What are the chances of the Indianapolis Colts knocking off the Seahawks? Can Trent Richardson turn it around? How good is Andrew Luck? This and more in this week’s “Friday Fades” column, which will take a look at the Indianapolis Colts. Each week, I write five somewhat lengthy “fades” in an analysis-driven (heavy on the stats) piece on a different team each week, and the Colts just happened to be the pick.
1. Taking a look at T-Rich
Indianapolis Colts starting running back Trent Richardson was tabbed to fulfill his top five draft stock and elite potential on the Colts, because the Colts significantly better passing offense was expected to open things up for Trent Richardson and lead to significantly more success for the former Cleveland Browns RB. That hasn’t materialized yet, and it’s extremely concerning that he has averaged a meager 2.9 yards per carry for the Colts since the trade. He didn’t exactly have a good YPC last year with the Browns either, so there are still doubts as to whether or not Richardson is actually good and/or worth the first-round pick the Colts parted ways yet.
My advice? Patience pays off. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano knows that, and he stated earlier this week at a press conference that he isn’t concerned about Richardson, and there are plenty of arguments supporting that line of thought. Firstly, it takes time for a running back to get comfortable behind new blockers, and that’s exactly what Richardson is doing. You can see it by the way he runs, and Pagano mentioned this as well. With new blockers, Richardson is running with a bit more a timid style, which has an adverse effect on his statistics. As he gets more comfortable, he’ll run with more tenacity, and that will help.
I want to share a couple of key statistics I found while looking at the leaderboards on the Pro Football Focus (note: these numbers include Richardson’s stats from his time with the Browns). Per PFF, Richardson is fifth in the league with 14 missed tackles this season, and his average of yards after contact per attempt is among the top 15 totals in the NFL. Those numbers are encouraging, and they mean that Richardson’s arrow is pointing upwards. Unless, of course, the blocking up front fails him. That’s a legitimate concern, but the Colts run blocking is only “subpar”, not “horrendous”.
That said, the longer Trent Richardson goes without improving on his yards per carry average, then the more concerns will grow about Richardson’s ability to be a feature back in this league. His draft status and the pick the Colts parted ways with indicates that Richardson has feature back potential and expectations (two things nobody should disagree with), so he has to fulfill that potential and those expectations. With Ahmad Bradshaw out (I’ll get to him later), he has every opportunity to be that workhorse RB for the Colts, who are doing everything in their power to help Richardson to succeed. Games like last week’s lackluster performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars won’t fly towards the end of the season, but we can definitely afford to- and should- be patient. Richardson has hasn’t been good thus far, but he hasn’t been as bad as you think. Just look at the advanced statistics above.
2. What about Bradshaw?
I don’t exclusively focus each fade on statistical analysis, and I feel that addressing Ahmad Bradshaw’s injury status is a good use of a fade. Bradshaw suffered a neck injury in Week 3, and the injury is significantly more severe than we once thought. When news of the injury was first released, I honestly thought that Bradshaw wouldn’t even miss a game. Now, he could be out for the season. The Colts are going to see if Bradshaw’s neck injury will heal on its own, but he’s going to have to undergo season-ending surgery if it doesn’t. The Indy Star reported that Bradshaw has seen some specialists (Mike Chappell, by the way, has been all over the Bradshaw injury news), and the Colts and Bradshaw will make a decision in a few weeks. That’s basically a guaranteed few more weeks of Trent Richardson carrying the full load.
If you look at it from the perspective of Bradshaw, then the Richardson deal was a crucial one for the Colts to make. They knew that Vick Ballard’s injury potentially spelled doom for the Colts offense, because, well, can you imagine just how bad things would be if both Bradshaw and Ballard went down with only Donald Brown as the “next man up”? If the Trent Richardson deal never happened, then Pagano, Ryan Grigson, Jim Irsay, and whoever else you want to name on the Colts organization would be left looking at a running game led by Donald Brown backing up the passing attack led by Andrew Luck. A team with playoff aspirations and a desire to have a somewhat balanced offense would not fare out too well with Donald Brown as the lone legitimate option at RB.
Thus, acquiring a running back was a stroke of genius by the Colts, because they knew they couldn’t trust Bradshaw to stay healthy. I mean, who can? They were correct in this reservation, but the Richardson deal has to be viewed in a different scope. They could have likely traded for a different RB. But they chose to deal a first for T-Rich.