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Nyheim Hines: The teammate who can play a monumental role for Carson Wentz this season

NFL: AFC Wild Card Round-Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Colts QB Carson Wentz has a lot of new weapons at his disposal, and they all bring various and unique skillsets to the team’s offense. As a matter of fact, a lot of the weapons Wentz has now reminds me some of the same pieces he had during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles.

T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell both provide a Nelson Agholor-type presence with their ability to create mismatches and draw double coverage. Michael Pittman Jr. resembles that of Alshon Jeffery, a big-bodied wide receiver who can go up and snag those 50-50 contested catches, and Zach Pascal reminds me of a more reliable Jordan Matthews, a receiver who put up decent numbers during his time with the Eagles.

But of all those weapons, there’s one player who has the ability to play a monumental role for Wentz in this offense, and that’s fourth-year running back Nyheim Hines. What do I mean, exactly?

I’m talking about a player who’s been vastly underrated for some time now, and who can mimic the role of one Darren Sproles, a teammate of Wentz’s during his time in Philly. Given both players’ similarities from purely an athletic standpoint, this sort of role just makes too much sense.

In 2016, Sproles had 438 rushing on 94 carries, averaging 4.7 YPC, and two touchdowns. Additionally, he caught 52 passes for 427 yards and two touchdowns, while averaging 8.1 yards per catch. While his numbers may not be “eye-popping,” Sproles’ ability to move the chains on third down and be a security blanket for Wentz — who was a rookie at the time — paid major dividends for the Eagles’ offense that season.

Granted, I’m not suggesting that this should be Hines’ only role. It’s quite the opposite. Hines is too big of a playmaker for the offense to be limited to just this sort of role. But given his overall production over the past three seasons, I don’t see this being an issue.

Hines has already taken on the role of the team’s primary punt returner, which came as no surprise after the game he had against the Carolina Panthers during the 2019 season. If you recall, Sproles played the exact same role for Philly, too, and he didn’t disappoint.

Where Hines could really be beneficial for Wentz, though, like Sproles, is on third downs. Hines’ elite, track-like speed and underrated pass catching abilities make him a matchup nightmare for any opposing linebacker or safety. And you better be able to tackle him one-on-one because he’ll make you look foolish if given the opportunity.

Fun fact: The Eagles moved the chains nearly half of the time on third downs in 2017, converting on 44.69%, which ranked second only to the Minnesota Vikings at 44.72%, according to teamrankings.com

The Colts last season converted on third downs just 40.65% of the time, which ranked 18th, according to the same site. Philip Rivers’ immobility had a lot to do with this number being lower than in previous seasons, in my opinion. With Wentz’s ability to move outside the pocket and make plays off-script, I have a strong feeling the team’s third down conversion percentage will greatly increase in 2021.

But Hines isn’t just a gadget guy, he’s an all-around running back who brings unique elements to the table. Just ask him.

“I hate when people call me a gadget guy,” Hines said. “I’m not a gadget guy, I’m a football player.”

Hines is right. He’s not just a gadget guy, he’s an all-around football player and star who’s not only going to run it well in between the tackles and catch it out of the backfield with pure ease, but his role will certainly make things easier for Carson Wentz and the rest of the offense this season, too.