Colts Add Another Horse to RB Stable

"All we needed to do was make four yards in two downs, and we couldn't do it," Bill Polian said about the Colts' playoff loss to the Chargers in January. With their first round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Polian may have found the player that can get those four yards in the future. The player? Connecticut running back Donald Brown.

The Colts struggled mightily running the ball in 2008, finishing next-to-last in the league at 77 yards per game. Joseph Addai battled injuries, and the team chose not to sign long-time workhorse Dominic Rhodes.

The departure of Rhodes to the Buffalo Bills this week may have cemented the Colts' mindset for their first pick. Behind Addai, the running backs on the roster — Mike Hart, Lance Ball and Chad Simpson — have just 30 combined NFL carries among them. Hart, who looked like the likely replacement for Rhodes, suffered a major knee injury and may not be ready for the start of the season.

Brown won the national rushing title in 2008
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young

In Brown, they got a young runner with fresh legs to spell Addai and give the Colts a 1-2 running back punch like the one that helped them to the Super Bowl XLI title.

"Brown is a strong, compact runner who's tough between the tackles," NFL Expert Chris Steuber says. "He has the ability to get on the edge, but he's at his best running North-South. He's quick through the hole, shifty in the open field and has the quickness to be elusive in the open field. He has great vision and balance and falls forward when being tackled. He has good hands out of the backfield, but has to work on his blocking."

Brown earned the distinction of being the second running back taken in the draft behind Georgia's Knowshon Moreno. He earned his way into the first round with a phenomenal senior season for the Huskies in which he won the national rushing title with 2,038 yards. He also scored 18 rushing touchdowns.

"He's a 2,000-yard rusher, a scintillating player who catches the ball," Polian said of the pick. "We lost Dominic Rhodes, and we've replaced him with Donald Brown. It's a good time anytime you get a guy who's a game-breaker. You feel good about it.

"He was, in our opinion, the best player left. Interestingly enough, everything went exactly as we thought it would (in the draft's first round). I think there were only two picks that we didn't have. It was pretty much where we thought he was scheduled to go off (the draft board). We were very prepared to make the pick. We feel very good about it. This guy is a game-breaker. He has the ability to take the ball all the way. You've seen some of the highlights, I'm sure. He's a great kid, and we're thrilled to have him."

Fans may think that the Colts are putting Addai on notice after a lackluster 2008, but the Colts have been most effective when they have two go-to backs. And with Rhodes' departure, the Colts grabbed another straightforward runner to replace him. And if Addai can't get those four yards in two downs in 2009, perhaps the tandem of Addai and Brown can.

"I just want to contribute in any way possible," Brown said of sharing carries with Addai. "There's a Pro Bowl running back there and the opportunity to learn from one will be an honor and a great experience.

"Any way they need me, whether its special teams, third-down situations, whatever. That's what I'm there for."

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