Unfortunate news from the Colts' facility as head coach Chuck Pagano confirmed that starting running back Vick Ballard would be placed on injured reserve with an ACL tear, ending his season.
The injury occurred in a non-contact drill, as Ballard planted his foot and his knee popped.
It's an awfully rough break for Ballard, who ran well during the Colts' 21-17 victory over the Raiders. Ballard was never projected to have a huge year running the ball, due to the offensive line's ineptitude, but his improved pass protection was a key part of the Colts' ability to both run and pass out of different personnel groups.
Our hearts go out to the second-year back out of Mississippi State. ACL injuries don't quite represent the challenge they did in the past, and Ballard may yet be able to recover and still be an effective back in 2014 and beyond.
But without Ballard, who projected to get at least 50% of the snaps at running back this season, where do the Colts' go?
First off, nobody should be panicking.
I've seen several fans, via comments elsewhere or Twitter, complaining about how the Colts are "screwed."
There are 11 starters on offense. Of those 11, Ballard is the one most easily replaceable (outside of Mike McGlynn, who could be replaced by a suspicious-smelling piece of chicken at this point).
That's not meant to be of any offense to Ballard, but he's marginally better than Bradshaw/Brown at best, and the Colts' offensive success was always going to be based around Luck. The Colts' running game was going to be dependent on the offensive line, not the individual running backs.
An injury to any other starter (not counting Stanley Havili as a starter), or even a guy like T.Y. Hilton, would be far more harmful for 2013.
That's not to say the injury isn't harmful. Football is all about depth, something that gets severely hurt by losing Ballard, who (ironically) was the one back on the Colts' roster without an extensive injury history.
To take Ballard's spot for Sunday, the Colts will activate Kerwynn Williams, the team's 7th-round pick from the 2013 draft, off of the practice squad. Williams likely won't see much action on offense, however. The Colts may sign a veteran free agent sometime next week, but no current free agents are very tempting (recently-traded Delone Carter has a decent chance of coming back to Indianapolis, however, as he already knows the playbook).
Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown will likely split carries for the rest of the season. A 60/40 split sounds reasonable to me, although we'll see what happens in that regard. Both backs are decent receivers out of the backfield and can pass block (Bradshaw is better in that regard, but Brown's reputation as a horrible pass-blocker is FAR from accurate), so the Colts shouldn't be giving up too much versatility with those two on the field.
The best thing that could happen after this injury, however, is that the Colts don't try to continue to force the running game, and allow Andrew Luck to completely take the reins. I don't expect the Colts' philosophy to just change, as Hamilton won't abandon the run and Luck has bought into Hamilton's principles, but if the Colts turn slightly more pass-oriented because of the injury, I'll be a happy fan.
Kyle, I know you think that if you say it enough that 3rd-and1 Brown will become a good back---even though every coach he has had, decided his blazing speed does not overcome timid style--and put many physical backs, with less speed in front of him. Put him on your fantasy team. Brown is not tough enough--to risk Luck. Come on man give it up.
It means that Donald Brown will finally get the opportunity that he rightfully deserves. An opportunity that has been deprived from him time and time again for reasons I can't fathom. Faster, a superior receiver, an avid blocker, and simply more talented. I never understood why Ballard played ahead of Brown
Hastily bringing Delone Carter back would likely be a mistake and I doubt it will happen. Pagano can not choose a mediocre 3rd year RB with an unfortunate history of fumbling over a promising rookie and maintain locker room credibility.
Hopefully the Colts will get a two score lead or more. In that case I say put Williams in. See if he can handle the rookie jitters and not fumble. In case the Colts projected Kerwynn Williams as a serviceable backup in need of just a month or two more seasoning. Well the schedule just got moved up a bit. I say give the kid the rock. Only if Williams clearly is not ready then consider giving Carter another shot.
If Williams shows anything, odds are the Colts will not be able to waive him without losing him.
Do not panic and sign an long in the tooth Free Agent vet who probably will not last the entire season due to injury. Better to get a rook in need of development and put him on the PS.
In any case UNLEASH THE BEAST Pep!!!
Ah, level-headed writing again. Thank you, sir. That and the McGlynn joke. I literally laughed out loud.
I mean really. What's the point of saying "next man up" when, if it comes true, people start panicking. Who knows what new opportunities this opens up for Kerwynn Williams, who was okay playing against scrubs.
Let's see how we fare against the 'Adorable Marine Mammals' first and then decide how much of an impact this is.
Today has been some day. First my bike lock gets cut by some asshole with a gigantic set of boltcutters in broad daylight on the busiest intersection in Berlin, and now this. Man, fuck Friday the 13th.
I think Ballard is better than Brown and healthier than Bradshaw (although not right now). Man, it sucks that he's down just because of a freakish ACL injury. And he showed glimpses of great potential - so here's him coming back with full force next season.
Maybe Bradshaw, Brown, and Williams can share splits in a ratio of 40/40/20?
We'll see what happens from here on out.
@RobertItoh Problem with Brown was his tendency to "Two Step" prior to hitting the hole. Sometimes Brown needed to just try to get the few possible yards instead of getting tackle behind the line looking for a hole that was not there. It caused avoidable negative plays.
It that drove Peyton crazy that he would have to repeatedly handle 2nd and 12s when he could have been dealing with at worse 2nd and 8s. Don't you remember the videos of Peyton yelling at Brown?
But I say Brown has been consistently much better ever since Caldwell had his 2011 mid-season blow-up over his former dance moves.
Still love to see Brown make the most of a chance to prove he deserves to be resigned.
By all means work out a bunch of FAs RBs next week. But hopefully the Colts can muddle through until the Bye Week. That would be a good time to consider signing a Vet FA. I doubt any of the name FAs out there are really capable of playing more than half a season and stay healthy. In the meantime I say a get a rookie RB or more likely TWO to the PS and coach them up. Now who on the PS is expendable?
@hankster It was great last year. Whether it would continue is questionable, but it definitely looked improved.
@thellamajockey @RobertItoh you're stuck in 2009. He had 2 straight hundred yard games and all of a sudden Caldwell decided to bench him for some reason I can't explain. The beginning of '12 season. Brown had a pretty good game rushing against the Bears and then the moment he gets dinged, Ballard becomes the permanent starter, despite the fact that he can barely get yards after a catch and his total lack of speed hinders him from getting to the edge.
Brown has been victimized by a terrible line for years. I've done countless breakdowns that display how few opportunities the offensive line has given him to display his talent and the times he does display his talents, he gets benched. Horrid management by both Pagano and Caldwell
@Goéland @thellamajockey @RobertItoh You don't need to know what went on in the locker room. It was right there on the TV. Repeatedly Brown's hesitancy resulted in negative plays. The camera showed Peyton's reaction. The network announcers like Solomon Wilcotts pointed this out and were in agreement with Peyton.
Only when Caldwell finally blew up on the sidelines and started screaming at Brown did you start seeing a consistent change in behavior.
Brown blocking skills have been at worse spotty in his early years, but in last 2 1/2 increasingly more reliable. Not great but no longer a liability.
@RobertItoh @thellamajockey I am not going to argue that many times there was not much of a hole if any. But when you have an offensive line optimized for pass protection, an RB just has to adjust his expectations and simply avoid the negative play. But Brown would often not aggressively hit the hole and try to get at least a yard or two . Instead the Colts ending up with unnecessary negative plays that helped to stall drives. A far less NFL capable RB like Mike Hart would simply dive forward and get couple of yards. Brown's frequent hesitations drove Peyton and the fans nuts. If anything Caldwell was for too long far too tolerant of Brown's play and it hurt both of their reputations.
Actually since middle of the 2011 season, Brown has played pretty well when healthy. I have never been a Brown "Hater". I want Brown to succeed and would not mind having the Colt extend a viable 2nd contract offer.