The Indianapolis Colts lost four significant players on offense pretty early in the season, as guard Donald Thomas, tight end Dwayne Allen, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, and running back Vick Ballard all suffered season-ending injuries in 2013. Thomas was an extremely underrated offseason signing and was supposed to solidify the Colts porous interior, which was horrendous after he went down. Allen, who is much better than Coby Fleener as both a pass-catcher and blocker, was supposed to have a breakout season, but that went into the hole after his injury. Wayne’s ACL tear was the headliner and obviously a huge blow, but the smallest of the four season-ending injuries in impact was the torn ACL that Ballard suffered in practice after Week 1.
Ballard played well (13 carries for 63 yards) in that one game, and I wonder if the Colts still would have traded for Trent Richardson if Ballard never got injured. That’s a really open “What if?” question at this point, especially since there are far too many people who are willing to call T-Rich a bust already.
Colts official site writer Craig Kelley wrote a piece about Ballard, and the 23-year-old Mississippi State product spoke at length about his feelings after suffering that crushing injury after Week 1. But what was more interesting was his comments about the contrast between Pep Hamilton’s offense and previous offensive coordinator Bruce Arians’s offense, specifically Hamilton’s desire to run the football frequently.
“B.A. (Bruce Arians), he was a pass-first, pass-second, run (laughs) guy. This year, Pep Hamilton was, ‘We’re going to run the ball on first, second and third down.’ It wasn’t exactly like that, but that was the kind of philosophy he had.”
What makes Ballard’s injury more stinging for him and the Colts is the fact that we would have seen more of him on the field last season. I think he’s only an average back, but he couldn’t have done worse than T-Rich did. However, the most interesting thing about Ballard’s quote is the fact that it re-enforces the belief that Hamilton was a run-first coordinator on a team whose strength was throwing the football. Hamilton didn’t put his team in the best position to succeed, because he didn’t allow the excellent Andrew Luck to take control as the season wore on; it might be part of the reason why the Colts had so many comebacks when Luck did finally get to gun it.
The Colts situation reminds me of the 2012 Green Bay Packers season, when the Pack were too busy running the football early in the game with mediocre backs instead of letting easily their best player, Aaron Rodgers, win games with his arm early, forcing him to try and cobble together comeback drives.