With Vick Ballard being placed on injured reserve, Ahmad Bradshaw will get the chance to carry the bulk of the carries for the rest of the season.
The Indianapolis Colts’ second-year running back reportedly tore the ACL in his left knee during practice on Thursday, Sept. 12, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Colts RB Vick Ballard is out for season after injuring knee during practice Thursday (@MikeWellsNFL contributed to report).— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 13, 2013
The following day, Colts owner Jim Irsay confirmed that Ballard was indeed placed on season-ending injured reserve:
Breaking News: Vick Ballard placed on Injured Reserve— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) September 13, 2013
Ballard was going to be crucial in the Colts’ refocus towards the running game after bringing in former Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton during the offseason.
In Week 1, the team ran the ball 26 times with a 4.9 yards-per-carry average. Ballard played on 71 percent of the team’s offensive plays, while Bradshaw saw most of the remaining action. Donald Brown, now a potentially worthwhile pickup in fantasy leagues, played just one offensive snap.
The disparity in carries was due to Bradshaw’s recovery from foot surgery that kept him out of preseason action. After being brought back slowly, the Colts were planning to split carries between their two top backs, according to Stephen Holder of The Indianapolis Star:
Pep Hamilton says Ahmad Bradshaw's role will continue to expand over course of the season. Ideal carries be he and Ballard? 50/50 acc to Pep— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) September 12, 2013
Of the two remaining players in the Colts backfield, Bradshaw obviously has the highest long-term fantasy upside in all league formats. He will be the unquestioned starter in Ballard’s absence as Brown hasn’t proven to be an effective every-down back to this point in his career.
But there is some risk involved if you decide to go out and trade for Bradshaw or employ him as a starter in your lineup. Hamilton’s desire to split carries has less to with the two backs being equal in talent than with durability and stamina concerns over Bradshaw.
If Hamilton’s philosophy is to keep his runners fresh by rotating them throughout games, neither Bradshaw nor Brown would realistically be worthy of anything other than a flex play during favorable matchups.
After just one week of action, Bradshaw isn’t likely back to 100 percent just yet. I think Brown will likely see more time in Week 2 until Bradshaw can prove he's ready for a bigger workload.
Who's the better option in Week 2: Brown or Bradshaw?
Until then it’s hard to start the former Giant with any type of confidence. Even after he’s up to speed, you may want to avoid the situation altogether until he’s endorsed by the team, and you see him receive the amount of carries you need out of a starting running back.
Brown is also a valuable pickup because he'll be the go-to guy in the event Bradshaw misses time. And he's had lingering foot issues all throughout his career. Need a refresher? Take a look as Will Carroll, Bleacher Report's injury expert, breaks down his injury past and the surgery that led to the New York Giants releasing him.
There's not a lot to like about a split between the two. If Bradshaw shows he can handle the load, you can start him. But a split makes it hard to justify playing him over other options. For Brown, the only real way you can start him is if Bradshaw goes down or you're desperate.