Indianapolis signed 17-year NFL quarterback Kerry Collins on Wednesday, which sparked a huge debate regarding the health of Peyton Manning as he recovers from offseason neck surgery. Manning is the conductor of everything the Colts' orchestra wants to do, so it's a worthy headline.
But if Manning's regular season availability is in question—high-ranking Colts officials do not believe he'll be ready for the season opener—the focus shouldn't only shift to the backup quarterback. The onus is going to be on the Colts running backs to shoulder a big load.
I understand that the Colts offense has been built from the ground up to throw the football. When you have a guy like Manning at the helm, that's a smart way of going about it.
With him possibly on the sidelines, however, things will need to change. The running game is going to be the new focus of the offense.
It really doesn't matter which backup quarterback is playing in place of Manning.
While Collins is a 17-year veteran, he hasn't had to bear the burden of driving an offense since his days in Oakland. In Tennessee, he was the offense's caregiver.
In 2008, a season in which he played all 16 games, Collins threw for just over 2,500 yards and 12 touchdowns. In the meantime, Collins handed the ball off over 500 times to the likes of LenDale White and Chris Johnson. The Titans went 13-3 that season.
Obviously, the Colts don't have a rushing tandem like White and Johnson. Not even close, really.
But while Collins (or Curtis Painter or Dan Orlovsky) is the starter, the Colts offense will need to rely on their running backs just like the Titans did in '08.
Can guys like Joseph Addai, Donald Brown and Delone Carter handle that responsibility?
Addai has never carried the ball 300 times in an NFL season, but he'll be on that pace with the backups in. Will he be as effective getting 20-25 carries in a game without the threat of Manning under center?
Brown was a high pick for the Colts but his 129 carries last season were a career high. He's also been under four yards a carry his entire career.
It's going to be a tall task if Manning is out. The Colts will be relying on their backs more now than they have in almost 15 years.
Can they establish a run game that keeps them competitive in the early goings if Manning is out? That's the big question in Indianapolis.