Fans love to criticize running backs.
The masses have been quick to jump all over Addai and Brown and blame them for what has been a lackluster run game in Indianapolis for the past three years.
It seems we are not alone in that assessment.
KC Joyner thinks the Colts aren't far away from being a competent running team ($ piece. Kuharsky has a review of it here). His conclusion is that the Colts run game issues had more to do with the line than with the backs.
To put it another way, in order to get where San Diego was on the ground last season, the Colts would need to increase their overall rush attempts by 50 and increase their good block total by about 2 percent. That equates to turning somewhere in the range of nine to 11 blocking losses into wins over the course of the season. Given the addition of two giant offensive linemen in the 2011 NFL draft (Anthony Castonzo in the first round and Ben Ijalana in the second round), an improvement of that caliber seems well within reach.
It also would show that the Colts' front office has a sense of perspective that is just as on-target as those old-school Cowboys. They could have drafted a running back in place of Castonzo (no running back had yet been selected in the draft), but they understood that a good offensive line is the cornerstone of a solid running game. Their team-building choices may not have had the name-brand firepower of some other selections, but they were exactly what this team needs to make another run at a Super Bowl.
As much as fans want to blame running backs, when players are consistently tackled in the backfield, that's a blocking fail, not a running fail. Joyner's numbers show that Indy's backs performed well when the blocks were in place, but too often they were blown up in the backfield before a play ever had the chance to develop.
If the Colts get healthy seasons from Clark and Collie (or Gonzo), the 2011 Indianapolis offense could well be an incredible force. If nothing else, replacing one (potentially both) of the tackles should only help to establish a decent run game for the first time since 2007.