The Indianapolis Colts and head coach Frank Reich made it clear early this offseason that the team wished to involved running back Nyheim Hines more often during the 2022 season. At the conclusion of the first week of training camp, Reich revealed more about what a bigger role for Hines this fall might entail.
Reich indicated that Hines could receive snaps with Colts starting running back Johnathan Taylor.
“I think [Matt Ryan] and Nyheim [Hines] have worked a lot this offseason together,” Reich told to reporters on July 30. “So, we can utilize Nyheim in a number of different ways where we line him up in the backfield with JT (Jonathan Taylor) or put him anywhere in the formation and feel like there’s going to be confidence there.
“Nyheim’s, as we’ve said all along, he’s just a guy who’s going to be involved in this offense.”
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Deploying Two Traditional Running Backs at Same Time
There have been plenty of great tailback duos in recent NFL history. But coaches have usually been hesitant to line them up together on the field because tailbacks aren’t effective blockers. Offensive play callers typically prefer a fullback — a running back who can block — to be on the field if a formation calls for a second running back.
But Reich appears ready to break that tradition. Hines’ ability to line up not just in the backfield but anywhere in the offensive formation makes him a weapon worth deploying even with Taylor also on the field.
“He’s [Hines] magnetic when he has the ball in his hands, we feed off of his energy,” Reich said. “I continue to be excited about – I know everyone talks about our skill, do we have enough ‘skill’ at those positions, but I just think, I’m hoping we surprise a lot of people with how it looks.”
Getting Hines involved could help offset that lack of experience the Colts have a wide receiver. Entering this season, Michael Pittman Jr. is the only Indianapolis wideout with more than 400 receiving yards in a season.
Hines, though, has surpassed 400 receiving yards twice in four NFL seasons. He could turn into one of Indianapolis’ top receiving targets in 2022.
Hines to be the Next Cordarrelle Patterson?
There is a recent precedence to what Reich may do with Taylor and Hines this season. In fact, Colts new quarterback Matt Ryan helped set that new precedence with the Atlanta Falcons last year.
The Falcons deployed tailbacks Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson on the field at the same time in 2021. In six of the 16 games they played together last season, Davis and Patterson both received more than 50% of Atlanta’s offensive snaps. In four other contests, both backs played at least 45% of the team’s snaps on offense.
In situations where they were on the field together, Davis usually lined up in the backfield while Patterson was utilized everywhere — the backfield, slot, tight end and outside wide receiver position.
As the reigning NFL rushing champion, Taylor won’t be coming off the field much this fall. So to use Hines, Reich will have to be creative in lining up Hines next to Taylor or in other spots as a potential pass catcher.
If Hines can assume the Patterson role in a Ryan-led offense, he could have a huge season. With Ryan involving Patterson in all sorts of ways, the 31-year-old back experienced a career season in 2021, posting 618 rushing yards and 548 receiving yards. Overall, he recorded 1,166 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns on 205 touches.