of the 17 passes thrown his way. He also proved that he can be sort of a spark plug off the bench, like he did against the Jaguars, with a 53-yard scamper, in a game where the Colts offense was asleep all afternoon.
Analyzing the Colts running backs cannot be done without mentioning that one of the reasons the group did so well was the excellent play of the offensive line. Still, the Colts backs proved that there is no need to throw a ton of money at a player like Le’Veon Bell. The players already in Indy are more than capable of handling the backfield.