The Indianapolis Colts figured to have one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in the league last season after they drafted Jonathan Taylor.
While they ultimately ended up averaging 124.8 rushing yards per game, their three-man committee dream fell by the wayside after Marlon Mack suffered a torn Achilles in the first contest of the season against Jacksonville.
If you look back at the stats, Mack’s presence wasn’t overly missed, as Taylor and Nyheim Hines proved capable of carrying the load. However, the duo’s early-season struggles proved how invaluable Mack’s experience would’ve been.
That got us thinking: with Taylor proving himself as the undisputed workhorse last season, what should the Colts’ running back rotation look like in 2021? After all, Hines is still under contract and Mack re-signed on a one-year deal earlier this offseason.
How should the Colts split the carries at running back next season?
This certainly makes for interesting conversation as the Taylor-Hines duo looked unstoppable for long spells (especially down the stretch) last season. On the flip side, however, Mack’s track record as the Colts’ starter shouldn’t be overlooked, either.
A former fourth-round pick back in 2017, Mack was incredibly effective over his final two years as Indianapolis’ starting running back. During that span, he totaled 442 carries for 1,999 yards (4.5 YPC) and 17 touchdowns. Those are elite numbers, no matter which way you crunch them.
If we were to assume the 25-year-old is fully recovered from that devastating injury, he should receive no fewer than seven carries per game next season. So, what does that speculated workload mean for Taylor and Hines?
To put it simply, this is Taylor’s backfield, so he should handle the majority of carries. Assuming the Colts run the rock at a similar clip to last campaign, he should log about 15-17 carries per contest and potentially more if he’s treating defenders like practice dummies.
That leaves Hines, who made significant strides between the tackles in 2020, managing career-highs in carries (89), rushing yards (380), touchdown runs (three) and yards per carry (4.3). In light of that impressive showing, what should his share look like?
While the Colts should no doubt make the most of Hines’ newfound running prowess, he’s still best served as a receiver out of the backfield. In a perfect world, we’re probably looking at five or six carries and about six targets per game.
Hines is clearly one of the Colts’ most dynamic offensive weapons, so his role shouldn’t be reduced following Mack’s return.
That about settles it, folks. Though Taylor is clearly the Colts’ workhorse and should receive the lion’s share of carries on a weekly basis, there should be plenty of touches to go around for Mack and Hines to be satisfied with their respective workloads. Just sub in Mack for Jordan Wilkins! Seems easy.
Bottom line? We’d absolutely hate to be tasked with game-planning to stymie Indianapolis’ rushing attack, because it figures to be one of the most lethal in the league next season if everything goes according to plan. Take two.