The Colts’ win over Green Bay proved their RB rotation moving forward needs to be based on matchup.
Fans have grown incensed with how unpredictable the Indianapolis Colts’ running back rotation has been this season, and we’ve echoed that frustration. Just when you thought one member of the committee separated themselves from the rest of the pack, a surprise candidate enjoyed a breakout game. It was nothing short of maddening, even it if resulted in a win.
Well, after a 10 games worth of examples, it appears Frank Reich and the rest of the coaching staff has found the answer: deploy whichever RB has the best matchup based on the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent.
In Sunday’s win over the Packers, who have struggled all year stopping the run, fans were finally treated to Jonathan Taylor’s coming out party. Though his stats — 22 carries for 91 yards, for a pedestrian 4.1 yards per attempt — were nothing to write home about, the eye test said it all and proved that giving him the bulk of the touches was the right call.
Both in between the tackles and at the point of attack on the perimeter, Green Bay’s rushing defense hasn’t been able to stop a nosebleed, having surrendered over 100 yards to the likes of Ronald Jones, Dalvin Cook and James Robinson in three of their previous four matchups.
That made Taylor, who has the requisite skill set to thrive at both levels, the obvious choice to be showered with carries, and he answered the call with several individual moments of brilliance, especially on third down and short-yardage situations.
If you take a look at the Colts’ last few opponents — Detroit, Tennessee and Green Bay — a different running back stole the show in each of those games. Bruising force Jordan Wilkins carved up the Lions’ physically bereft defense to the tune of 89 yards and a touchdown on 4.4 yards per carry.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and shifty speed demon Nyheim Hines was unstoppable vs the Titans, whose admittedly imposing front seven severely lacks in the dynamic department. For the game, the 2018 fourth-round pick registered 115 yards from scrimmage (70 rushing, 45 receiving) and two touchdowns on 7.4 yards per touch.
As much as we would love Taylor to become the undisputed No. 1 RB, Sunday’s win over the Packers, which really oozed the intensity of a playoff game, proved that determining the top option should revolve entirely around the upcoming matchup.
With a rematch against Tennessee on deck, don’t be surprised if Hines is one of the focal points of the offense. We obviously expect the Titans to make adjustments, but Reich and Co. should definitely put an emphasis on getting him the ball in space again and make them prove they’re capable of stopping him.