Colts 2021 position review: Running backs
The Indianapolis Colts running back position was the highlight of the 2021 NFL season. However, there is room for improvement in 2022.
In this new series, we will take a look at each position from the Indianapolis Colts 2021 roster, grade them, and look into ways of improving the roster. Since we’ve covered Carson Wentz and what should be done this offseason, let’s start with the running backs.
You can find a discussion on the running back room on the Naptown Beat podcast, where we dive further into the analysis of each position each week. In episode 115, I talk to Jacob Mummert about the running back position in depth.
The running back room was the bright spot of the Colts offense, in large part to Jonathan Taylor. Just before the season started, the Colts inked Nyheim Hines to a three-year, $18.6 million extension that made him a top-10 paid running back.
RB Positional Grade: A
Mystery in the running back room
The Hines extension likely is the end of Marlon Mack in Indianapolis. In fact, the Colts ended up shutting down Mack after Week 8 where he only saw one snap against the Titans. Mack will be an unrestricted free agent heading into the off-season.
Even weirder than sitting Mack after the trade deadline was the mysterious cut of Jordan Wilkins, who has been a proven backup in Indianapolis for a few years. Wilkins saw one snap in Week 4 and then was never seen again in a Colts uniform. He later ended up on the Titans roster in Week 18.
What made the Colts running back room great? Simple. Jonathan Taylor was the best running back in the NFL in 2021. Even without a single vote for NFL MVP, he was a unanimous All-Pro selection and matched stats with 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.
Running back free agency
Marlon Mack is the only running back on the Colts roster that is not under contract in 2022. He is not coming back next season, and the Colts and Mack have made this clear.
Mack could easily be a starting running back in the league, especially after essentially resting for two seasons. He should be rested and ready to go. A team that takes a chance on him could get a solid starter or rotational back that could make a difference.
Look out for teams like the New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, or Los Angeles Rams to sign Mack this offseason. Marlon would be a piece to each of these offenses that could greatly improve each roster.
With Taylor, Hines, and Deon Jackson on the roster, there are not many running backs that should be considered in free agency. In fact, this is not the position that should be focused on much.
If the Colts are looking for anything, they should think about later rounds of the draft for a depth piece.
Colts star believes Jonathan Taylor is great
In an interview with Pat McAfee, Darius Leonard talks about a time he came back from an injury, and Taylor made him miss entirely. If you have a tackle and turnover king calling you great, that’s all you need.
It’s easy to understand that the Colts need to hand the ball off 50 times a game, but that can’t be the mantra in Indianapolis if you want to have a decade of success.
We saw in 2021 where injuries could affect a team. The Titans were not the same team when missing Derrick Henry, who got the ball so much, he was top-five in rushing yards until the end of the season, even after missing half the season.
If Taylor ever goes down and there is not a Plan B, the Colts could be in trouble. Chris Ballard cannot afford that situation if he wants this team to be successful.