Vick Ballard running the ball.
Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has been the superstar for the Indianapolis Colts this season. He ranks fifth in the NFL for passing yards. However, it will be the Colts’ rushing game that will prove to be a difference-maker in their Thursday evening game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Luck got off to a rocky start to the season. He threw seven interceptions in his first five games—one of which was in a Sept. 23 loss to the Jaguars.
The Jaguars have made very few sacks this season. In fact, they rank last in the NFL with just eight sacks in eight games. Even so, the Colts need to be concerned that the Jaguars will go out of their way to put pressure on Luck. Especially with their underperforming offensive line, the Colts can’t leave everything to Luck.
That’s where the rushing game comes into play.
The Colts have averaged just 105.9 rushing yards per game through their first eight. Their rushing game could be considered relatively below average, but it will be instrumental to securing their fourth consecutive win. It will be interesting to see how their running game evolves when given more focus.
With Donald Brown possibly out with a hip injury, rookie Vick Ballard may find himself getting more opportunities to shine. The fifth-round draft pick has already been pretty impressive this season, having accumulated 266 rushing yards.
With more chances, expect Ballard to dive head in and take the reins of the Colts’ rushing game—especially against the Jaguars, who seemingly lack the ability to tackle.
Ballard has already been eased into a position of greater focus. He’s been given the ball a lot more often in the last three weeks. In those three weeks, he’s averaged about 3.9 yards per attempt.
Could the Colts' running game be a difference-maker?
In addition to avoiding the defense pressuring Luck too much, the Colts will certainly want to take advantage of the Jaguars’ subpar rushing defense. They’ve been especially notorious for slipping up when challenged by the opposition’s running backs.
Expect others to step up for the Colts’ rushing game, too.
Delone Carter might also be given a few more opportunities to run the ball. He’s another running back that might surprise when given the chance to show what he can really do.
Luck might even get the chance to prove that’s he has more than just a great arm. He currently leads the team in most yards per carry and most rushing touchdowns. Expect him to opt for a few running plays when pressured by the defense.
In a game where the Colts may find themselves unable to rely on Luck and the passing game like they have, their rushing game may be a big game-changer.