Colts' Joseph Addai Has Plenty to Prove
It's not as if he's not used to that. Addai is the Indianapolis Colts' running back, and the fifth-year veteran told Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star this week that it makes sense he and the rest of the players involved in the team's running game should be watched.
That running game ranked last in the NFL a year ago. The year before, it ranked 31st.
Even though the Colts are a perennial playoff team, one that made the Super Bowl a year ago, Addai said that's obviously something that should improve.
"I know it's an issue," Addai said. "I'm not dumb, not to know that's an issue we have. We want to run it better when we run it."
The Colts, as Chappell noted, have focused on the area throughout the off-season. While maintaining their philosophy of utilizing quick, athletic offensive linemen -- the better with which to protect four-time MVP Peyton Manning, the quarterback around which the Colts' offense revolves -- the Colts have made moves to get a bit bigger and a bit more physical on the interior of the line throughout the off-season.
They released longtime starting guard Ryan Lilja, and the competition at the guard spot essentially is still open entering the second preseason game.
As much as anything, the Colts are addressing short yardage.
"It's those 3rd-and-1s you're going to have to convert," Manning said.
As much focus as there has been publicly on the league ranking the past two years, short yardage has been the more pressing issue for the run offense. With Manning and an elite passing offense, Indianapolis is unlikely to be a Top 10 rushing team, and is unlikely to average 120-to-150 yards per gam rushing. The function of the running game is to balance the offense, and as importantly, to be able to run the ball when the Colts want to ruin the ball – in two- and four-minute situations at the end of halves and games and in short-yardage.
The Colts failed to convert critical short-yardage situations not only in Super Bowl XLIV last February, but in an AFC Wild Card loss to San Diego the previous post-season. But as Chappell also noted, the Colts haven't been terrible in that area. "Since 2006, the Colts have converted 65 of 89 third-and-1 situations with their running game," he wrote. "That's 73.0 percent. The overall league average during that span was 70.8. The average for playoff teams was 72.1." Through the past two seasons, the Colts have converted 66 percent in those situations.
And that's the idea for the Colts -- to get a little better running when it matters, when it's needed most. To them, that matters much more than the ranking.
"What that will do is help us overall in terms of balance with our offense," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. "We won't have to depend upon the passing game nearly as much."