In anticipation of the Indianapolis Colts reporting for training camp July 26 at Anderson University, ColtsBlitz.com is presenting a series of analytical outlooks on position groups.
This installment takes a look at running back.
LAST YEAR: Gore signed with the Colts before 2015 because he thought it was his best option to win an elusive Super Bowl ring. But his first season didn’t go according to plan as the offense regressed without injured quarterback Andrew Luck and Gore averaged a career-low 3.7 yards per carry. While a 32-year-old Gore still showed flashes of the form that enabled him to become San Francisco’s all-time leading rusher, the five-time Pro Bowl star was bitterly disappointed to come up just shy of 1,000 yards with 967. The only other rusher to gain more than 100 yards for the season was Luck, so the weight of the run game fell on Gore’s shoulders. Ahmad Bradshaw ended up on injured reserve after six games. Varga was lost to a concussion after just three games. Dan Herron played in six games but ended up in Buffalo. Rookie Josh Robinson played in five games, but didn’t show enough to keep a roster spot.
SUPER BOWL WINNER: An offseason search to provide depth included the signing of Turbin, who won a Super Bowl ring while with Seattle. Turbin has started just three games out of 58 played, but he brings a wealth of experience as a seasoned backup with 1,127 yards rushing as well as 50 receptions for 450 yards. He’s scored three career TDs, one rushing and two on receptions.
OUTLOOK: Gore still has faith he can be a missing link to a Colts offense that hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Joseph Addai in 2007 and has not enjoyed a 100-yard rusher for 56 consecutive games including six in the playoffs. Gore is motivated to become the NFL’s first 1,000-yard rusher at 33 years or older since John Riggins in 1984. Gore has amassed 12,040 rushing yards in his career and will still be counted upon as the Colts’ go-to back. Eight of his 11 seasons produced at least 1,000 yards.
The question becomes who will back up Gore, or if something happens to him, is there a capable backup on the roster who can step in and carry much of the workload? Turbin brings the most experience and, at 26, still has plenty of burst as a rusher and pass receiver. Todman is also just 26, but most of his career has been spent as a returner with 1,784 kickoff return yards. The Colts liked Ferguson enough to give the undrafted rookie $35,000 in guaranteed money. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is for a guy who wasn’t drafted. Ferguson impressed during offseason training activities, now he has to show he still has the speed and elusiveness while wearing pads in training camp. Varga made the roster as an undrafted rookie, but doing that again looks to be even more of a challenge with so many backs competing for reserve roster spots. Williams has bounced around from Washington to Dallas to New England to Miami and finally the Colts since signing with the Redskins as an undrafted rookie in 2015. That shows teams were intrigued, but also gave up on him. He has two carries for 12 rushing yards in his career, those coming in the Colts’ season finale last year.
POSITIVE SPIN: Gore shows he can still be one of the NFL’s most dependable workhorses and gets his 1,000 yards this time as defenses can’t account for him enough in a Colts offense with a stronger offensive line, a healthy Luck and a more prolific passing attack. Turbin is as reliable as expected and spells Gore enough so that the starter doesn’t wear down over the course of a 16-game season. Todman is an effective kick returner who provides depth, but Ferguson continues to impress and locks down the third running back roster spot, proving he was well worth the extra investment to lure him to sign with the Colts. He shows promise as a long-term backfield option.
NEGATIVE SPIN: Gore continues to slow down in his advancing years, proving the old adage that Father Time catches up with every player eventually. Turbin and Todman are backups who can only produce so much while Ferguson turns out to be just like most NFL rookies who need more time to adjust to the pro game. The Colts realize after this season one of their top offseason priorities will be to add a cornerstone running back for the future.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.