Good things happen for the Colts offense when Zaire Franklin is on the field

The Indianapolis Colts have been utilizing an offensive package with linebacker Zaire Franklin at fullback and it has been a big success.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin (44) reacts to a play Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, during a
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin (44) reacts to a play Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, during a / Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY

In Week 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Indianapolis Colts faced a pivotal fourth down and decided to go for it. It was a short-yardage attempt, so Indy brought a heavy package with multiple tight ends and a fullback onto the field. The fullback was Colts star linebacker Zaire Franklin. However, he was just a decoy. While everyone was expecting a power run, Indianapolis ran a play-action pass and hit tight end Mo Alie-Cox up the seam for a big play.

Everybody loved the play, especially Franklin. Head coach Shane Steichen explained the origin of the play after the game and Zaire Franklin lobbied for a version of the play where he runs out to the flat looking for the ball. While Franklin was initially denied, he did recently get the opportunity.

The Colts ran the same formation on the field in Week 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals. This time, it was a 4th-&-1 from Cincinnati’s two-yard line. Again, it was a play-action pass. Franklin sprinted fast to the flat, but the pass once again went to Alie-Cox and he hauled it in for a touchdown. That makes Indy 2-for-2 with the Zaire Franklin formation.

Colts get creative with Zaire Franklin on offense

Knowing how good Shane Steichen is at designing plays, the Colts likely have several plays out of this formation. Since Indy has passed for big plays the first two times using the package, teams will probably expect a pass the next time Franklin is at fullback. That’s when Indy is going to actually run. Considering that Franklin always brings his pads to the party defensively, he’s probably a great short-yardage lead blocker.

What everyone is waiting for, though, is the play where Franklin gets the ball. Will he get a quick handoff and plow ahead? Will Franklin catch the ball in the flat, will he release up the seam, or will Indy get really aggressive and send Franklin on a wheel route? This all remains to be seen, but everyone is expecting Franklin to get a target eventually; he has to make sure he catches it.