The Indianapolis Colts have a new ‘1-2 punch’ at running back with last year’s 1,000 yard rusher, Marlon Mack, and their latest addition, 2nd round pick Jonathan Taylor out of Wisconsin—who the team recently selected with the 41st overall pick.
Mack rushed for 1,091 rushing yards to be exact in 2019—and on 247 carries (4.4 ypc. avg.) to go along with his 8 rushing touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Taylor was a bellcow again for the Badgers as a junior, rushing for over 2,000 yards for a consecutive season—and did it on 320 carries (6.3 ypc. avg.) with 21 rushing touchdowns to boot.
Both of the Colts’ backs are fully capable of being essentially every down workhorses in 2020, but by splitting their carries, Indianapolis could fully maximize their backfield’s overall production and limit their overall ‘mileage’.
The Colts can fully utilize a strong running game by getting more carries out of ‘featured backs’—as they don’t just have one now like last year, but two.
Additionally, behind a powerful offensive line, the Colts can heavily lean on the legs of both of their bellcows as their offense’s ‘bread and butter’—which can help alleviate the load on their 38 year old veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, who can’t reasonably carry an offense quite like he used to in his prime.
By emphasizing a power running game with their new hard-hitting, “1-2 punch”, the Colts will force extra defenders into the box, which will better set up play-action and open up the offense’s deep passing game for playmakers like T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., and Parris Campbell downfield.
Additionally, by lightening their running backs’ collective load, the Colts can ensure that each of their backs remain fresh late in-games, down the stretch of the regular season, and who knows, potentially even for a deep playoff run.
It ensures that their backs are running on nearly a full tank, not fumes late in the year.
One has to look no further than in 2006, when the Colts rode another infamous ‘1-2 punch’ at running back: rookie first round pick Joseph Addai and veteran back Dominic Rhodes on a magical Super Bowl run.
Yes, that team also had arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time, Peyton Manning, but the rest of the recipe for offensive success remains the same—especially for late season December and January football—where weather conditions can get ugly.
During that special 2006 regular season, the Colts gave Addai 226 carries and Rhodes 187 carries—effectively splitting the every down workload. Addai finished with 1,081 rushing yards (4.8 ypc. avg.) and 7 touchdowns, while Rhodes had 641 rushing yards (3.4 ypc. avg.) and 5 rushing touchdowns in their platoon.
That carried over to the playoffs, as Addai had 76 total carries over the Colts 4 game playoff stretch, whereas Rhodes had a total of 62 carries respectively. Addai finished with 294 rushing yards (3.87 ypc. avg.) and 2 rushing touchdowns; Rhodes 306 rushing yards (4.94 ypc. avg.) and a rushing touchdown.
It was largely Indianapolis’ rejuvenated running game—not their prolific passing attack, that carried the Colts past staunch defenses: the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, and Chicago Bears during that challenging 4-game stretch.
The Colts will hope to replicate that success in 2020 with another hard-hitting “1-2 punch” at running back on a potential AFC contender with serious Super Bowl aspirations.