INDIANAPOLIS – It’s a nightmare situation for fantasy owners.
Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni are quite happy with it though.
How do you split up carries and playing time between Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and even Jordan Wilkins?
The Colts averaged 29 rushing attempts per game last season, and you know a majority of that number will be going to Mack and Taylor this season.
“We know we want to run the football,” Sirianni, the team’s offensive coordinator, says. “We know a lot of the good running teams in this league and in the past have had good one-two punches. It feels like it’s just a one-one punch though because we have two such exceptional backs. We’ve seen it work in the NFL so much where you have different styles of guys, right? Both these guys can do multiple things though.
“Jonathan is a little bigger than Marlon, but they both have exceptional speed, and they both have ability to make you miss, and they both have the ability to break arm-tackles and run with power. They have some different running styles, but again they’re both complete backs. I think that’s a fantastic problem to have, two guys like that you can feed the football to. It’s only going to help our running game.”
Reich’s history as an offensive coordinator shows that he might need to drum up his days in San Diego or Philadelphia to see a blueprint for the running back touches.
Here’s a breakdown of the running back carries for Reich’s time as an NFL offensive coordinator (had to average 2 carries per game to qualify):
2014-Chargers (called plays): Brandon Oliver: 160 carries (40%), Donald Brown: 85 carries (21%), Ryan Mathews: 74 carries (19%)
2015-Chargers (called plays): Melvin Gordon: 184 carries (47%), Danny Woodhead: 98 carries (25%), Donald Brown: 59 carries (15%)
2016-Eagles: Ryan Mathews: 155 carries (35%), Darren Sproles: 94 carries (21%), Wendell Smallwood: 77 carries (18%)
2017-Eagles: LeGarrette Blount: 173 carries (37%), Corey Clement: 74 carries (16%), Jay Ajayi: 70 carries (15%), Wendell Smallwood: 47 carries (10%)
2018-Colts: (called plays): Marlon Mack: 195 carries (48%), Nyheim Hines: 85 carries (21%), Jordan Wilkins: 60 carries (15%)
2019-Colts (called plays): Marlon Mack: 247 carries (52%), Nyheim Hines: 52 carries (11%), Jordan Wilkins: 51 carries (11%), Jonathan Williams: 49 carries (10%)
It’s interesting to note how much of a bellcow Mack has been, especially compared to prior Reich stops.
Obviously, some injuries will impact these numbers, but you have to think that Mack’s heavy workload is going to come down in 2020.
Do we see Taylor eat up the 100 total carries Wilkins and Williams had last season, while maybe even eating into some of Mack’s workload?
That would make sense, if the Colts are trying to achieve that ‘1-1 punch’ with Mack and Taylor.
In college, Taylor averaged 22 carries per game. Mack has averaged 17 carries per game over the last two seasons.
Will the season start with Mack getting 45% of the love, then Taylor around 25% and Hines in the 20% range? How will that evolve week-to-week?
We know Hines is primarily going to be used on third down, with a focus on being involved in the pass game.
And the Colts expect big things from Hines.
“Where I think Philip (Rivers) is really outstanding, he has this great ability to find the running back out of the backfield whether we’re scheming for that guy or whether it just happens within a protection, where he goes through his progression and finds that back,” Sirianni says. “Nyheim is going to benefit big time from playing with Philip Rivers. There’s no question about that.”
There’s one ball to go around, and Mack is in a contract year, but Reich is adamant that the Colts will be able to make things work quite well.
Reich believes there’s ‘inherent respect’ for the returning starter (Mack), while also liking the phrase used by his offensive coordinator.
“That’s the art of it and I feel good about that,” Reich said of spreading the running back love around. “I feel like we’re going to do that really well, really well.
“There is only one ball to go around, but one of the things that makes it easier is our players are very unselfish.”