The Indianapolis Colts enter the 2022 season with question marks at a few different offensive positions. But running back is not one of them.
With Jonathan Taylor, who finished first in the NFL in rushing yards last season, leading the way, the Colts feature one of the best running back groups in the league. In fact, NFL analyst Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus ranked Indianapolis’ running back unit the second best in the league behind only the Cleveland Browns.
“After a strong close to his rookie season in 2020, Jonathan Taylor staked his claim last year as the NFL’s top running back with an 87.0 PFF grade that led all players at the position,” Linsey wrote. “He’s the type of running back who Indianapolis doesn’t necessarily want to take off the field, but the Colts have the depth to feel comfortable giving him a rest here and there.
“Nyheim Hines is one of the better receiving threats out of the backfield in the NFL while still posing a threat as a runner. And offseason acquisition Phillip Lindsay will be looking for a bounceback after a down season in Houston last year.”
The Colts even have running back depth after Lindsay. Deon Jackson, Ty’Son Williams, C.J. Verdell and D’vonte Price will presumably compete for the final running back roster spot during training camp.
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One, Two Punch Taylor, Hines Presents in Colts Backfield
Taylor struggled early as a rookie in 2020, but as Linsey stated, he’s finished that season strongly and then carried his strong play into 2021.
Since spending Week 12 of the 2020 season on the COVID-19 list, Taylor has 2,462 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns in the last 22 regular season games. During that stretch, he’s averaged 5.7 yards per carry and 111.9 rushing yards per contest.
He’s also chipped in 50 catches, 432 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns in the last 22 games.
With a terrific season, where he led the league with 1,811 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns, Taylor received the top running back player grade from PFF in 2021.
The Colts didn’t utilize Hines as much in 2021, but he’s a very capable running back to have slotted behind Taylor. He’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry in his career, which includes a 4.9 yards per rush total in 2021.
Hines also compliments Taylor as a pass catcher. Hines has posted at least 40 receptions and 310 receiving yards in all four of his NFL seasons.
The Colts have made it sound like he will be used as a pass catcher even more this fall with Matt Ryan behind center.
“We all know Nyheim (Hines) is a playmaker and we want to feature him,” said Colts coach Frank Reich.
The Depth of Indianapolis Running Back Room
While Lindsay experienced a big downward turn in his production last season with the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins, PFF graded him an above average running back with the Denver Broncos from 2018-20.
Lindsay eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in both 2018 and 2019. As a rookie in 2018, he posted 1,278 yards from scrimmage on his way to the Pro Bowl.
The Colts will be one of the only teams in the NFL this season with a former Pro Bowl running back slotted at No. 3 on the depth chart.
Behind Lindsay, Jackson and Williams were undrafted rookie free agents last year. Williams rushed for 185 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries and posted nine catches for 84 yards in 13 games with the Baltimore Ravens last season. Jackson ran for 31 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries with the Colts in 2021.
Verdell and Price were undrafted rookie running backs the Colts signed after this year’s draft. Verdell posted two 1,000-yard campaigns at Oregon while Price played five seasons at Florida International.