The Indianapolis Colts will head into the 2014 season with the hopes of having one of the premier offensive units in all of football. Andrew Luck will lead the group with a great cast of stars like Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener, but who will be the man lining up behind him?
The Colts will have a three way race for the starting running back spot when camp opens next week in Anderson. All three players are coming off of some type of injury, Vick Ballard (season ending ACL tear), Ahmad Bradshaw (season ending neck injury), and Trent Richardson (offseason shoulder surgery). All have started at some point in their career, and all are ready to take on the starting spot for the Colts in 2014.
Trent Richardson will have the first crack at the starting spot, as the Colts gave up their 2014 first round pick to acquire him last season when Vick Ballard went down with his ACL tear. Richardson possesses a rare skill set of speed and power, something that could make him one of the elite backs in this league, but his first season with the Colts was a horrid one. He finished 2013 with a dismal 2.9 yards per carry, and was benched for Donald Brown late in the season. However, there was a shinning light on one part of his first season in blue and white.
Richardson caught 28 passes for 265 yards in 14 games for the Colts last season. Those went for an average of 9.5 yards per reception, making him the best checkdown option for Luck last season. When in open space, he seemed to make his best reads on running paths. Yes, at times his running choices out of the backfield left fans scratching their head, but catching out of the backfield he is the Colts best option. So if Richardson can improve like Ryan Grigson and company thinks he can, then Richardson could have his best year as a pro yet.
He was the focal point of the Browns offense during his rookie season that lead to 12 touchdowns, and when the Colts traded for him last season, a lot of pressure was put on him to return a dominant run game to Indianapolis. So, for the first time in his career, Richardson can shine by not having the limelight put on him like it was the last two seasons. Granted pressure will be put on him early to perform, but with all the weapons this year in Indy, Richardson should, and will thrive for the Colts.
That will leave the battle for the “change of pace” back for the Colts between Ballard and Bradshaw. Each can thrive in third down and goal line situations, and both have stated that they would like the starting spot. This will lead to a healthy dose of competition for the Colts, that could turn into one of the best backfields in all of football.