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Is our RB situation really that bad? Poll & Discussion (read OP data)

Running game questions  

64 members have voted

  1. 1. Looking at the past 5 SB champions, is our rushing game something that will prohibit us from getting to, or winning a Superbowl?

  2. 2. Is Mack a legit #1 RB given he was 6th in yards/game, the same as Zeke in yards per attempt (4.7), and had only 1 fumble?

  3. 3. What is our biggest need in the rushing game?

    • Mack needs to stay healthy
    • Mack needs to improve in the passing game
    • Hines needs to be a bigger part of the all-purpose yards game
    • We need a power back for short yardage situations
    • We need a new RB1 altogether
    • We simply need to commit to running the ball more
    • Our O-line needs to improve run blocking
    • Our running game is fine, we need to improve in other places like WR and general Defense.
    • Other - please explain


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I've seen all kinds of comments on our rushing attack and RBs lately. Far more negative than positive.

 

Tossing out some stats on the Colts last year, and comparing them to the past 5 Superbowl champions. After that, listed some basic observations on the comparisons. Lastly, listing some of the negative comments on our current RB situation and various stats on the topics.

 

2018 Colts

-Team rushing rank: 20

-Team rushing yards per attempt rank: 22 (4.2)

-Team passing rank: 6

-Team defense rank: 11

-Individual rushing ranks (out of top 100): 16 (Mack), 63 (Wilkins), 66 (Hines)

Comments: Our OL was in flux the first 1/3 of the year if not more. Mack was out with a hamstring during that same time, and was 6th in the league in average yards per game.

 

2018 Pats

-Team rushing rank: 5

-Team rushing yards per attempt rank: 20 (4.3)

-Team passing rank: 8

-Team defense rank: 21

-Individual rushing ranks (out of top 100): 15 (Michele), 49 (White), 81 (Patterson), 90 (Brukhead)

 

2017 Eagles

-Team rushing rank: 3

-Team rushing yards per attempt rank: 4 (4.5)

-Team passing rank: 13

-Team defense rank: 4

-Individual rushing ranks (out of top 100): 17* (Ajayi), 22 (Blount), 61 (Clement), 64 (QB Wentz), 92 (Smallwood)

*Ajayi only had 7 games with Philly (played for Miami the first half of the year)

 

2016 Pats

-Team rushing rank: 7

-Team rushing yards per attempt rank: 25 (3.9)

-Team passing rank: 4

-Team defense rank: 8

-Individual RB ranks (out of top 100): 8 (Blount), 67 (Lewis), 84 (White)

 

2015 Denver

-Team rushing rank: 17

-Team rushing yards per attempt rank: 13 (4.2)

-Team passing rank: 14

-Team defense rank: 1

-Individual RB ranks (out of top 100): 15 (Hillman), 24 (Anderson), 

 

2014 Patriots

-Team rushing rank: 18

-Team rushing yards per attempt rank: 22 (3.9)

-Team passing rank: 9

-Team defense rank: 13

-Individual RB ranks (out of top 100): 34* (Blount), 48 (Gray), 51 (Vereen), 57 (Ridley)

*Blount only played 5 games for NE (acquired from Pitt)

 

Observations - 

1. Only one of the past 5 SB winners had a top 10 individual rusher. None in the top 5. Most RB by committee.

2. Mack was comparable or better than 4 of 5 team's individual leader

3. Mack only started 10 games, missing 4 games altogether

4. The Colts yards/attempt average was equal to or better than 3 of the 5

5. Normalized for games missed (by Mack), Indy would have likely been top 10, and Mack top 5ish.

6. Hines' rookie season in 2018 was better (all purpose yards) than James White's (Pats) first 4 seasons.

7. Wilkins' rookie season average yards per carry (5.6) was among the best, if not the best in the league in limited carries.

 

Overall - teams win SBs in a lot of different ways. Our rushing attack, while it can improve, isn't something that will keep us from winning a SB.

 

 

Misc comments I've seen

1. "Mack is injury prone" - In his 3 years in college, he had 1000+ yard years in each of his first 3 years (he started as a true frosh, and left a year early). He was relatively injury free those years. He had a minor shoulder injury (2 games) his rookie season with the Colts, and a hamstring injury early last year. That doesn't scream injury prone given his production over 5 years. Caution, yes, injury prone, no.

2. "Our running game is in trouble" - Mack was a top 5 guy the last half of the system, and was only in his second year. Hines, in his first year, almost set rookie records and had 700ish all purpose yards when pushed into action. Wilkins, another rookie, had one of the best yards/attempt averages in the league. Very young core, and should get better. In trouble?

3. "Hines is not a good #2 RB" - Hines is an all purpose guy. He's not Mack's back-up. He's a change of pace back and receiving back that would not (or should not) be Mack's backup should Mack go down. Wilkins or Williams currently are the guys that would likely replace Mack as an every down back.

 

Overall - If there's a weak spot in our rushing game, it's probably short yardage situations. I'd rather have a power back as the 4th RB than anything else.

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Like I said I'm find with Mack, J Will, Wilkins and Hines. Spencer Ware was going to be our power runner but now that is J. Williams.

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I feel like our running game should be sufficient.  Unless you are Barry Sanders much of the running game success is a reflection of the o-line performance.  Not to say that anybody can run the ball, but we don't need Elliot, Gurley, Bell, etc, to have a successful running game.  

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@Blueblood23 @Reidm

 

Care to give us some insight on your choices given some of the data in the OP? Thanks!

 

5 minutes ago, gspdx said:

I feel like our running game should be sufficient.  Unless you are Barry Sanders much of the running game success is a reflection of the o-line performance.  Not to say that anybody can run the ball, but we don't need Elliot, Gurley, Bell, etc, to have a successful running game.  

 

I said last year, that WR was by far our biggest limitation on O, and lack of QB pressure and Ints from our D needed to improve. I think we've helped out all three of those areas. The only thing I wish we would have done, is a picked up the a legit iDL.

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what i would like to see is more total rushing yards.  it doesnt have to be top 5 but it should be better 20th. almost every team averages more than 4 yards per carry now, i dont think ypc is that important as long as you are in that ball park.  

 

even Reich has said 20th isnt good enough (paraphrasing). 

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8 minutes ago, aaron11 said:

what i would like to see is more total rushing yards.  it doesnt have to be top 5 but it should be better 20th. almost every team averages more than 4 yards per carry now, i dont think ypc is that important as long as you are in that ball park.  

 

even Reich has said 20th isnt good enough (paraphrasing). 

 

so basically, with our YPC being fine, we just need more rushing attempts (game plan and play calling) and a greater commitment to the run?

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 The stats LIE.
 Tell how we did after all the changes and Castonzo came back. That would mean something.
 We need our top 3 healthy on opening day and a 4th that can play well if needed.

 So talk to us on opening day when it matters.

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8 minutes ago, throwing BBZ said:

 The stats LIE.

how so?


 

Quote

 

Tell how we did after all the changes and Castonzo came back. That would mean something.

 

 

i pretty much did citing the normalization and averages. i also noted musical chairs withing the OL.

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19 minutes ago, Irish YJ said:

 

so basically, with our YPC being fine, we just need more rushing attempts (game plan and play calling) and a greater commitment to the run?

yeah the question with Mack has never been about talent, its about if he can do it for a full season.  i think some of it might even be mental, maybe changing a few little things can keep him on the field more 

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1 minute ago, aaron11 said:

yeah the question with Mack has never been about talent, its about if he can do it for a full season.  i think some of it might even be mental, maybe changing a few little things can keep him on the field more 

He was very durable in college in three 1000+ yard seasons, so not going to worry all that much. I mean he's only really had one year as RB1.

 

I'm more concerned with OL run blocking that stunk it up in a few games last year (both Jax games, Houston, NYGs).

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Mack was healthy last year once that hamstring healed. I don’t think there is a issue with his durability. 

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He hasnt played a full season since hes been here.  he got hurt his first year and didnt even play that much.  i think its fair to question his durability.  i think he could improve it by working on some of the nuances  of playing RB too

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30 minutes ago, aaron11 said:

He hasnt played a full season since hes been here.  he got hurt his first year and didnt even play that much.  i think its fair to question his durability.  i think he could improve it by working on some of the nuances  of playing RB too

 

He's only been here two years. His first year he was tagged as the 3rd RB on the depth chart behind RB (Gore) and Turbin to start the season. He was out 2 games with a dinged up shoulder, but only got around 6 or 7 touches per game anyway. So out of 5 years (4 of which he was lead back), he's missed 6 games. Not bad IMO for a RB. Gordon has missed 9 games in 4 years, Gurley missed 5 games, Zeke missed 8 game in 3 years, etc..

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2 hours ago, Irish YJ said:

@Blueblood23 @Reidm

 

Care to give us some insight on your choices given some of the data in the OP? Thanks!

 

 

I said last year, that WR was by far our biggest limitation on O, and lack of QB pressure and Ints from our D needed to improve. I think we've helped out all three of those areas. The only thing I wish we would have done, is a picked up the a legit iDL.

I don't see Mack as a legitimate number one. I think he is injury prone. The back situation is the weak link on this team as I see it right now. Surprised this has not been addressed better by management currently.

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10 minutes ago, Blueblood23 said:

I don't see Mack as a legitimate number one. I think he is injury prone. The back situation is the weak link on this team as I see it right now. Surprised this has not been addressed better by management currently.

so what would he need to do in terms of health and productivity does he need to do to be legit #1?

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I like these injury charts for players. I don't know if I take the projected games missed stuff too seriously, but it's nice to see a clean chart of where he's had injuries and dates of when those injuries occured. I can't find them for everybody but I found one for Mack.

https://sportsinjurypredictor.com/player/marlon-mack/7779

I honestly had forgotten that he's had two concussions. I remembered the labrum tear and of course the hamstring, but I had already forgotten the concussion late last year.

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There is a lot of both/and going on in this question, rather than the standard this OR that.

Mack is a legitimate number one back.  He was drafted for his skill set specifically to be what Frank Gore wasn't.  Gore is a much harder runner, who will push through a tackle and get you more yards after contact.  But he's not a speedster, and will not get you breakaway yards.  Mack is the opposite.  He's a much shiftier runner, with a threat to go long, without sacrificing size.  The downside of Mack is his lesser ability to run through contact.  It doesn't mean he's a terrible back, nor does it mean that he cannot be a number one.  It just means that you need a complimentary back to get you the hard short yards.

The other things that need to improve in order for us to be more successful are:

Mack needs to be healthy for a full season

The OL needs to stay healthy and spend more time with the same guys on the field

The OL needs to improve their run blocking

 

Do I think we have a problem right now?  You bet.  We looked pathetic in the first two preseason games.

Do I think we'll be better in the regular season?  You bet.

Do I think we'll be top 5 running?  Uh.  No.  That's not the strength of this team, and we shouldn't try so hard at doing what we don't do well that we forget to do those things that we do do well.

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I do like Mack a lot though, and think talent wise he's a no. 1 RB.

I'm more concerned with where we're at in terms of health right now. Williams' ribs should heal up pretty well but I'm curious about Wilkins mysterious week to week ankle injury. I know Reich said there's a chance he suits up week 1 but that doesn't inspire much confidence at all. And an ankle injury seems like one of the easiest ones to re-injure.

And Hines...as much as I like the guy as a receiving threat and in open space, I'm just not that confident in him as a runner.

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The 3rd RB barely saw the field last year when Mack as playing and the run blocking worked, so as long as Mack is healthy, I think we are ok. Hopefully he can be the bell cow until Ware comes back. Assuming he'll be fine, I'm not ruling out a bit more running by committe approach to keep Mack's carries in check so he'll have fresher legs come january.

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40 minutes ago, Irish YJ said:

so what would he need to do in terms of health and productivity does he need to do to be legit #1?

Play every week and have a productive year. 1200 yards would be good.

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I have not spent much time thinking about our running game this off season because quite frankly we got nice  results last season that I have not seen in a few years SO WHY WORRY ???

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12 minutes ago, John Hammonds said:

There is a lot of both/and going on in this question, rather than the standard this OR that.

Mack is a legitimate number one back.  He was drafted for his skill set specifically to be what Frank Gore wasn't.  Gore is a much harder runner, who will push through a tackle and get you more yards after contact.  But he's not a speedster, and will not get you breakaway yards.  Mack is the opposite.  He's a much shiftier runner, with a threat to go long, without sacrificing size.  The downside of Mack is his lesser ability to run through contact.  It doesn't mean he's a terrible back, nor does it mean that he cannot be a number one.  It just means that you need a complimentary back to get you the hard short yards.

The other things that need to improve in order for us to be more successful are:

Mack needs to be healthy for a full season

The OL needs to stay healthy and spend more time with the same guys on the field

The OL needs to improve their run blocking

 

Do I think we have a problem right now?  You bet.  We looked pathetic in the first two preseason games.

Do I think we'll be better in the regular season?  You bet.

Do I think we'll be top 5 running?  Uh.  No.  That's not the strength of this team, and we shouldn't try so hard at doing what we don't do well that we forget to do those things that we do do well.

 

I agree with a lot of this. Two reasons I think we can be a top 10, maybe top 5 rushing team is:

 

1) WR overall was bad last year and teams will now have to defend every inch of the field which should open up the running game,

and

2) IF we have 16 games of OL consistency from a personnel standpoint.

 

I also think being top 5 is overrated. It's obvious that's not needed given past SB winners. I also agree it's not our strength, and probably shouldn't be, or at minimum doesn't need to be.

 

7 minutes ago, Fisticuffs111 said:

I do like Mack a lot though, and think talent wise he's a no. 1 RB.

I'm more concerned with where we're at in terms of health right now. Williams' ribs should heal up pretty well but I'm curious about Wilkins mysterious week to week ankle injury. I know Reich said there's a chance he suits up week 1 but that doesn't inspire much confidence at all. And an ankle injury seems like one of the easiest ones to re-injure.

And Hines...as much as I like the guy as a receiving threat and in open space, I'm just not that confident in him as a runner.

 

I think Hines is best as a runner when he's used correctly. We ran him way too much between the tackles it seemed on early downs. He's not that guy, and shouldn't be used that way. He's a speed/space guy. If you are going to run him on early downs, spread the formation out and let him attack the edge like NE does with White.

 

Wilkins/Williams are both concerning..

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6 minutes ago, Blueblood23 said:

Play every week and have a productive year. 1200 yards would be good.

so really, just stay healthy.

 

1200 yards would be top 3 last year. If that's what it takes to be a legit #1, that means 29 teams don't have legit #1s. Is that really reasonable?

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39 minutes ago, Irish YJ said:

so really, just stay healthy.

 

1200 yards would be top 3 last year. If that's what it takes to be a legit #1, that means 29 teams don't have legit #1s. Is that really reasonable?

I guess gaining 75 yards a game is unreasonable.

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4 hours ago, Irish YJ said:

 

Care to give us some insight on your choices given some of the data in the OP? Thanks!

 

 

 

My two problems with Mack are his durabilty and his pass catching ability.  In order for him to be a true #1 I feel he really needs to improve in the passing game. Right now he is one dimensional which makes the defenses jobs easier. I do like Mack's vision and ability to find open holes however. With our Oline he is going to put up big numbers in the run game. Cowboys did it with less talented RBs for years.

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3 minutes ago, Blueblood23 said:

I guess gaining 75 yards a game is unreasonable.

Only 6 RBs gained over 1200 yards the last two years (3 each year), so for 29 teams, it was unattainable. Just not sure 1200 qualifies as "reasonable" or "legit RB1" given so few attain it. I'd say that's more in the elite category. "Legit", at least to me, is top 10ish, or in the top 1/3 of the league, which over the last 2 years is about 1000 yards.

 

When Mack was healthy, he did average 75.7 yards per game, so back to really just staying healthy. 

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42 minutes ago, Reidm said:

 

My two problems with Mack are his durabilty and his pass catching ability.  In order for him to be a true #1 I feel he really needs to improve in the passing game. Right now he is one dimensional which makes the defenses jobs easier. I do like Mack's vision and ability to find open holes however. With our Oline he is going to put up big numbers in the run game. Cowboys did it with less talented RBs for years.

I get the durability concerns, but he's really only had one NFL season as RB1 exposure. He's been pretty healthy overall outside of last year. One healthy year, and that concern goes away. 

 

In terms of catching, not sure we need him to be that great. The SB winning Pats RB1 only had a few more yards than Mack, and less receiving yards than Mack. Pats utilized their APB (White) to handle the RB receiving duties similar to what we do with Hines.

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thought this was a good article

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/evansidery/2019/08/24/indianapolis-colts-leading-the-charge-on-11-personnel/#52a268ed7247

Quote

 

There's not many notes you should take away from any preseason action in the NFL outside of two key categories: bottom of the roster position battles and personnel groupings. With one of the deepest rosters in the league, the Indianapolis Colts only have a few spots still open at wide receiver (WR6, if they even keep another, Zach Pascal or Krishawn Hogan), cornerback (Nate Hairston, Marvell Tell III, Chris Milton), and tight end (Ross Travis, Hale Hentges). However, what should be focused on more to see if this trend will continue is how the Colts' offense has functioned during the first two weeks of preseason.

 

According to Pro Football Focus, Indianapolis is far and away leading the charge in August on utilizing a formation of one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers on the field simultaneously. This is known as 11 personnel, which the Colts are running an incredible 88 percent of the time. The usage of this dropped off by five percent last season when Indianapolis played participated in games that actually mattered compared to preseason.

 

The question remains whether this will sustain around an 80 percent clip, though. Reich's system loves to incorporate multiple tight end sets with Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle. And with Mo Alie-Cox's emergence during OTAs and training camp, his role will only rise moving forward. Also, it should be mentioned Indianapolis is being vanilla on both side of the line of scrimmage right now on purpose. Neither Reich or defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus want to show much to future opponents looming on their schedule.

 

However, if the Colts' offense continues to be No. 1 in 11 personnel during regular season action, this opens up multiple opportunities to be versatile. How so? Well, third-year running back Marlon Mack would be the biggest beneficiary.

 

Mack is poised to fully breakout after a noticeable increase in muscle mass along with participating in all offseason reps for the first time in his career. The USF product took over 85 percent of the snaps last week alongside Jacoby Brissett against the Cleveland Browns foreshadowing a bell cow type of role. Mack was on the field for all third-down conversions, which is a subtle change compared to when scat back Nyheim Hines would sub in for him.

 

Facing a light defensive package when they're spread out, 11 personnel would do wonders for Mack's production. As PFF's Austin Gayle noted, the Colts' resurgent offensive line led the league in run blocking once Mack returned from his hamstring injury in Week 6. And over the last five years, only three running backs rushed for 900-plus yards in 12 games or less: Le'Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliot, and Mack.

 

All the pieces are perfectly set in place for Mack to rise from little-known secondary piece to a key long-term fulcrum in the Colts' offense. Did you know when Mack scored a touchdown last season Indianapolis was undefeated (8-0)? Mack's late season success could easily be built upon as Reich has emphasized all offseason he wants this team to finish near the top of the NFL in rushing yards.

 

Not only would increased usage of this scheme work for the running game, but how about big-bodied playmakers like Ebron and Devin Funchess? Ebron led all skill players, sans Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara, in red zone touchdowns last season with 12. Placing him more often in the slot would be a mismatch nightmare for defenses, which was already on full display during the 2018-19 campaign. Doyle's in-line blocking prowess allows Ebron to focus on what he does best. In Reich's system, the same goes for Funchess. His 6'4" frame has already seen nearly 40 percent of preseason reps operating out of the slot. This grouping would mean defenders couldn't shad extra defenders on outside weapons like T.Y. Hilton plus young wideouts Deon Cain and Parris Campbell.

 

The possibilities really are endless out of this formation, but, again, is this going to sustain or end up being a preseason facade where simplicity is more often than not the theme around the league? We will find out soon enough once the Colts' regular season opener kicks off on Sep. 8 in Los Angeles against the Chargers.

 

 

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