The hits keep coming in the Indianapolis Colts backfield, as now rookie running back Evan Hull “could miss some time” with a knee injury suffered during the team’s opening game loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It’s worth noting that star workhorse Jonathan Taylor (ankle) remains on PUP and is not eligible to return until after Week 4 at the earliest.
The encouraging news is that Zack Moss (forearm) could make his season debut following surgery on his arm after an injury suffered during a late July training camp practice. His return should provide the Colts a big lift at least between-the-tackles running the football.
That being said, Moss has been out of action since late July, so he may be a bit on an initial pitch count—even though he theoretically should’ve still been able to continue conditioning with legwork.
In Taylor—and even Moss’s absence this past weekend, the Colts running backs did not fare well to put it politely. Interim starter Deon Jackson rushed for just 14 total rushing yards on 13 carries—for an astonishingly low 1.1 yards per carry average. While Hull rushed once for a yard, and recent practice squad promotee Jake Funk had 2 carries for 10 total rushing yards:
#Colts OC Jim Bob Cooter on the RBs' 16 carries for 25 yards against the Jags:— James Boyd (@RomeovilleKid) September 12, 2023
"They won the battle there a little bit. We can put our players in better position to have success. But, shoot, it's an NFL season. We're off and running."
He expects the ground game to improve.
The Colts have to be stronger running the football to keep opposing defenses honest from deploying two high safeties and taking away Anthony Richardson and the offense’s vertical passing game—by forcing opposing safeties closer into the box to respect the running game.
While the Colts may have been overly optimistic that Moss would debut against the Jaguars, it’s a fair question of whether they had enough in their backfield actually entering game day. Jackson, at a listed 5’11,” 216 pounds, and Evan Hull at 5’10,” 209 pounds, lack the sheer size of Taylor (5’10”, 226 pounds) and don’t have the physical, hard-nosed running style of Moss. They’re ideally suited as situational third-down running backs or scatbacks.
The Colts have to get stronger running the football in the interior and in short yardage—which raises the question of whether a veteran running back signing could be imminent?
It wouldn’t be the first time that the Colts have kicked the tires on adding a veteran running back, as the franchise has previously visited with Kareem Hunt, showed interest in Melvin Gordon, and recently worked out James Robinson.
Out of the available veteran free agent options, both Hunt and Leonard Fournette remain the most potentially impactful options regarding the immediate future.
Some of it may come down to Moss’s health, whether Taylor will indeed return in a few weeks, and how close the Colts believe they are to seriously competing again in the AFC South—or whether this is simply a ‘play the kids’ year as part of a short-term rebuild.
However, if the Colts are actually trying their best to win football games (and make Richardson’s rookie life easier), what they currently have in their backfield stable simply isn’t enough—even with Moss potentially returning as soon as this weekend.