Prior to launching Colts Authority, I took the time to break down some of the issues that will face the Colts in the coming off-season as the team prepares for the 2012 NFL season. New developments, such as the firing of Bill and Chris Polian and hiring of new General Manager Ryan Grigson have occurred that make the stories worthy of re-publication and revision. We hope you will enjoy the series as the 2011 season moves closer to its conclusion.
When the Indianapolis Colts entered the 2011 season, there was some concern regarding the team's depth at running back. It's not that there were not enough options, even Darren Evans and Chad Spann showed enough in preseason to inspire confidence in fans.
The problem lied in the fact that three of the backs competing for a spot were rookies -- two went undrafted -- and the other backup was a first round pick discussed by most everyone as a bust to that point in his career. Joseph Addai was the only sure-thing on the roster, and he was re-signed primarily because the team was unable to solidify the position over the off-season.
With Addai missing time early in the season due to a hamstring injury, Donald Brown and Delone Carter had their chance to carry the load. Carter did relatively well early on but developed a fumbling problem that will have to be corrected if he hopes to have an NFL career. Brown, on the other hand, had a fantastic season on limited carries.
Brown finished the season with 645 yards on 134 carries, good for an average of 4.8 yards per carry. FootballOutsiders.com lists him as the fifth best running back in the NFL based upon DVOA, which judges a players value against others in the same position making plays in the same situations. Despite the fact that Brown had such success, he received only 19 carries in the final two games of the season.
The reasons for limiting Brown's carries are not entirely clear. The team may have been protecting him for 2012, knowing that him getting hurt in the final two games of the year didn't make sense. No matter the case, there is now reason to believe that Brown is a legitimate NFL running back who is ready to start making a name for himself.
While it is too early to know whether Evans and Carter will end up being the change-of-pace or short-yardage answers next to players like Brown or Addai, one thing is clear: the team has invested a lot at running back -- including two first round picks and a fourth -- so the likelihood that running back will be a priority in the off-season is relatively low. If any move happens with the running backs it will more than likely be a trade.
The Colts have a history of allowing running backs to depart via free agency, as opposed to signing them to large contracts that will keep them on the roster past their primes. Without any known quantities behind him, Indianapolis felt compelled to retain Addai for 2011 and beyond.
There is a chance that if new general manager Ryan Grigson is comfortable with Brown and Carter, Addai could be shopped for a draft pick -- likely in the fourth round range. Another possibility is that the team capitalizes on Brown's rising stock and parts ways with him before his contract year with an eye toward the draft or free agency for another veteran.
The offensive line has noticeably improved under since-released coach Pete Metzalaars. While no replacement has been named, and may not be named until the head coaching spot is filled, owner Jim Irsay has discussed wanting to find more balance. If that includes having a more prominent running game, the young improving offensive line could be a sign fo a positive future for Colts ball carriers.
On a team that has numerous holes that put the short-term future in doubt, running back is one position of relative security at this point.
The only reason Brown does not have monster numbers is because we had a dumb coach and awful playcalling (no-huddling in the first quarter with Curtis Painter should tell you enough).
I'm still every bit as excited with him as the day he was picked. Give him a fair shot and he will perform
Brown is at best a situation back-can not run inside and not tough enough to block a breeze-but he leads the league in eastwest yards. Legitimate NFL Back? will never make it to pro-bowl! I hope Carter can hang on to ball-he is already a better runner---He beat out Brown right from spring -tough. I think Brown was helped more by blocking ends, fulbacks, and better line blocking. Coachs never can trust him in tough spots.
@Blue@Heart Most of this post makes no sense.
@Payton only to you! Tell which word confuses you and I will give you the definition.
@Payton Brown seemed not to be trusted to pickup and handle rushers and could not seem to break tackles-he would run out of bounds rather take a hit to gain more yards. He can run inspace- but in a one back set well the coaches did not trust him-I agreed with them. Carter could be special-tough hard to get on the ground!
@Blue@Heart Legitimate NFL back? He proved this year he can run the ball pretty damn well. #5 in DVOA is nothing to sneeze at. Carter and Brown occupy different niches. Carter is a straight power back. How was Brown helped out more by blocking? Carter never ran the ball without a FB lead block or a double TE set. I think the coaches lack of trust in Brown was honestly one of the dumber things they did. They essentially benched him after the two best games of his career. He's also not nearly as turnover prone as Carter, who admittedly didn't have an issue with it in college, but Carter has 3x more turnover in just under 1/3 of the carries. I don't see why we don't keep both.
i would love to trade brown for anything we can get for him and just roll with addai, carter and evans
@omahacolt You've never liked him
@Payton true. why would i?
@omahacolt I'd like to see what he can do with a legitimate (hell even average) QB to take some pressure off the running game. If the improvements to RBs and OL survive the coaching overhaul, next year's offense could look nice and balanced.
@Payton he can make a big play. i give him that. but i dont think he has very good vision. granted it looks better behind a fullback but lets not kid ourselves. the guy doesnt have close to probowl talent.
@omahacolt He's a good productive running back who offers big play ability no one else on the team has?
I'm glad there's some recognition of Brown's talents. I like him more each year. And when he breaks loose and turns on his afterburners, it's a thing of beauty.
No, no bro-mance here. I just remember jumping up and running around the room after his 80 yard run.
I don´t think Addai brings in a 4th round pick, Brett. He´s not considered elite enough to upset his age, and most teams would only overlook the prime thing to get an established, big-name player like LT or Jamaal Lewis. I don´t think he´d be worth more than a 6th round pick, if he manages to bring in anything at all. Especially given how scarcely he played this season. I love JoeJoe´s skills, don´t get me wrong, but I don´t think there´s a bustling market for him out there. As for Brown, I don´t see how releasing him would work. He had a great situational season, but I don´t think a lot of teams would be greatly interested in signing him, and he has to know he needs a full good season before testing the waters. He´ll work hard for that, no doubt. And given the bevy of player losses the Colts will probably have this offseason, the team can´t afford to have to worry about RB in the draft. As for a trade, it would cost something, either money or draft picks, and the Colts aren´t exactly flush with those, or at least in a position where they can afford to not maximize them. Depending on Brown makes the most sense in my opinion.
I agree completely about the o-line being important in this equation. Sweetness himself couldn't have averaged more than 3 ypc with the 2010 Colts line.
@Music Man sweetness could have. he would have been the only one
no to barry sanders
Only Barry Sanders could...