Indianapolis Colts: Recapping the Latest Buzz Heading into Training Camp
It's been a busy couple of weeks in sports news, with the LeBroncalypse in the NBA and the World Cup satiating our international appetites. In the NFL, suspensions have been announced, Jimmy Graham's lost a few million dollars and the NFL's Top 100 finally finished.
Sports never sleep.
For the Indianapolis Colts, most talk has been about potential replacements in 2014, Andrew Luck's development and the off-field issues surrounding the franchise. From Jim Irsay's arrest to Robert Mathis' suspension, the Colts have had far too many issues off the field to go along with the normal offseason discussion.
Among all of that buzz, what's been the most notable throughout the past few days as training camp gets even closer?
Trent Richardson: Beast or Bust?
An article was posted Tuesday on SB Nation's Houston Texans blog, Battle Red Blog, detailing how Trent Richardson was actually a beast in 2013. The author, Brett Kollmann, brings up several interesting points, but unfortunately they're all things that have been debunked before.
A quick rundown.
Kollmann says that you can't compare Richardson to Donald Brown because Richardson was a "workhorse" back compared to a complementary back.
When Brown was asked to handle bigger loads, his raw numbers suffered just as much as Richardson due to Indy’s terrible offensive line. Nobody in that backfield was safe. Nobody.
This is a common thought among Richardson apologists, but it's not true. It was early in the season, but the roles quickly switched as Richardson struggled. Both backs had seven games with 10 or more carries. Five of Richardson's came in his first five games in Indianapolis. The other two came in double-digit wins over Houston and Kansas City late in the season. In said games, Richardson averaged 3.05 yards per carry, Brown averaged 4.33.
But, wait, that could be because Brown was coming in late in games where the Colts were behind as a scatback and getting carries against dime defenses!
Nope. Brown received 33 first-quarter carries in 2013 (32 percent of his carries), compared to 41 for Richardson (26%). Brown gained 160 yards on those plays (4.85 yards per carry), Richardson gained 83 (2.02).
Early in the season, sure, Brown was getting more complementary looks. But as the season wore on, Brown was the No. 1 back. That's why he had 33 touches for 168 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs, while Richardson had four carries for one yard.
Kollmann uses GIFs and play diagrams to illustrate the offensive line's failings, while showing Richardson's tackle-breaking ability.
Again, this isn't new information. We knew the Colts line was bad, and we knew Richardson was a strong back who excelled at breaking tackles. But Brown saw his fair share of defenders as well. Brown actually had a higher percentage of broken or missed tackles (22 on 102 rushes, 21.6 percent, vs. 31 on 157 rushes, 19.7 percent).
It's easy to find bad plays by the offensive line in 2013. But showing a lowlight reel of the offensive line and the highlights of Richardson's tackle-breaking ability doesn't explain why every other back was able to find success, from Brown to Ahmad Bradshaw to Vick Ballard.
Richardson did a great job of breaking tackles in 2013, but he didn't do a good job of anticipating his linemen's movements well and timing his burst through holes, leaving countless extra yards on the field.
The deck was stacked against Richardson, to some extent, last season. He came into a new playbook, in a new city, behind a poor offensive line for an offensive coordinator who was less than intuitive in his usage of the running back. But pretending like Richardson played well last season isn't helping anybody.
Fortunately, that doesn't mean he will never play well. Richardson showed fantastic physical ability, namely his strength, balance and agility. Those physical traits are what give scouts hope for a player like him. If he can put together the more instinctual factors, which come with experience (compare Brown's 2011-2013 to his 2009 and 2010 seasons, for example), he can still be a productive player in the NFL. His ceiling is still higher than the vast majority of backs in the league.
Will he make progress toward that ceiling in 2014? I think he will, but it's not because of revisionist history regarding last season.
Supplemental Draft Watch
The 2014 supplemental draft is on Thursday, with four players eligible: New Mexico WR Chase Clayton, North Carolina LB Darius Lipford, Virginia Lynchburg DT LaKendrick Ross and SMU RB Traylon Shead.
Ross is a behemoth of a man at 6'4", 366 pounds. For a man as large as Ross is, he moves extremely well. Will 366 pounds work in the NFL, even at the nose tackle position? It would certainly take an exceptional athlete. Defensive linemen rarely get over 340 pounds in today's NFL, so Ross would likely need to slim down at least a bit if taken.
Sure, the Colts need a nose tackle with Josh Chapman as the only true NT to have a certain roster spot. Is Ross the man to fill the void? I have my doubts, but he is a prospect worth watching at the very least.
Shead is a well-built running back at 6'2", 240 pounds, much like undrafted free agent Zurlon Tipton. Shead reportedly wowed SMU coaches in preseason workouts, but only rushed 51 times for 197 yards in 2013 (3.9 YPC). He suffered a knee and ankle injury in the season opener, and then another injury on the same leg after four games that kept him from playing for the rest of the season.
Should he rebound well, don't be surprised if he gets looks as a free agent after the draft.
Franchise's Top Plays?
- The comeback against Kansas City in this past year's playoffs (Wells specifically notes the game-winning pass to T.Y. Hilton, although I think Luck's Superman touchdown dive was more memorable/iconic).
- Marlin Jackson's interception of Tom Brady to seal the Colts' win over the New England Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, eventually leading to the city's first Super Bowl victory.
- Peyton Manning's record-breaking 49th touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley against San Diego in 2004, which also was the game-winning touchdown.
ESPN's NFL Nation has been running Twitter polls for weeks to come up with the top plays in each NFL franchise's history, and the Colts have plenty to choose from. But the people have narrowed it down to the correct ones.
The current poll (as of Wednesday night) has Jackson's interception leading, with Manning's touchdown in second and Hilton's touchdown a distant third. In my opinion, the people have it right on this one. The Colts' comeback against Kansas City was historic, and one of the greatest games I've ever seen, but the other two plays are so iconic in the Colts' history and Manning's legacy that they are hard to overcome.
Manning's touchdown to Stokley epitomized Manning at the height of his powers in Indianapolis: a perfect pre-snap play call matched with a perfect pass to come back and win a game that clinched the Colts' playoff spot. Jackson's interception was the iconic play, matched with Bob Lamey's famous call, that will forever be associated with the Colts' first Super Bowl in Indianapolis and the greatest game in Indianapolis Colts history.
Luck's time will come, but the most memorable plays in Colts history, for now, belong to the Manning-era Colts.
Clowney Wants to Sack Luck
Recently in NFL.com's "Rookie Confessional" video series, Jadeveon Clowney revealed that his big goal for his rookie season, outside of developing as a player, is to sack Andrew Luck:
My goal in the NFL is to sack Andrew Luck. He's in my division. I think he's a dangerous quarterback. Very smart with the ball, makes good decisions, so I do want to get after him and sack him one time.
You can't blame Clowney. After all, he was drafted to get after Luck, just as Mario Williams and J.J. Watt were drafted to go after Peyton Manning. Clowney knows that, even if it's not something that's been communicated to him explicitly.
Clowney said before the draft that Andrew Luck better have "his head on a swivel" if Clowney were to be drafted by the Texans. Well, Clowney may find out sooner rather than later that Luck has done a pretty good job of doing just that.
All talk aside, Houston will need more than just pass-rushers if they are to overtake Indianapolis for the division once again. We've seen this movie before. It wasn't until Manning had his injury that Houston was able to make the leap. Until the Texans once again get a quarterback as good as Luck, or at least somewhat close, the Colts will have the edge.
Irsay's Case Continues
Not only has the NFL failed to announce discipline for Jim Irsay at this point, but Irsay's troubles have continued to get worse: The Indianapolis Star reported Wednesday that Irsay will be forced to testify in court in a child custody case.
Irsay has been allowing a woman, Jami Martin, and her children to live in one of his Indianapolis-area homes. Martin's ex-husband Greg Martin subpoenaed Irsay, saying he is concerned about his 12 and 17-year-olds' well-being when they are in Irsay's presence. Irsay will be force to testify at a public court hearing, although a date has not yet been set.
It's yet another thorn in Irsay's side in what has been a nightmarish summer, and it's not yet over. Irsay's court date for his original arrest is on Aug. 28, where he'll face misdemeanor charges of operating while intoxicated and operating a vehicle with a Schedule I or II substance in his system. And, as mentioned above, there is still discipline coming from Roger Goodell.
At this point, Irsay has to hope that this all finally ends soon. It's a distraction from the field, and it's killing Irsay's teetering reputation in Indianapolis. Just take your punishments and move on, Mr. Irsay.