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INDIANAPOLIS – Watch a full 11-on-11 session at Colts Training Camp and you will quickly notice the ‘by committee’ approach at running back.
If Andrew Luck and the starters take 8 snaps in an 11-on-11 drill, the Colts are probably rotating 4 running backs among those reps.
Running back by committee is real for the 2018 Indianapolis Colts.
“Right now what keeps them on their toes right now is that they have to learn everything,” Reich says of the 6 running backs currently on the roster. “But as we get more towards the games, we will be game plan specific. Even though it is committee–Chris (Ballard) and I were talking about this the other day about the value of having three-down backs meaning you’re not worried about a guy because we will do some no huddle and you don’t want to be stuck with a guy that you had in there on first down and now it’s third down and you want to go no huddle and now you really shouldn’t be in there. We want backs on this roster who if we’re in that mode, we feel good about being in on third downs.
“Now they just need to learn it all, but as we gear towards games they will have their plays. They will know going into the gameplan – Nyheim (Hines) will know, ‘Here are my 15 plays,’ and so on and so forth.”
With Robert Turbin missing the first 4 games of 2018 and Josh Ferguson a long shot to make the 53-man roster (especially after missing a week and a half of camp due to injury), it’s clear the Colts have 4 backs to choose from early in the season.
If the Colts don’t elect to try and find a runner after preseason cuts, let’s take a look at how the top 4 running backs (sans Turbin) have done in camp:
- Marlon Mack: When the Colts begin those 11-on-11 drills, Mack is usually the first one out there. Mack is full-go after shoulder surgery this offseason and hasn’t been afraid to lower that shoulder to show off some more physical runs. Mack is the closest thing the Colts have to a ‘definite’ 3-down back, so he has to be viewed as the favorite to start. That burst to the edge is still pretty lethal from the second-year back. Jim Irsay threw out an absurd possibility of Mack rushing for 1,500 yards this season. We need to majorly pump the breaks on that. Mack had 358 yards in 14 games played last season.
- Nyheim Hines: Will Hines’ role be more as a receiver for the Colts? That remains to be seen, but we’ve seen Hines used all over the offense so far in camp. He’s also the team’s starting punt and kick returner. Seeing Hines as an every-down running back is difficult. That is probably more cut out for guys like Mack and Jordan Wilkins. Still, Hines has the skillset to play multiple spots for you. We haven’t seen tons of flashes from Hines in camp, but he seems like a guy who would excel even more in truly live settings.
- Jordan Wilkins: This is a guy who has certainly benefited from the suspension of Robert Turbin. And the Colts are noticing Wilkins: “Jordan is one of those guys that we are talking about with a real toughness,” Reich says. “I just feel like this guy loves football and loves physicality. He’s got no fear in his game. I think he’s making a very good impression. I’m very, very happy with the progress that he is making and he’s showing the ability to play on all three downs. He’s better out of the backfield than I even thought he was going to be as a receiver. In pass protection, he’s good. He knows his stuff. He’s making good progress.” That sounds pretty good. Wilkins has risen in his expected role. It shouldn’t be a surprise if the Colts use Wilkins a decent amount early in the season.
- Christine Michael: The veteran looks healthy after suffering a season-ending injury in May 2017. At 220 pounds, Michael could give the Colts more of a short-yardage option, something that they are definitely missing with Turbin out. Wilkins could factor into that role, too. Before the Turbin suspension, Michael was probably on the outside-looking in to make this team. But that’s changed a bit.