The Indianapolis Colts’ running game ranked 22nd in the NFL last year. In the AFC South, the Colts running game ranked third, only eight spots higher than the Jacksonville Jaguars and one below the Tennessee Titans.
With Arian Foster and Ben Tate at their disposal, it’s no surprise that the Texans have continued to dominate the South’s run category, ranking among the NFL’s top ten in the past two seasons. Up until now, Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson have been the only significant running backs worth challenging Foster’s stats in the division, but after the Colts added former free agent running back Ahmad Bradshaw themselves during the week, things could be about to change for the better if you’re a Colts fan.
For the most part, the Colts haven’t featured an elusive running back recently, at least not one that compares to Foster, Jones-Drew or Johnson. Indianapolis has relied heavily on the passing game, and rightfully so – especially since Andrew Luck has successfully lead the team head first after the departure of Peyton Manning and a whole new-look offense took over to start last season.
Right now, the Colts still haven’t found that elusive running back, but Bradshaw is the type of guy that could simply get the job done down the stretch, even if it doesn’t look overly pretty on paper.
What the Colts probably saw in Bradshaw wasn’t the injury issues that come with signing a 27-year old veteran, it was more of his size and ability to break down tacklers early in the play and turn what looks like a short yardage situation into a potential big gain. Bradshaw’s two 1,000 plus yard seasons in the past three years also make him the favored starter for most of the season, even if his foot injury causes him to miss a few snaps.
So with that said, what can the Texans expect when facing Bradshaw twice (or maybe more) next season?
Alongside the Texans’ talented running game in 2012, lied a defense that allowed only 1,560 yards and five touchdowns, ranking them seventh among the league. In the six games where the Texans faced their AFC South foes last season, Houston allowed only 150-yards against the Jaguars, 202 against the Titans and 183 against the Colts.
It’s fair to say that the Colts will propose more of a challenge to Wade Phillips’ defense this season, as the Texans linebackers had no trouble containing rookie Vick Ballard last year. What Bradshaw will bring when facing the Texans’ defense is of course a much stronger dominance, and ability to fight off tackles, but don’t be surprised to see Bradshaw step up as a blocker for Luck during most of the season.
Luck was sacked 41-times during his rookie year, and quickly became one of those quarterbacks who was known (or forced) to use his legs. Luck probably isn’t in the Robert Griffin III or Michael Vick category just yet, but GM Ryan Grigson has focused on better protection for his quarterback all offseason, and the addition of Bradshaw speaks of that focus.
The Texans sacked Luck six times last season, the most out of any team the Colts faced. Bradshaw on the other hand has played a role in blocking for Eli Manning during two Super Bowl’s, and that “veteran” experience everyone is talking about is definitely evident in the blocking game.
Of course, Bradshaw is a veteran in the sense that he has six years experience under his belt, not that he is old. Brashaw is only 27, and has at least another three good years left in him. The Colts would like to see Bradshaw form a quick one two punch on the ground, and also coax younger guys like Ballard into more worthwhile snaps as time goes on.
There’s nothing to say that the Texans defense can’t contain Bradshaw when he’s running, but reaching Luck and sacking him may be a little harder. The last time Bradshaw saw the Texans was on the 10th of October 2010 in Reliant Stadium, where he rushed for only 67-yards.
On the flip side, the Texans could also see Brian Cushing return from injury as early as Week 1, so when the Colts and Texans meet in Week 9 after the bye, expect some big blitzes, and a whole lot of work for Bradshaw on his feet.
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