Colts: Could Paul Perkins carve out smashmouth role with Indy?

Could newly-signed running back Paul Perkins carve out a role with the Colts?

The Indianapolis Colts’ backfield has been impossible to figure out through nine games. After projected starter Marlon Mack was lost for the year in Week 1, the coaching staff has given rookie Jonathan Taylor more than enough opportunities to make the job his own.

While we would argue that the 2020 second-round pick has performed better than some media members give him credit for, you’d be hard-pressed to to dismiss the notion that his debut season has been somewhat of a letdown, as he’s averaged just 40.8 yards per game (!) outside of a 101-yard effort back in Week 2.

That lack of production has resulted in Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines receiving increased workloads, suggesting that Indianapolis has a true running back committee on its hands and will ride with whomever has the hot hand in games.

Well, in a move that will only add to the confusion, the Colts announced on Thursday that they signed free agent RB Paul Perkins to their practice squad, which begs the question of what sort of role (if any) he could carve out for himself.

Perkins is now one of three running backs on Indianapolis’ practice squad and, given his experience in the NFL, you have to think he has the best chance at getting promoted to the 53-man roster if any one of Taylor, Hines or Wilkins were to suffer an injury.

Honestly, considering how little conviction the coaching staff has in the dynamic trio strictly from a rushing perspective, it wouldn’t be surprising if Perkins — assuming he impresses during practice — finds himself active for a couple of games down the stretch.

At 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds, the former UCLA star is the second-biggest RB on the roster now, so it’s possible that the Colts deploy him as a short yardage and goal line specialist. That might be wishful thinking given that he has zero touchdowns across 165 career carries, but we would attribute that more to a lack of opportunities than a lack of talent.

Perkins has struggled to find consistency in the NFL since enjoying a promising rookie season with the New York Giants in 2016, when he totaled 456 rushing yards on 4.1 yards per attempt. He obviously won’t have a huge role with the Colts, but we can definitely picture a scenario where he earns playing time on third down and goal-to-go situations.

Taylor used to have that role all to himself, but after his costly fumble against Baltimore two weeks ago, you have to assume that he will continue to receive fewer carries, especially in the second half of games, when he’s been a non-factor in recent fixtures.

Again, it’s far from a sure thing, but that could open the door for Perkins to prove himself to a team that hasn’t had nearly as much success on the ground as they did last season.